On October 18, 1969, Caravaggio’s painting Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence was stolen from the Oratory of San Lorenzo in Palermo, Italy. The thieves cut it out from its frame. The Oratory’s altarpiece was the original home of the painting, as it hung there for more than 350 years.
Today, the painting is still missing, and is estimated to be worth $20 million.
Caravaggio’s Nativity is on the list of the FBI’s Top 10 Unsolved Art Crimes. In the time since its theft, there have been a number of rumors and theories surrounding the Nativity. However, most of the theories involve the Mafia in some form. It is a generally accepted idea that the Mafia were directly involved with the famous art theft. Over the years, the theories have evolved into elaborate stories, though it is likely that none are true.
Police only know one thing for sure- that the Nativity was cut from the frame with a razor blade or a knife. Officials also believe that the painting is still in Italy, as the rumors surrounding the theft never reached international circles. The painting was possibly destroyed or sold on the black market. As the years go by, it becomes more likely that the Nativity will never be recovered.
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