Italy blocks US sale of Picasso painting

US authorities blocked the sale of a Pablo Picasso painting following a request from Italy after the €8.8 million work of art's owners were charged with embezzlement and fraud, the US government said on Tuesday.

Italy blocks US sale of Picasso painting
The sale of the Picasso painting has been blocked as part of a €33.6 million tax investigation. Photo: Recuerdos de Pandora/Flickr

The US Justice Department said it had "restrained" the 1909 masterpiece "Compotier et tasse", which had been offered for private sale in New York, amid a probe into its owners, Gabriella Amati and her late husband Angelo Maj.

The couple have been charged by Italian prosecutors with a tax swindle which netted them some €33.6 million. US authorities have said the Picasso painting was acquired with money obtained through criminal activity.

US and Italian authorities are now working to repatriate the painting to Italy as swiftly as possible, a statement said.

"We are pleased to have played a role in securing this valuable work of art by the celebrated artist, Pablo Picasso, on behalf of the Italian government," US Attorney Preet Bharara said.

"Our commitment to 'taking the profit out of crime' transcends national boundaries and is the operating principle of our asset forfeiture programme."

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers tracked down the painting in New York in May before a federal court signed a restraining order after a formal request from Italy.

"Restraining this valuable artwork is an effort to help recover some of the estimated $44 million [€33.6 million] that this couple stole from the tax-paying citizens of Naples," ICE Director John Morton said.

"We are very pleased that our investigation has led to the recovery of this painting that is so significant to the Italian people."

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The new guide to Florence’s Uffizi Galleries – showing only the nudes

There are lots of guides to the visual splendours of Florence's world-famous galleries - but for those with a short attention span comes a new one, showing only nude or erotic artworks.

The new guide to Florence's Uffizi Galleries - showing only the nudes
Sandro Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" is the most famous work included in a controversial new guide to the Uffizi Galleries. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The online guide to the gallieries is produced by the porn website Pornhub and provide a list of the best erotic artworks in each museum, plus directions of how to get there – so you don’t need to waste your time looking at paintings of people in clothes.

Part of the site’s Classic Nudes series of ‘erotic’ guides to some of the world’s most renowned museums, the guide for the Uffizi lists 21 artworks, together with a tongue-in-cheek commentary, and the location of each piece within the galleries.

“The Uffizi Gallery is located in the birthplace of the Renaissance: Florence, Italy. So it’s no wonder it has such a large collection of artwork from the era. But what you may find surprising is the sheer volume and variety of naked bodies rendered in paint, bronze and marble in this marvelous museum,” writes Pornhub.

Among the works featured are Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (1485) and the Roman statue of the Knidian Aphrodite, dating from the 1st Century.

The guide also includes the Venus of Urbino by Titian (1538), which it calls “kinky”, and Painting and Poetry by Francesco Furini (1626), which is described as featuring “two ridiculously hot babes who just so happen to be making out”.

Titian’s “Venus of Urbino”. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Bosses at the Uffizi were not amused at the gallery’s inclusion in Pornhub’s series and have threatened to sue.

Meanwhile in Paris, the Louvre’s management has said only that it is ‘dismayed’, while the Musée d’Orsay remained silent on the subject.

As is hopefully clear, the Pornhub guides are explicit in nature and not suitable for children.

The Uffizi does, however, provide a great day out for all the family and contains a lot of fully-clothed artwork too. At present it is operating with reduced visitor numbers due to health rules, so advance booking to recommended.