A Long-Lost Titian Painting, Valued at $7 Million, Was Recovered by Italian Heritage Police After It Was Sent for Restoration

The work disappeared in 2004, and was thought to have been taken to Switzerland, but a tip led authorities to a workshop in the Asti area of Piedmont.

Portrait of a Man with a Beret, attributed to Titian, is held by members of the Carabinieri in Turin during the restitution ceremony to the Italian state. Photo: Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images.

The Carabinieri, the cultural heritage protection unit of the Italian police, announced the recovery of a long lost painting thought to be by the Renaissance master Titian. The work, titled Portrait of a Man with a Beret (c. 1512), disappeared in 2004. It was thought to have been taken to Switzerland but a tip led authorities to a workshop in the Asti area of Piedmont, Italy, where it had been taken for restoration.

Valued at a little more than $7 million, the portrait depicts a man with a reddish beard and a black cap staring directly at the viewer. Police issued a seizure order to recover the work, which was handed over to the Italian state in a ceremony on May 19. 

Two Swiss citizens are now being investigated over the painting’s disappearance, according to Forbes

The specialized unit of the Italian police who recovered the work has 280 dedicated investigators tasked with protecting Italy’s priceless cultural treasures. In March 2019, the same unit broke up a cultural trafficking ring that had been operating in the country through a massive raid that recovered approximately 10,000 ancient objects from 28 countries. 

Titian’s Portrait of a Man with a Beret (c. 1512), first disappeared in 2004. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP via Getty Images.

Born Tiziano Vecellio in Pieve di Cadore, a small town near Venice, Titian was active during the 16th century and became well known for dramatic pictures of social, religious and mythical subjects. Perhaps his most famous work is the Venus of Urbino (1538), depicting a reclining female nude looking coyly at the viewer. 

Throughout his career, Titian experimented with different styles and found early success with local aristocratic patrons. He was later sought out to serve as a court painter by Italian princes and the papacy, as well as the Habsburg dynasty in Austria.

In 2011, Sotheby’s sold Titian’s painting Madonna and Child (c. 1508) for $16.9 million, setting what remains a record for the artist at auction. Last week, a 1565 artwork by the Old Master titled Penitent Madgdalene sold for $4.9 million at Viennese auctioneers Dorotheum. 


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