The long-lost painting by the Italian artist was found in an attic

By Helen Murphy
February 28, 2019 12:40 PM
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A famous Italian painting that was rediscovered in an attic could be set to fetch at least $171 million at an auction, according to CNN.

In 2014, a friend of French auctioneer Marc Labarbe called him to tell him about a painting they had found in their attic. After Labarbe carefully cleaned the work and contacted art appraiser Eric Turquin to verify the finding, the painting was identified as “Judith and Holofernes” by the Italian master Caravaggio. The painting is believed to have been made in 1607.

At a press conference on Thursday, it was announced that Labarbe will auction the painting on June 27. The work will be auctioned in Toulouse, France — the same city where it was discovered — and is expected to sell for up to €150 million ($171 million), reported CNN.

The Italian painter Caravaggio lived a short, albeit dramatic, life. He spent many years in exile and on the run after being charged with murder in Naples, Italy, before dying in 1610 at age 38.

“There are only 65 of his paintings in the world, and I found the 66th painting in an attic,” Labarbe told CNN. “It’s incredible, but it’s true.”

“Judith and Holofernes” is unveiled at the Colnaghi Gallery in London
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According to the Evening Standard, the painting will be on view at London’s Colnaghi Gallery from March 1 through 9 before traveling to New York and Paris ahead of the June auction.

“This is the greatest painting I’ve ever found,” said Turquin. “It’s very violent. It’s almost unbearable. But he’s an artist who embodies the text — he makes the text living.”

The painting has faced some controversy, as some don’t agree it was made by Caravaggio.

According to Artnet, when the painting was displayed at a museum in Milan, Italy, one board member resigned in protest — and the museum added an asterisk next to Caravaggio’s name, showing that they were unsure of the attribution.

However, Turquin says he believes the painting is a real Caravaggio because there is evidence of alterations under the paint.

“A copier just reproduces exactly what’s in front of him,” Turquin said, according to CNN, “but a painter changes his mind as he’s painting.”

Both Turquin and Labarbe agree that they would prefer the painting ends up in a place where the public is able to see it.

“I would prefer it to go to a museum. I would like it to be known,” Turquin said, CNN reported, while Labarbe added, “If you have a Caravaggio in your museum, you have the best.”