The 17th-century painting was almost sold for $1,812. Now it could command more than $181 million.
A painting that was almost auctioned off for a song may turn out to be worth a king’s ransom. The work, Crowning of Thorns, was originally attributed to Spanish artist José de Ribera, but some experts have suggested it could be an original Caravaggio. Now the oldest commercial gallery in the world has announced it is the genuine article.
According to the Guardian, suspicions arose from the painting’s use of contrast between light and darkness. In the art world this is known as chiaroscuro; a technique developed by da Vinci, Rembrandt, and Caravaggio. Art history professor Maria Cristina Terzaghi further identified pigment reminiscent of those used by Caravaggio, further supporting this theory. She told the Guardian:
“It’s him. The composition of the red in the purple mantle that covers Christ is the same as the picture of Salome with the head of John the Baptist in the royal palace in Madrid.”
Some experts were not convinced that the painting was from the hand of the Italian master. Nicola Spinosa, a top scholar of 17th-century Italian art, suggested that it was simply “Caravaggesque.” This theory could hold water, as Ribera was a follower of Caravaggio, one who extensively studied the chiaroscuro style.