An Art History Professor Spotted an Unusual Painting at a Local Church. Now, It Is Being Hailed as a Major Italian Baroque Discovery

An art history professor in Westchester, New York, has discovered a rare Italian Baroque painting at a local church.

Iona College professor Tom Ruggio did a “double take” when he first saw the work at the Church of the Holy Family, he told ABC News, which first reported the discovery. He “realized immediately it was an Italian Baroque painting,” he said, and snapped some pictures with his phone to share with fellow art history experts in Italy and New York City.

Now, the painting, which has been identified as a 17th-century work by Cesare Dandini, is enjoying pride of place at Iona College’s Ryan Library on a three-month loan.

The work is known as Holy Family with the Infant St. John and dates to the 1630s. Experts said they thought it was missing all of these years. Dandini was “an artist of considerable refinement [and] promoted the Florentine devotion to strongly colored and elegantly crafted compositions,” according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which also owns works by the artist and helped authenticate the newly discovered work.

The Midnight Publishing Group Price Database lists 192 auction results for Dandini. The artist’s record at auction is $753,530 (£498,500) for Tobias and the Angel, sold at Sotheby’s London in 2000.

“It was God’s providence,” Monsignor Dennis Keane with Church of the Holy Family told Midnight Publishing Group News. Ruggio visited the church and made his discovery more than a year ago, near the start of lockdown. Keane clarified that the purchase of the painting, by the church’s former pastor, Monsignor Fitzgerald, actually happened at a gallery in Rome, and not London as initially believed and reported to ABC. Keane says the church believes the work was hung there sometime around 1962.

The painting will arrive back at the church from the Iona shortly before Christmas, Keane said, and plans for displaying it are in the works. For all the years that it has been hanging there, he and the church staff knew that it was an important Italian work but believed it was “follower of” or “after” Dandini, a qualification that often happens with Old Master works where attribution is not 100 percent certain. In this case, the research proved that it is in fact a genuine work by Dandini.

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As Summer Sales Wane, Italian Dealers Are Chasing Collectors All the Way to the Beach With a Pop-Up in Procida

A consortium of Italian galleries has announced it is opening a decentralized art exhibition on the small Italian island of Procida. The event takes place over the three-day weekend of September 2–5 and will see 45 works of art peppered across 20 sites on the striking yet lesser-known island, just off the coast of Naples.

“Panorama” is the first event to be organized by Italics, a group of 63 galleries that banded together in 2020, and will present pieces ranging from Old Masters to the ultra-contemporary. “The founding principle behind Italics is to connect art of all times with the rich and diverse Italian landscape, offering a unique opportunity to explore both through a special perspective,” said Lorenzo Fiaschi, president of Italics and co-founder of Galleria Continua, and Pepi Marchetti Franchi, vice president of Italics and founding director of Gagosian Rome, in a joint statement sent to Midnight Publishing Group News.

The destination pop-up—set against vistas familiar from such films as Cleopatra and The Talented Mr. Ripley—is one of the more unusually located and ephemeral exhibitions during a year that saw galleries and auction houses decamp to various locations around the world, opening outposts in places like West Palm Beach and Menorca. A group of dealers curated a group show in Puglia earlier this summer.

Lucio Fontana's <i>Fine di Dio</i> (1963). Courtesy Tornabuoni Art.

Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spaziale. La fine di Dio (1963). Courtesy Tornabuoni Art.

The organizers say the primary aim of “Panorama” is community-based, not commercial, although the works will all be for sale. “We don’t see this project as antithetical to anything already in place, but rather an additional opportunity highlighting the role of galleries as centers of cultural production,” said the duo. “Italics was born in a moment of high challenge at the start of the pandemic last year, when Italy was hit particularly hard. We started having intense conversations about how to create synergies addressing the hard road ahead.” Even if Italics was conceived in response to a specific moment, when it comes to future iterations, they added, “the possibilities for long-term collaboration projects are almost endless.”

