14th June 2024
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The ‘lost Caravaggio’ goes on display at the Prado museum in Madrid

A painting by the Italian master Caravaggio, once mistakenly thought to be by an unknown artist and almost auctioned off, has gone on display at the Prado museum in Madrid.

Entitled ‘Ecce Homo’, the dark canvas depicts a bloodied Jesus wearing a crown of thorns just before his crucifixion.

Painted by the Renaissance artist around 1605-09 and believed to have once been part of the private collection of Phillip IV of Spain, the painting is one of around only 60 known works by Caravaggio in existence, and thus one of the most valuable old master artworks in the world.

A Madrid auction house had been due to sell the painting in April 2021 with an opening price of €1,500 – mistakenly attributing it to an artist belonging to the circle of 17th century Spanish painter José de Ribera.

But just hours before it was to go under the hammer, the culture ministry blocked the operation on suspicion it was actually by Caravaggio, whose works are worth millions.

The ministry action came after the Prado museum sounded the alarm, saying it had ‘sufficient documentary and stylistic evidence’ to suggest that the work was in fact by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.

The museum announced earlier this month that top experts have determined that the painting is ‘without a doubt, a Caravaggio masterpiece’, calling it ‘one of the greatest discoveries in the history of art’. ALSO READ: Prado Museum confirms rediscovery of lost Caravaggio, to be unveiled 27 May.

Spanish media have reported that the new owner is a British national who lives in Spain and who paid €36 million for the painting, which may remain on public display after its run at the Prado for several months.

The painting ‘is not going to end up in the home of its buyer’ who wants it to join'”public collections, for the moment, on loan’, Jorge Coll, the lead of London art gallery Colnaghi which handled the sale, told Spain’s El País.

Caravaggio, who had a violent and chaotic life, pioneered the Baroque painting technique known as chiaroscuro, in which light and shadow are sharply contrasted.

Art historians use various methods to determine the legitimacy of an artwork, including forensic examination of the canvas and paint to determine its age, the technology and styles of the era it was created in, and the techniques of the artist or their students.

Thanks to the generosity of its new owner, Ecce Homo by Caravaggio will be on display at the Prado, in a special one-piece exhibition, in room 8A from 28 May until 13 October 2024.

‘This painting enriches the permanent collection of the Prado,’ the museum said in a statement on Monday, ‘which holds one of the few works by the master in a Spanish collection, David and Goliath, a painting that has recovered its colours and original contrasts after its restoration.’


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