An enigmatic painting, thought to be lost during Nazi persecution, has been decided to remain in the hands of the museum that holds it.
Titled “Madonna and Child with the Young St John and Two Angels”, the painting was made by Jacopo del Sellaio in 1480-85. During a 60-team research commission by the Castello di Rivoli Museum on the Cerruti Collection donated to it, the painting’s true origins were discovered. Soon after, attempts were made to contact the original heirs of the original owners of the painting who lost it during Nazi persecution. Unger Heinz, daughter of the woman who lost it in 1938, decided to come to an undisclosed agreement with the museum.
The story of the painting is as enigmatic as the painting itself. The painting was purchased by Gustavo Arens, an art collector based in Vienna, in 1936. He died soon after the purchase, leaving the painting and some 60 other artworks to his daughters. Madonna was under the care of Ann Arens Unger, his elder daughter. However, after Germany attacked Austria in 1938, the family fled and moved to Paris along with the artworks. However, Germany soon annexed France too and the Aren-Unger family fled to the USA – this time without their artworks. The painting was among many that were being sent to Germany from Paris but mysteriously disappeared on the way.
After decades, the painting resurfaced and passed many hands, ultimately bought by Francesco Federico Cerruti, an Italian collector, in 1987. It was only after the painting, among many others, was donated to Castello di Rivoli Museum after his death in 2015 that the true origin of the painting was found.