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Chasing Caravaggio

from The Wall Street Journal

How the Chase for the Latest ‘Lost’ Caravaggio Has Captivated Europe’s Art World

If authenticated, a painting by the Baroque master—initially listed at auction this past spring for around $1,800 and potentially worth millions—could become one of the most valuable old master artworks in the world.

By Willem Marx

from Wikipedia

Late this March, Maria Cristina Terzaghi, an associate professor at Italian university Roma Tre, was writing about the acclaimed Baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, when art dealer Fabrizio Moretti sent her a photograph of a painting via WhatsApp. It featured Pontius Pilate presenting a thorn-crowned Jesus, a recognizable tableau known as Ecce Homo. The exact image was new to Terzaghi, but its composition and light contrast felt familiar, mirroring other works by an artist she had studied for more than 17 years.

“Immediately, it was so clear. I said, ‘OK, I have to see it [in person],’ ” she recalls of her first glance. The starting bid for the artwork, which was slated to go on sale on April 8 at the Madrid auction house Ansorena, was just 1,500 euros, equivalent to about $1,800.Terzaghi asked the dealer and auctioneers for higher-resolution images, which further fueled her supposition that the work was an authentic Caravaggio. Based on interviews with almost a dozen of the world’s leading Caravaggio experts, it is a theory that the vast majority of them now support—and one which the dealer overseeing the work’s authentication aims to confirm in a report that he expects to release in early 2022. 

In the high-stakes world of old masters hunting, a “sleeper” refers to a lost masterpiece that’s stayed out of the public eye, sometimes for centuries, often due to an earlier misattribution. As in this case, its true identity is often unknown to an owner, but its existence has been surmised by academics. If authenticated, the painting—titled The Crowning of Thorns by the auction house and Ecce Homo by most scholars—may prompt scholars to rethink already disputed Caravaggio works elsewhere and a significant portion of his career. 

[ click to continue reading at WSJ ]

Posted on October 8, 2021 by Editor

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