Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Thursday 13 May |
Saint of the Day: The Blessed Virgin Mary ~ Our Lady of Fatima
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

Painting of Christ pulled from auction believed to be authentic Caravaggio

CARAVAGGIO

Anna Pakutina | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 04/27/21

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. 

CARAVAGGIO

Investigation

Spain’s culture ministry quickly withdrew the piece from the April 8 auction in order to conduct an investigation. A ministry representative noted that the government has placed an export ban pending an “academic debate” over a possible Caravaggio attribution. 

In the weeks since the painting was removed from auction, experts from the Colnaghi gallery have examined the piece. On April 26, The Art Newspaper reported that experts at Colnaghi had discovered evidence that the work was presented to an art competition by Caravaggio himself in 1605. 

Italian dealer Giancarlo Ciaroni said of the painting: 

“We absolutely believe [this is] the work of Caravaggio,” Ciaroni tells The Art Newspaper. “This is indisputable. It’s all well documented. Regarding its acquisition, the painting has already taken its own path.”

The price is now expected to skyrocket. Originally put to the auction block at €1,500 ($1,812), the new attribution could garner up to €50 million ($60.4 million) if sold to a museum. This price could rise even higher, to €150 million ($181.2 million), if sold at private auction.

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to the “Holy Mothe...
2
SAINTS
Meg Hunter-Kilmer
Saints to help if Mother’s Day is hard
3
MOTHER SHORT FILM
Zoe Romanowsky
Moving 1-minute film about motherhood will touch your heart
4
I.Media for Aleteia
These 30 shrines will lead the Rosary Relay for end of the pandem...
5
PRAY
Philip Kosloski
3 Signs of a spiritual attack on your soul
6
MOTHER OF ASIA - TOWER OF PEACE
J-P Mauro
Philippines finishes construction of largest Marian statue in the...
7
HOUSE OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA
Bret Thoman, OFS
A pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Catherine of Siena
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.