The works and their respective settings were overseen by Vincenzo de Bellis, curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, who led the selection and installation in consultation with participating Italics members. Sites across the island, named Italy’s cultural capital for 2022, include various public and private buildings, churches, historical palazzos, and piazzas. One example of the cross-century pairings features one of Lucio Fontana’s iconic Concetto spaziale. La fine di Dio works, courtesy of Tornabuoni Art. Translating to “Spatial concept. The End of God,” the punctured green canvas from 1963 will be dramatically presented in the chapel of Santa Maria della Purità, which dates to 1530. The Fontana will be paired with Filippo Tagliolini’s paintings Berenice and Democrito o/or Aristotele, both from around 1790, which arrive via Alessandra Di Castro, an antiques dealer from Rome.

Tomás Saraceno's <i>GJ 1132 c/M+M</i> (2018). Courtesy the artist and pinksummer.

Tomás Saraceno’s GJ 1132 c/M+M (2018). Courtesy of the artist and pinksummer.

A spokesperson from Tornabuoni tells Midnight Publishing Group News that the Fontana, an “example of Italian excellence from the postwar avant-garde,” has been read in different ways, either as a “negation of transcendence or, sometimes, the rediscovery of spirituality.” Though the gallery would not communicate a specific price, it hinted that the work is one of the most expensive pieces of Italian art to ever come to market, aside from the €158 million Modigliani sold at Sotheby’s in 2015. According to Midnight Publishing Group’s Price Database, an iteration of Concetto spaziale. Fine di Dio sold at Christie’s for $29.1 million in 2015; that same year, Sotheby’s sold another version for $24.6 million.

The Tornabuoni spokesperson added that salespeople will be on site during the weekend to welcome collectors. “Our gallery strongly believes that this kind of event is set to be reproduced and developed, as it answers a need to see art leaving the sometimes hermetic walls of a physical gallery to come into contact with a wider or different audience,” they told Midnight Publishing Group News. “The originality and strength of this project is also born from the unexpected locations of the island of Procida, which becomes a theater where art and architecture feed one another.”

Additional highlights include a monumental sculpture by revered Chinese installation artist Chen Zhen. The art trail will snake around the island, leading up to the fortified city of Terra Murata and its dramatic clifftop prison, where Giuseppe Penone will install a bronze tree sculpture that morphs into a human figure on the terrace. Other participating artists include Daniel Buren, Ibrahim Mahama, and Tomás Saraceno; Robert Barry, Elisabetta Benassi, Igor Grubić, Marcello Maloberti, and Adrian Paci will contribute performances.

Panorama” takes place September 2–5 on Procida, Italy.

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From Hunter Biden’s Life as an Artist to a Brazen Theft at an Italian TV Station: The Best and Worst of the Art World This Week

Hunter Biden, Unfiltered – The first son spoke to Midnight Publishing Group News’s Katya Kazakina about his newfound love of painting, and how it’s helping him in his quest for “universal truth.”

Robert Indiana Estate Reaches Settlement – The extensive lawsuits embroiling the late artist’s estate and financial backer came to an end after three long years.

MacKenzie Scott Donates Billions – The ex-wife of Jeff Bezos just gave out $2.7 billion in grants with millions going toward worthy arts organizations.

Reflecting on AIDS and Identity – Artist and activist Gregg Bordowitz spoke to Midnight Publishing Group News’s Pac Pobric about the multifaceted nature of individuals and advocating for all parts of himself and others.

Source Code for the World Wide Web Hits the Block – The inventor of the Internet’s source code is selling it as an NFT, and bidding starts at just $1,000.

Mini Pompeii Discovery – Construction workers in Verona unearthed extraordinary Roman frescoes buried beneath a defunct.

Obama Portraits on Tour – Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald’s striking portraits of President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama are going on an 11-month tour, kicking off in Chicago.

Manhattan D.A. Returns Looted Objects – A whopping 27 looted artifacts worth $3.8 million were returned to Cambodia.

Authorities Raid Hong Kong Show – Police were called to an art show commemorating the 2019 pro-democracy protests over a complaint of “seditious” content.

Police Allege Unhappy Employees Stole Art – Authorities say that disloyal employees likely stole around 120 pieces of art that once hung around the Italian offices of broadcasting company Rai.

Artists Decry New Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws – Hungary’s new anti-LGBTQ+ laws are drawing ire from artists and activists around the country.

Notre Dame Still Needs More Money – Since the devastating fire in 2019, the church has raised almost $1 billion, but says it needs more.

