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Caravaggio's Missing Nativity

Updated: Mar 22

Caravaggio Nativity Painting

One of the most famous paintings of the nativity was also the target of a notorious art heist in 1969. The painting was the "Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence" painted by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (aka Caravaggio) in 1609.

Caravaggio is renown for helping popularize the painting technique of chiaroscuro where value contrast is enhanced to draw additional drama into a painting. Caravaggio mastered it.

Palermo, Italy
The City of Palermo, Italy

For centuries, his nativity painting sat above the altar of the Oratory of San Lorenzo in the city of Palermo, until one stormy night in the middle of October, 1969, when two thieves snuck into the church. With minute precision, they cut the painting out of the frame and took off.

Oratory of San Lorenzo, Palermo, Italy

To make off with a masterpiece of its size, value, and public affection implies the work of experts. Most who study the theft feel a job of this size could only have been the work of the Sicilian Mafia.

Over 400 years after its creation and 50 years after its theft, the painting remains undiscovered. But thanks to digital restorers, Factum Arte, in 2015 a digital replica was hung in its original location having been created through the enlargement of an old black and white photograph and color recreation based on Caravaggio’s color palette.

Oratory of San Lorenzo, Palermo, Italy

Today, the original is said to be worth over $27 million, although to millions of fine art lovers, the painting is irreplaceable.

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Further reading:

The re-creation process:

A rather rough YouTube video showing the chapel:


Photograph of Replica -

Photograph of missing painting -

Palermo Image - Envato Elements

Photograph of Restoration in Chapel -

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