Could a Lost Caravaggio Have Been Found in Spain?

In what could be potentially very exciting news for the global art industry and Spanish culture enthusiasts, the Spanish government have recently blocked the auction and sale of the 17th-century oil painting that was listed for sale in Madrid. The reason for this high-level intervention? Because there is a suspicion that this oil painting, which was listed with a starting price of just 1,500 euros, could actually be a lost masterpiece from the highly coveted Spanish Renaissance artist Caravaggio.

The news was confirmed on twitter, when Spanish Culture Minister Jose Manuel Rodriguez Uribes shared via his feed that the painting had been declared “not for export… on suspicion it may be a Caravaggio”.

What Do we Know About the Piece?

The piece is entitled “Coronation with Thorns” and as the title implies, the image depicts Jesus in the moments before his crucifixion. The auction house had printed in their catalogue that the work was create by a member of the entourage of (Spanish artist) Jose de Ribera”.

Had it not been withdrawn from sale, the piece was listed with an opening price of €1,500 ($1,800), via the Ansorena auction house in Madrid, and someone could have potentially grabbed the bargain of their life!

After the removal from the auction was announced by the Spanish Culture Minister it was also confirmed by a spokeswoman from the Ansorena auction house who simply stated “Lot 229 has been withdrawn from the auction so it will not go under the hammer this afternoon.” She continued “As to who painted it, different experts are studying the work and right now we have no further information. The painting has been declared ‘not for export’ and will not be able to leave Spain.”

What Will Happen to the Painting Now?

The piece will now undergo several months of exploration by experts in the field to determine if it is a Caravaggio, or whether the initial assertion from the auction house that it is by theentourage of (Spanish artist) Jose de Ribera was correct. If it is a piece by Caravaggio then this wouldn’t be the first missing piece from the artist to be located in Europe in recent years!

In 2014, a lost masterpiece by the same artist which was entitled “Judith and Holofernes” was found under an old mattress in the attic of a house in the French city of Toulouse. Much like the piece in question, this was also biblical-style piece. In this case, the canvas showed a beautiful Jewish widow beheading a sleeping Assyrian general.

As this piece was discovered so recently, it gives a good example of what the Spanish auction house piece could expect to secure if it is confirmed to be a Caravaggio. The piece located in France was given an estimated value of up to $170 million, and was listed for sale via auction for around this value in June 2019. However, the final sale price of the piece has never been disclosed, as it was sold to an anonymous buyer two full days before the auction took place. It is also important to note that this auction took place four full years after the painting was originally found, which shows that it could be a couple of years (or more) before we have any definitive answers about whether this newly located piece is a Caravaggio or not.

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