Imelda Marcos’ painting collection—valued at $24.3 million (P1.1 trillion)—was tied up for decades in court battles before the Sandiganbayan ordered its forfeiture in December 2019.
Today, the 160-piece ensemble remains the subject of mystery and intrigues, as one of the paintings, particularly Sandro Botticelli’s Madonna and Child (1485), remains missing.
The Italian Renaissance masterpiece, which costs $10 million (P482 million), was reportedly amassed by the late president Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda during his 20-year reign from 1965 to 1985 using public funds.
It was later confiscated by the government and was supposed to be displayed at an exhibit in Salander-O’Reilly gallery in New York in October 2007.
The gallery was owned by Lawrence Salander, who was known for swindling several fine art collectors and artists, including John McEnroe, and Robert de Niro Sr., father of the actor, out of millions of dollars.
A few days before the opening of the exhibit, federal marshals raided the gallery, seizing the artworks.
When Salander was jailed in 2010, his creditors filed cases proving that they own the works he stole from them—the Botticelli painting included.
A legal battle resolved in 2014 points to Panama-based Kraken Investments as its rightful owner. However, the company remains clueless about the painting’s whereabouts.
Banner images and article thumbnail from Lauren Greenfield / Showtime.