You may have read about what must be the attic find of the century in the news in the past week or so: the ‘Lost Caravaggio’.
Valued at up to £130 million, the painting – a rather lurid scene of the Biblical Judith beheading Holofernes – was discovered when a local auctioneer was called in to look at the rather dusty work after burglars had broken into a home in Toulouse and stolen a number of other items.
His inspection led to two years of research, including weeks in the laboratory of The Louvre, before the painting was unveiled as a national treasure in 2016.
As with works of this stature, however, expert opinion remains divided, with some arguing that the picture is the work of another artist or by one of Caravaggio’s students. Nonetheless, enough heavyweight opinion has swung behind the attribution for the auctioneer to proceed with confidence, and I’m delighted to say that it will be the original Toulouse auctioneer who will conduct the sale this summer.
How big a deal is this painting? Including this one, we now have 68 paintings attributed to Caravaggio, a baroque painter and one of the greatest Renaissance masters, who influenced later artists like Rembrandt, another giant of art, but considered a lesser talent than Caravaggio himself.