Friday, October 20, 2006

Painting found in attic in 1997 is finally recognised as Caravaggio's

By Peter Popham in Rome
Published: 20 October 2006
Nine years after it was found mouldering in a church attic, the latest masterpiece by Caravaggio to come to light was ceremonially unveiled yesterday in Italy.

Its title is The Crowning with Thorns, and it is the third painting of that name attributed to the notoriously hard-living, volcanic painter whose reputation went into an eclipse after his death, recovering spectacularly in the past 80 years.

But is it really a Caravaggio? Cecilia Frosinini, vice-director of Opificio delle Pietre Dure, the eminent restorers in Florence which worked on the painting, said: "With Caravaggio it's impossible to know whether he painted a particular picture or not. There are so many different versions of many of his works."

But for Piero Donati, director of historical art heritage of the region of Liguria, who has been closely involved with the work, it is much more likely to be the work of the master than it was once thought to be.

"When it was discovered in 1997," he said yesterday, "people were in no doubt that it was a copy of another one with the same title that is owned by a bank in Rome. But... as the restoration proceeded it became clear that two hands were responsible for the painting. And the two principle figures, Christ and the torturer in green, were found to be of very high quality. If they were not by Caravaggio himself, they were done by very accomplished artists working to his orders." The other two figures were inferior and probably painted 30 or 40 years later.

Caravaggio worked with close collaborators who became masters of his style. "He was inundated with commissions and he never said no to anyone, but he was physically unable to complete all the works himself," said Mr Donati.

In a note signed by the artist on 23 June 1605, he promised to paint a Crowning with Thorns for the Roman prince Massimo Massimi, which also supports the painting's claim to being a Caravaggio.

Nine years after it was found mouldering in a church attic, the latest masterpiece by Caravaggio to come to light was ceremonially unveiled yesterday in Italy.

Its title is The Crowning with Thorns, and it is the third painting of that name attributed to the notoriously hard-living, volcanic painter whose reputation went into an eclipse after his death, recovering spectacularly in the past 80 years.

But is it really a Caravaggio? Cecilia Frosinini, vice-director of Opificio delle Pietre Dure, the eminent restorers in Florence which worked on the painting, said: "With Caravaggio it's impossible to know whether he painted a particular picture or not. There are so many different versions of many of his works."

But for Piero Donati, director of historical art heritage of the region of Liguria, who has been closely involved with the work, it is much more likely to be the work of the master than it was once thought to be.
"When it was discovered in 1997," he said yesterday, "people were in no doubt that it was a copy of another one with the same title that is owned by a bank in Rome. But... as the restoration proceeded it became clear that two hands were responsible for the painting. And the two principle figures, Christ and the torturer in green, were found to be of very high quality. If they were not by Caravaggio himself, they were done by very accomplished artists working to his orders." The other two figures were inferior and probably painted 30 or 40 years later.

Caravaggio worked with close collaborators who became masters of his style. "He was inundated with commissions and he never said no to anyone, but he was physically unable to complete all the works himself," said Mr Donati.

In a note signed by the artist on 23 June 1605, he promised to paint a Crowning with Thorns for the Roman prince Massimo Massimi, which also supports the painting's claim to being a Caravaggio.