Art market Magazine May 2016

 
ACTUALITY 
 
The
ACTUALITY

The "Caravaggio in the attic"…

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or once, the Journal Officiel of 31 March set the art world on fire. Spotted by the eagleeyed Didier Rykner of La Tribune
de l’Art, an order of 25 March 2016 refused an export certificate to a mysterious painting "possibly attributed to Michelangelo Merisi, aka Caravaggio". Well, that set the cat among the pigeons… The picture was discovered in an attic in the Toulouse region, and has been studied by Éric Turquin and two of his staff, Stéphane Pinta and Julie Ducher, since late April 2014. The ministerial decision forced the expert to change his strategy and unveil Judith Beheading Holofernes. As soon as it was revealed to the public, the painting you attribute to Caravaggio became a subject of keen debate... Éric Turquin: I knew there wouldn't be a consensus. The problem with Caravaggio is that everyone thinks they are a specialist, and that's understandable, because we know of only 64 paintings by him. And then, this Biblical work does not yield its secrets willingly. Firstly,

because it's in a condition close to how it was when it left the painter's studio, which is very disconcerting. Nowadays many historians are used to paintings in museums, which are regularly restored. Secondly, as one of them told us, it consists of an "experimental" picture larded with pentimentos, and is one of the tiny number of works that drastically change the history of art. Unfortunately, photographs fail to do justice to this painting, which still has its coats of old varnish. Stéphane Pinta: I would encourage detractors to come and see for themselves. When I saw this painting for the first time, it was like a punch in the stomach. I am a qualified restorer and copier, so I am familiar with the state of mind you're in when you make a copy, and what you can and can't do in technical terms. It's a fantastic textbook case when you see Louis Finson's copy, which is flat, with contours that are too facile, and a lack of violence. But in this painting, the spirit is visible – and this comes across even more in the X-rays, which reveal a rugged, tortured material, with the sort of bold, spontaneous brushstrokes you don't go back over.

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Attributed to Michelangelo Merisi, aka Caravaggio (1571-1610), “Judith Beheading Holofernes”, c. 1604-1605, canvas, 144 x 173 cm (detail).

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Art Market Magazine May 2016
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