TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The FBI’s Italian counterparts, known as the Carabinieri, recovered two missing 16th century Italian tapestries in Florida.
According to the FBI, Carabinieri’s Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (which translates to “Protection of Cultural Heritage”) discovered the tapestries, believed to have been lost forever.
The first of the 16th century tapestries was found in a photo in an online publication featuring a restored historical home in Florida.
The FBI said the photo showed the tapestry, which had been missing since it was stolen in 1995. The photo was flagged by the Italians for the FBI’s liaison in Rome.
Authorities approached the owner, who bought the tapestry 22 years ago. According to the FBI, authorities explained the piece belonged to Italy, and it had been stolen before the current owner purchased it.
The owner agreed to return the tapestry.
“Considering the owner purchased the piece for $27,000, it was no small sacrifice,” according to a story from the FBI.
The FBI’s Miami Field Office learned in May that a gallery in Jacksonville had another 16th century tapestry for sale on their website.
The tapestry had been stolen from the same gallery in Milan in 1995, according to the FBI. It was sold for $55,000 in 2003.
The gallery agreed to turn the tapestry over, though the owner said it was his favorite piece.
The gallery owner and the homeowner did not know the ownership history of the tapestries.
“The Italian government and the U.S. government work very closely on art crime matters, and we’ve been doing so for years,” said Special Agent Marc Gervasi of the FBI’s Miami Field Office. “We’ve had a lot of success in repatriating items stolen from Italy, and Italy helps the FBI with investigations in significant ways.”
Gervasi said a buyer should always request provenance, or place of origin, of each piece of art.
“If a seller cannot provide a provenance, the buyer should consider if they want to continue with that purchase,” Gervasi said.
Both tapestries were returned to Italy by June.