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September 3, 2020Dallas, TX, United StatesCultural Property, Art and Antiquities Investigations

ICE recovers 19th century painting stolen from Italian monastery

DALLAS – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Dallas, Texas, recovered a 19th century painting Wednesday that was stolen from the Abbey of Santa Maria in Sylvis in Sesto al Reghena, Italy, in May 2002. The painting called “the Assumption of the Virgin Mary” was created by Italian artist Giuseppe Pappini in August 1851.

HSI Dallas was able to locate the painting after receiving a tip from the HSI Attaché Office in Rome, Italy, in 2019. Based on that tip, HSI tracked the painting to a private art collector in the Dallas-area who had purchased the painting in 2015 from a dealer who was unaware that it was stolen. After learning of the painting’s origins, the private collector voluntarily agreed to hand it over to HSI so that it could be repatriated to Italy and returned to the monastery.

“Investigating the loss or looting of cultural heritage properties and returning them to their countries of origin is an important part of HSI's diverse mission” said Ryan L. Spradlin, special agent in charge of HSI Dallas. “Our specially trained investigators and attachés in more than 40 countries not only partner with governments, agencies and experts who share our mission to protect these items, but they train the investigators of other nations and agencies on how to find, authenticate and enforce the law to recover these items when they emerge in the marketplace.”

This is an HSI Dallas-led investigation with assistance from the HSI Attaché Office in Rome, Italy, and HSI Headquarters Cultural Property, Arts, and Antiquities (CPAA) Division in Washington, D.C.

Learn more about ICE’s cultural property, art and antiquities investigations. Members of the public who have information about suspected stolen cultural property are urged to call the toll-free tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or to complete the online tip form.