Two under investigation for the Ligabue painting that was seized at an exhibition in the valley

The investigation by the prosecutor’s office in Aosta, born of the seizure in January last year, of the painting “Self-portrait with scarecrow” which was then exhibited in the exhibition “Antonio Ligabue and his world” which was set up at Bard Fort is approaching its conclusion with two suspects. This is the curator of the retrospective, Alessandro Parmiggiani (74 years old, Reggio Emilia) and the gallery owner Patrizia Lodi (67, Parma). The crime that the investigators assume against them is receive stolen goods in competition.

31 years ago, the theft

The investigation, coordinated by the prosecutor Giovanni Rotegliahas found that the canvas – an oil on fasit that measures 62 times 50 centimeters, manufactured between 1957 and 1958 – is in fact, the one that an old woman reported had been stolen, which took place in 1991 in the woman’s private residence (who then lived in the Parma area and now lives in Milan). A work that the person who had it at home has never stopped looking for, to the extent that he claims to have recognized it in the rooms of the fortress in the lower valley.

It was precisely this report that brought Carabinieri from Monza’s cultural heritage unit to Bard for the kidnapping. The investigators’ thesis is that neither the curator of the exhibition nor the gallery owner (he asked to contact the owners of works by the famous Italian painter and sculptor, to borrow them and organize the retrospective at Forte) established and certified the legal origin of the workthus does not follow the cultural heritage code.

The revealing detail

In the notification thirty-one years ago, at the time of the abduction, a detail was stated in relation to the content of the work which the seized painting does not show. A dragonfly, in the upper right corner. An assessment made by Brera Art Gallery explains why: that part of the fabric was removed with a scalpel and covered with shades that show the sky. Once the operation has taken place, easily with the intention of making the painting less recognizable, it is not possible to determine it.

It is precisely this detail that strengthens the investigators’ belief that only the authenticity of the painting (with a value currently estimated at between 250,000 and 300,000 euros) has been verified by the two suspects, but not its origin. The fact that the “mutilation” would have occurred through an “examination of grazing candles” (which aims to verify the total thickness of the cloth) leads Arma and Procura to believe that it was not carried out, since its results should have led to doubts about the history of the canvas.

The “fast” test

A dissertation combined with the testimonies collected during the surveys for which, compared to over 100 works intended for the Bard exhibition (of which at least 66 are pictorial), the restaurateurs who have been entrusted with the “permit report” (the analysis). on the authenticity and origin of the “pieces” to be exhibited, which are kept under the supervision of the curator) they would not have had more than a day and a halfessentially turns into little more than a quick examination of a visual nature.

The self-portrait, a film story

The prosecution’s investigation in Aosta also made it possible to reconstruct a large part of the work’s history, worthy of a film by Pupi Avati, based on the way in which, shortly after its completion, it came to the Emilian family from when it was stolen. We are actually talking about a gesture of closeness to a necroforo in the village, who was a friend of Ligabue was grateful asked him to make the painting and sold it for 4 thousand lire at that time to those who have been in solidarity with him.

2006, a first track

Time passes and thirty years after that purchase, the house is looted (in addition to the self-portrait, other works of art disappear) by thieves. Thus began the relentless search for the woman who recognized him today. For several years he has been following everything related to the retrospective of Ligabue, hoping to identify the work. In 2006, review “Catalog raisonné” edited by Sergio Negri (famous archivist in Ligabue), recognizes an extremely similar painting, but its signaling does not lead to finding it materially: the owner stated at that time that he no longer had access to the work.

(At least) two hand changes

Investigations show that the painting was handed over to the archivist Negri in 1993 by a person who claims to have bought it between 1970 and 1980 (a circumstance that investigators doubted, given that at that time it should have been in Emilia’s house where ‘was then stolen) by an unspecified plumber from Muggiò, in the Milan area. Contracts, details, other information? No memories, no documents. The only thing you get is that person is he resells, after 1995, to a Milanese.

It will change owners again in 2015, when it comes to a contractor who probably chooses the artwork as an investment (he seems to have another 6/7 paintings by Ligabue). That transaction takes place through the mediation of the gallery owned by Lodi. A sale that hardly convinces the investigators, because if it is tax-regulated, it seems to be the first moment when the work’s origin is “overlooked” (in an email, seized during a house search, the gallery owner says he can not trace the owners’ precedent than the one who requested it for mediation) .

Il Forte, an offended party in the deal

The rest is recent history, where “The Self-Portrait with Scarecrow” was sent to four exhibitions, between 2015 and 2022, all curated by Parmiggiani. The fifth is Bards (where he is one of the proposed “masterpieces”), where the woman who has been looking for him for thirty years recognizes him. Forte di Bard seems to have bought the retrospective with a “turnkey” package from a company in the industry. A mechanism that led the investigators to exclude responsibility for the association that manages the fortress, which on the contrary, it appears from the investigations as an offended party and may therefore, if it considers so, a civil party to the proceedings make a financial claim for compensation for the damage suffered.

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