“Nativity with Saints Francis and Lawrence” was stolen in Palermo in 1969

A lost painting by Caravaggio which art lovers have long hoped might still be found was burnt and destroyed by the Mafia, according to a former hitman turned pentito (informer).

The painting, Nativity with Saints Francis and Lawrence, was stolen from the oratory of San Lorenzo in Palermo in 1969. Its whereabouts since then have remained a mystery despite investigations not only by police but also by scholars and art lovers.

Gaspare Spatuzzo, who was imprisoned in 1997 on multiple counts of murder and turned informer last year, has told magistrates that Filippo Graviano, a Mafia boss for whom he was a hitman, told him in 1999 in prison that the painting was destroyed in the 1980s.

He said that Graviano, who with his brother Giuseppe Graviano ran one of the most powerful Cosa Nostra clans, had told him that the painting, said to be worth at least £20 million, was handed for safe keeping to the Pullara family, part of the Santa Maria di Gesu clan in Palermo, who hid it in a farm outbuilding. “There it was eaten by rats and pigs, and so was burnt,” Spatuzza said.

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Richard Owen
London Times

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