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Italian Sculptor Arturo Di Modica, Whose Charging Bull Sculpture Became a Symbol of New York, Has Died at 80

Italian sculptor Arturo Di Modica died Friday at home in Vittoria, Sicily. He was 80 years old, and had been sick with intestinal cancer in recent years.

If you don’t know Di Modica’s name, you almost certainly know his work—he is the man behind Charging Bull, the instantly recognizable symbol of Wall Street that has stood on New York’s Bowling Green since 1989.

“Everybody knows the bull—less well-known is Arturo’s name,” Jacob Harmer, managing director of London’s Geist Modern Contemporary, which began representing Di Modica in 2012, told Midnight Publishing Group News.

Signing with Geist marked the first time in the artist’s career that he’d had an official dealer. Fiercely independent, Di Modica was known for exhibiting his work on his own terms. As legend has it, he illegally dropped off the 3.5-ton Charging Bull beneath the New York Stock Exchange around 1 a.m. one December morning with a crew of 40 men, a crane, and and a truck. The statue stood beneath a newly installed Christmas tree like a larger-than-life present.

Arturo Di Modica, Charging Bull (1989). Photo courtesy of the artist.

Arturo Di Modica, Charging Bull (1989). Photo courtesy of the artist.

“I firmly believe in the fullness of time Charging Bull will stand with the pyramids, Michelangelo’s David, the Eiffel Tower, [and] the Statue of Liberty as among the most iconic works of all time,” Arthur Piccolo, chairman of the Bowling Green Association and something of the guardian of the bull, told Midnight Publishing Group News.

Inspired by the 1987 financial crash, Di Modica spent two years and $350,000 to create the piece, which he hoped would embody American resiliency. It was his way of thanking the country where he found success in his craft.

“Arturo was the most determined and ambitious person I ever met,” Harmer said. “He would have an operation, and his doctor would tell him he had to rest—but he just wouldn’t. He’d get back up the next day, take a transatlantic flight from Italy to America, go straight to the foundry, and carry on working. He was going full force until the end.”

Arturo Di Modica, second from left, with his mother, niece, and father. Photo courtesy of the Arturo Di Modica Photo Archive

Arturo Di Modica, second from left, with his mother, niece, and father. Photo courtesy of the Arturo Di Modica Photo Archive

Born in Sicily, the artist moved to Florence at 18—in secret, he recounted in his biography, because his father never would have approved. As a student at the city’s Academy of Fine Arts, he built his own makeshift foundry because he didn’t have the money to pay existing facilities. Then, in 1966, the city flooded, destroying much of his work. Four years later, Di Modica moved to New York, where he crafted monumental sculptures on the sidewalk outside his SoHo studio.

July 13th 1977, front page of the New York Post reporting Arturo Di Modica’s unauthorized installation at Rockefeller Center.

July 13th 1977, front page of the New York Post reporting Arturo Di Modica’s unauthorized installation at Rockefeller Center.

When critics ignored his debut show in the city, Di Modica fired back with his first guerrilla art stunt, unloading eight monumental pieces in front of Rockefeller Center. He narrowly avoided arrest, but made the front page of the New York Post. He began to establish the client base that would allow him to dine regularly at Cipriani, the downtown power lunch spot, and purchase a Ferrari 328 GTS.

But it was Charging Bull that really resonated with New Yorkers and became a permanent fixture of the city’s landscape. When the NYSE had the piece impounded—Di Modica paid $500 to get it back—the Parks Department stepped up to offer Charging Bull a home on Bowling Green, with Mayor Ed Koch’s blessing.

Arturo Di Modica, <em>Il Cavallo</em> illegally displayed on the plaza at Lincoln Center in New York on Valentine’s Day in 1985. Photo courtesy of the Arturo Di Modica Photo Archive

Arturo Di Modica, Il Cavallo illegally displayed on the plaza at Lincoln Center in New York on Valentine’s Day in 1985. Photo courtesy of the Arturo Di Modica Photo Archive

The piece was back in the headlines in 2017, when, in an International Women’s Day marketing stunt, financial firm State Street Global Advisors and advertising firm McCann commissioned artist Kristen Visbal to create Fearless Girl, a sculpture of a small girl facing down the bull.

