Italian authorities have blocked a Viennese auction house from selling a painting by 17th-century artist Artemisia Gentileschi.
The Carabinieri unit overseeing cultural property crimes alleges that two sellers, whose identities have not been disclosed, fraudulently cataloged the work as having been painted by an anonymous disciple of Gentileschi.
Title Caritas Romanathe scene is taken from first-century Roman historian Valerio Massimo’s story of a woman named Pero secretly nursing her imprisoned father, Cimon, who is starving.
The decision to conceal the true attribution of the work, which authorities say was painted by the now-announced Old Master herself, allowed dealers to obtain an export license from the Italian Ministry of Culture for the work.
Gentileschi is known for breaking new ground as a female artist working in a male-dominated field. Daughter of the painter Orazio Gentileschi, she established a career as an artist at the age of 20 and became known for a style influenced by Caravaggio. Midway through her rise, at 18, she survived a sexual assault by her mentor and a very public trial in Rome.
Many of his paintings depict subjects from biblical and mythological episodes. Gentileschi often emphasizes the plight of women throughout his scenes, making them wielding weapons or acting in defense against male antagonists.
The painting was exported to Austria in 2019. Italian police have opened an investigation into the attempted sale of the painting in 2020. Authorities say the work is valued at around 2 million euros ($2 million ) and that it was originally commissioned by an Italian nobleman in the mid-17th century and kept in a castle in the Italian province of Bari.
Gentileschi’s market is on the rise amid renewed scholarly attention to the long-neglected artist. The estimated value of the current painting makes it one of the most valuable attributed to him. His current auction record is $5.3 million paid for his undated canvas. Lucretius in 2019.