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Italy culture official under investigation over stolen painting

Sgarbi denies any wrongdoing and says he will not resign.

Italian junior culture minister Vittorio Sgarbi is under investigation for his alleged role in a case involving a stolen painting that was allegedly altered to disguise its origins.

Sgarbi, a prominent art critic known for his outspoken views, denies accusations that he exhibited the modified 17th-century artwork which had been stolen from a castle in Italy's northern Piemonte region in 2013.

The prosecutor's office in Macerata confirmed on Tuesday that it has opened a file into the case, following reports in December by Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper and RAI Report.

The case rests on an accusation by a restoration expert that the stolen painting, attributed to Italian painter Rutilio Manetti, reappeared in an exhibition in Lucca in 2021 in the guise of a newly-discovered work owned by Sgarbi.

The restorer alleges that the work was handed to him "rolled up like a carpet" and - with the exception of a flaming torch - was identical to the Capture of St Peter painting torn from its frame in Castello di Buriasco 11 years ago.

Sgarbi, 71, insists that they are two separate paintings, the original of which is his while the one stolen in 2013 was a "poorly made copy".

Denying any wrongdoing, Sgarbi told Corriere della Sera newspaper on Wednesday that he has no intention of resigning over the matter.

Photo: Daniele de Gregorio / Shutterstock.com.

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