The statue became an instant viral sensation. Di Modica controversially contended that the new piece of public art violated his copyright, and recast his beloved bull as well, a bully.

Kristen Visbal's Fearless Girl, a four-foot statue of a young girl, defiantly looks up at Arturo DiModica's iconic Wall Street Charging Bull sculpture in New York City. Fearless Girl was installed for International Women's Day in March to draw attention to the gender pay gap and lack of gender diversity on corporate boards in the financial sector. Courtesy of Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

Kristen Visbal’s Fearless Girl, a four-foot statue of a young girl, defiantly looks up at Charging Bull in New York City. Courtesy of Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

Fearless Girl has since been relocated to the New York Stock Exchange. Moving Charging Bull there as well has become something of an obsession of mayor Bill de Blasio—supposedly out of safety concerns—but following vocal opposition from Di Modica, the plan was rejected last year. (The artwork actually belongs to British investor Joe Lewis, who purchased it for an undisclosed amount—Di Modica’s original asking price was $5 million—on the condition that it remain at Bowling Green.)

Di Modica spent his final years on several major projects, including a secretive monument called Unfinished Journey that would have marked the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States in 2026.

Arturo DiModica working on his unrealized Battery Park monument <em>Unfinished Journey</em> in his Church Street studio in New York in 2016. Photo courtesy of Arthur Piccolo.

Arturo DiModica working on his unrealized Battery Park monument Unfinished Journey in his Church Street studio in 2016. Photo courtesy of Arthur Piccolo.

Built from stainless steel and bronze, the sculpture depicts “a sailing ship representing the very imperfect start to the American experience” and “the [continuing] quest for a more perfect union,” said Piccolo in an email campaign calling for the piece to be realized posthumously.

There were also plans to open an art school in Di Modica’s hometown of Vittoria called the Studio of the New Renaissance. The artist purchased a 13-acre property and also hoped to erect a 132-foot-tall sculpture of two rearing horses across the river.

“Arturo had been working on the monumental horses projects for decades, plowing in millions of dollars of his own money,” Harmer said. “I would like to see Arturo‘s visions complete, but it is too early to tell what will happen next.”

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In an Astounding Discovery, Archaeologists in Alaska Have Uncovered Italian Glass That Came to America Decades Before Columbus

Archeologists in Alaska have unearthed a handful of Venetian glass beads they believe to be over 540 years old, making them the earliest European objects discovered on the continent.

If true, it would mean the marble-sized spheres made it to North America decades before Christopher Columbus did.

Mike Kunz from the University of Alaska Museum of the North and Robin Mills from the Bureau of Land Management were behind the discovery, which was detailed in a recent paper published by the journal American Antiquity.

“This was the earliest that indubitably European materials show up in the New World by overland transport,” Kunz said in a statement put out by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Since 2004, the researchers have uncovered beads across three different archaeological sites in the northernmost US state, including Punyik Point, which sits amid ancient trade routes from the Bering Sea to the Arctic Ocean. To get there, the little objects traveled some 10,000 miles from Italy. 

Additional pieces of jewelry discovered in Alaska.

Additional pieces of jewelry discovered in Alaska.

The scientists also discovered several metal bangles, one of which was wrapped in plant-based twine. When they sent the twine for radio-carbon testing, “we almost fell over backwards,” Kunz recalled. “It came back saying [the plant was alive at] some time during the 1400s. It was like, Wow!”

With more research under their belts, Kunz and Mills now believe that the beads made it to Punyik Point sometime between 1440 and 1480. The Niña, Pinta, and Santa María didn’t sail the ocean blue until 1492. 

But one question remained: How the hell did they get there? 

Italian craftspeople often traded with people throughout Asia, the archeologists explain in their paper. It was along the Silk Road that the beads likely made their way eastward toward China before finding their way into the aboriginal hinterlands and, eventually, to the Russian Far East, Kunz and Mills explain.

From there, a trader may have pocketed them and kayaked across the Bering Sea to present-day Alaska. The researchers believe the objects came through Shashalik, an ancient trading center on the western coast, and were then carried on foot, or by dog, to the Brooks mountain range. There their journey was paused for five-and-a-half centuries. 

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