BROOKLYN (CN) – The federal government seized an Old Master painting it claims was imported illegally from Italy. After Lelio Orsi’s Leda ed il Cigno (“Leda and the Swan”) brought more than $1 million this year at a Sotheby’s auction, the buyer rescinded the purchase in light of an “Italian criminal investigation,” according to the complaint.
The painting’s Italian owner Eduardo Testori allegedly snuck the work into the United States in 2006, declaring on the Customs form at JFK International Airport that its country of origin was Great Britain.
“It is generally understood by Customs … that Italy has stringent laws prohibiting export of artistic and archaeological property, that importers of Italian art and artifacts frequently misrepresent the country of origin on an entry form, and that exporters of such artworks frequently [ship] such items to their final destinations through a country that lacks stringent cultural property laws,” the complaint states.
The importer denies any scheme to evade Italian laws and claims that the inaccurate country of origin was a “clerical error,” according to the complaint.
Orsi, 1511-1587, was a Mannerist painter who is believed to have studied with a student of Correggio.