A 16th century painting of the Holy Family which some consider to be a work by Michelangelo or one of his students has been stolen from the church of St Ludger in Zele near Dendermonde in East Flanders. Police said the thief entered the church through the sacristy by breaking the lock on the outer door. The break-in took place on Friday morning between 0500 and 0600.
The painting measures 145cm by 99cm without its frame. It was due to be examined by an Italian expert to determine its origin. If it is from the hand of Michelangelo or even from his studio, that would increase its value greatly. However it would make the painting very difficult to sell.
“The work resembles a drawing by Michelangelo from the Portland Collection, the collection of the Duke of Portland in England,” said Father Jan Raemdonck, speaking on VRT News. “One of Michelangelo’s students, Marcello Venusti, made several copies.”
The work depicts the Holy Family with John the Baptist as a child. The Christ child lies sleeping on the Virgin’s knee while Joseph looks on.
A witness has reported suspicious activity around the doors at the back of the church on the early morning of Thursday. According to the description given by the witness, a suspect has been described as a young man aged between 17 and 20 wearing dark clothing and carrying a dark-coloured backpack in his hands.
Police have appealed for other witnesses either to similar suspicious activity on Friday morning or to the whereabouts of the painting.
The Brussels Times