After nearly 40 years in Louisville, a piece of the Speed Art Museum’s collection is returning to Italy.
The Speed bought the 14th Century Italian altarpiece in 1973, not knowing it had been stolen two years prior. When federal officials tracked the piece down, the museum promptly negotiated its return.
“One of the lessons we learned was how fast the United States Government moves when they actually locate something,” says chief curator Ruth Cloudman. “No grass grew under them. That was interesting. And we moved very fast, too.”
The Speed was refunded the $38,000 it spent on the work, and the museum was allowed to put the piece on display last month. On Wednesday, the museum will host a ceremony to formally hand over the painting, which has not been a prominent part of the Speed’s collection.
“In fact, we have two paintings by Bernardo Daddi from the mid-14th Century and he was the great Florentine altarpiece painter. So we are not without 14th Century Italian paintings here,” says Cloudman.
Cloudman says new technology has made it easier to spot stolen art, and it’s unlikely any other pieces at the museum will turn out to be stolen.