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Garibaldi's Shield missing for 20 years is found at house in Rome

Italian art police have recovered a long-missing sculpture known as Garibaldi’s Shield from an architect’s house in Rome.

The ornamental bronze shield was a gift from the people of Sicily to Gen Giuseppe Garibaldi, who played a major part in the struggle for Italian unification and is considered one of the “fathers of the fatherland”.

The piece was made by Antonio Ximenes, father of the renowned sculptor Ettore Ximenes. It has a diameter of 118cm and weighs about 50kg.

It was donated by Garibaldi to the city of Rome and entrusted to the Capitoline Museums, which subsequently transferred it to the Central Museum of the Risorgimento. It went missing from that museum 20 years ago. Police are investigating how it ended up in the architect’s house.

Garibaldi caught the world’s imagination in 1860 after invading Sicily with 1,000 lightly armed volunteers, known as redshirts. They defeated 12,000 Neapolitan troops, took the island and then, determined to unify the Italian peninsula, invaded the mainland. They occupied Naples and unleashed a wave of support for unification.

The sculpture is considered a unique piece of art. Garibaldi’s head is depicted along with the main battles he fought, and the names his 1,000 soldiers are engraved.

According to the most recent stolen artworks bulletin from the carabinieri, Italy’s paramilitary police, 8,405 items have gone missing in Italy in the last year alone, including archaeological artefacts, ancient weapons and medieval texts. More than 1m works are listed as missing.

Early in December, a painting believed to be a Gustav Klimt was discovered hidden in a wall at a gallery in Piacenza from where it had gone missing 23 years ago.