Palma il Vecchio (c. 1480–1528)
Virgin and Child with Saints
oil on panel, 38.58 x 35.04 in. (98 x 89 cm)
Venetian Renaissance painter Palma il Vecchio’s Virgin and Child with Saints was painted sometime in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century, and was housed in the Basilica of Santa Maria del Colle (formerly, the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria del Colle during the war) in the town of Pescocostanzo in the Province of L'Aquila of the Abruzzo region of Italy. The first church structure dates to approximately the eleventh century but was destroyed by an earthquake in the fifteenth century. It was rebuilt in the town’s center beginning in 1456. It is architecturally significant for its Renaissance portal, exterior façade, and five interior naves. The carved and gilded wooden ceiling was a later addition of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The panel was housed among the Madonna del Colle, a carved wooden statue from the thirteenth century, as well as inlaid marble altars and a Renaissance pulpit, all created by local artisans.
Pescocostanzo was not the location of any battles or bombardments during the Second World War, but was damaged nonetheless. During the winter occupation of the town, the German army destroyed several private dwellings by exploding mines, for no apparent reason. The church was undamaged by these explosions apart from some damage to the roof, windows, and altars. The residents of the town took it upon themselves to repair the roof on their own, repurposing the tiles of the destroyed local homes.
It was around this time, in November 1943, that the German army removed several valuable oil paintings, including Virgin and Child with Saints, as well as six small marble statues from the baptistry, a pyx with a gilt-silver cup, another small pyx, and a silver reliquary box. The painting has not been seen since, and its present whereabouts are unknown.