Possible lost Caravaggio masterpiece found in attic

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Possible lost Caravaggio masterpiece found in attic

PARIS - A 400-year-old picture that might have been painted by Italian master Caravaggio has been found in an attic in southern France.

Eric Turquin, the French expert who retrieved the painting two years ago, said it is in an exceptional state of conservation and estimated its value at 120 million euros (about $135 million), while acknowledging experts disagree about its authenticity.

Called “Judith Beheading Holofernes,” it depicts the biblical heroine Judith beheading an Assyrian general. It is thought to have been painted in Rome around 1604-05.

Turquin told a news conference on Tuesday that there “will never be a consensus” about the artist.

Two Caravaggio experts he consulted attributed the painting to Louis Finson, a Flemish painter and art dealer who was familiar with Caravaggio, Turquin said. Finson possessed a number of works from the Italian master and made copies of his pictures.

“But the third expert I met told me that it was not only a Caravaggio, but also a masterpiece,” he said. “‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’ must be considered the most important painting, by far, to have emerged in the last 20 years by one of the great masters.”

The picture has been awarded “National Treasure” status by French authorities, meaning that it can’t be exported for 30 months, leaving the national museums enough time for its acquisition.

While the art work has yet to be authenticated, France’s Culture Ministry justified its decision to ban the export of the painting because it “deserves to be kept on (French) territory as a very important landmark of Caravaggism.”

Bruno Arciprete, the Naples-based expert who restored Caravaggio’s “Flagellation of the Lord” and “Seven Works of Mercy,” said the painting could well be a Caravaggio but that further studies are needed.

AP

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