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In a post on its social media account the police said that "two people are under investigation for fraud and illegal export of cultural assets".

The background to the case is lengthy and complex.

Italy’s Carabinieri gave a press conference this month to announce it had seized the 17th-century painting by Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653).

The police said they began the investigation into the Caritas Romana (Roman Charity) picture in 2020 and then recently seized it from Austrian auction house Dorotheum.

The export licence was applied for, and received, by the owners of the painting from the Italian Monuments Office as "attributed to Artemisia Gentileschi and/or Onofrio Palumbo, formerly attributed to Massimo Stanzione" a Dorotheum statement said.

The Dorotheum statement added: "This export licence was subsequently revoked in 2020. The owners, who inherited the painting, have since been in an open legal dispute with the export authority over the revocation of this export permit from Italy. The painting was neither offered in an auction nor in a private treaty."