Police allege the painting of a naked woman with her back to the viewer, which was grabbed in Milan in 1975, was found after three suspects attempted to get the artistic work appraised by Vittorio Sgarbi, an art critic who also is mayor of Salemi, the Italian news agency ANSA reported Friday.
After allegedly learning of the $730,000 painting from an art gallery owner in the town of Riccione, Sgarbi alerted authorities that he may have come across a stolen artwork. The three suspects were then arrested and the painting was seized.
The painting was pilfered when the family that owned it took it in for restoration 33 years ago, police say.
A member of that family has since identified the recovered work as the missing painting based on a mark she caused on the painting. Police say that identification means the Renoir painting likely will be returned to the family.
Police told ANSA they will confiscate a painting forgery also offered to Sgarbi for appraisal that its owners alleged was created by Impressionist painter Eduard Manet.