A 16th Century artwork that can be identified as a unique-statement-of-masterpiece has been stolen from St Ludgerus church in the small of Zele, Belgium. The painting that was long forgotten at the church, had been donated by a parishioner 16 years ago. It’s just recently when the church’s pastor Jan Van Raemdonck noticed that the work, depicting the Holy Family could be one of Michelangelo’s. The painting features Mary the mother of Jesus, Joseph, an infant – Jesus who is asleep and John the Baptist. Known as a passionate historian, the pastor had identified some resemblance of the painting to a sketch by the famous Renaissance artist. “The drawing, which is 100 percent sure of Michelangelo, shows just the same scene. That is why I thought that this too could be the work of Michelangelo, or one of his pupils,” he said. The sketch which is the artist’s only other work in Bruges, Belgium is a part of the Duke of Portland’s collection and was recently exhibited.
The missing ‘Michelangelo’ painting thought to be worth 10,000 euros was to be verified by an Italian art expert just few days before it was stolen. This is after Van Raemdonck moved it to a more superior place that the initial.
The church council believes that the nature of the burglary is linked to Van Raemdonck’s recent discovery of the painting as well as his involving of the art expert. “They were only interested in that one painting,” says Johan Anthuenis, the chairman of the church council, “They have not even looked at all other valuable items.”
However the historic artistic pastor claims to have requested for extra security measures to be placed at the church, when the council opted to restore the church’s tower instead. Contrary to the information, the council has now denied such claims, that no such conversation ever took place.
The church is said to have been broken in between 5am and 6am on January 11th, according to the East Flanders public prosecutor. A man of about 17- 20 years, fully dressed in dark clothes and a hood was spotted carrying a backpack. Pastor Van Raemdonck however says that the burglary would have involved more than just one individual with the painting on wood, measuring 145 by 99 centimetres and weighting 100 kg.
Ironically, art theft does not seem to be an unfamiliar term to the pastor. Also possessing quite strong writing skills has written a number of novels including one on the Just Judges – an art theft in Belgium. The Just Judges was stolen back in 1934 and to date is still missing despite the endless investigations and efforts to locate it.