Stolen Masterpiece The Journey of Leonardo’s Tavola Doria Ends

Leonardo da Vinci

From Naples to Switzerland then Germany and Japan and back to Italy, the journey of Leonardo’s “Tavola Doria” reads like a gap year itinerary.  After being stolen from a family in Naples in 1960, this elusive work is finally making a return to its home country.

Leonardo da Vinci is arguably one of the greatest minds the world has seen, but his artistic output consists primarily of sketches and incomplete works.  The Tavola Doria is shrouded in uncertainty, like many of Leonardo’s works, but it is thought to be a panel from a wall-painting in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.  The painting, dating from 1505, depicts a scene from the mid-fifteenth century battle known as the Battle of Anghiari.  The oil on panel work features a group of horsemen engaged in a fierce battle.  The work is question is likely not by Leonardo’s own hand but rather a near contemporaneous copy.  The theft of the panel is just the latest in the series of mysteries surrounding the great Renaissance master.  The wall where the original was meant to be placed now holds a work by Giorgio Vasari and scholars debate whether Leonardo’s famed battle fresco is actually still underneath Vasari’s work.

The Tavola Doria was stolen from a Neapolitan family in 1940 where is traveled via black market dealings into Switzerland.  It has been documented that the piece was in Germany during the 1960s undergoing restoration before going to New York and subsequently Japan.  Little is known regarding the theft and much detective work has been done to retrace its steps.  In 1992 the painting was rediscovered in Japan for the past two decades, Japanese and Italian officials have been in discussion as to the fate of the work.  This week the Tavola Doria has been put on display at the Quirinale Palace, the home of Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano.  Early in the new year the panel will move to a more permanent place in the Uffizi Gallery.  The arrangements with the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum call for a 26-year joint ownership of the work, though the fate after this point is yet to be determined.

Words © Emily Sack ArtLyst 2012


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