Keith Miller at the TLS:
The truth about art theft in Europe – and Clerville is, among other things, a microcosm, or quintessence, of Europe – is less swashbuckling than most fiction. The exhibition halls at the Palazzo del Quirinale, spacious, sparsely decorated and a little flyblown, are exactly the sort of place where you can imagine Diabolik pulling off a caper, disguising himself as the President, say, or floating through the window on a jetpack. But the works on show in a minor blockbuster earlier this summer, all of it recovered by the TPC, had undergone various indignities that you’d struggle to turn into any kind of entertainment beyond a snuff movie. One masterpiece, a Hellenistic table support from Puglia in painted marble, representing two griffins lunching on a stag, had been hammered into pieces so it could be smuggled out of the country with a consignment of building materials. Three post-Impressionist paintings, smashed and grabbed from the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna twenty-one years ago, were destined for the bonfire, our guide said, if they couldn’t be consigned to their intended buyer. The “Senigallia Madonna” by Piero della Francesca, taken from the Palazzo Ducale in Urbino in 1975, was the subject of television appeals, like any kidnapping victim: “Please don’t touch her with your bare hands.” A stately, plump rococo cabinet had been cut down to fit a smaller space than that from which it had been untimely ripped.