Voices from Russia

Saturday, 7 July 2012

100 Works by Caravaggio Found in Italy

A Portrait of Michaelangelo Caravaggio

Ottavio Leoni



A new chapter may be opening in the history of world art. Italian art historians have found about a hundred previously unknown works by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. The unique discovery was made because of research work conducted by art historians Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz and Adriana Conconi Fedrigolli. What is at issue are early works by Caravaggio created in the period from 1584 to 1588 during his study at Simone Peterzano’s studio in Milano. More than 1,400 paintings and graphics are stored in the Peterzano Fund located in Sforza Castle in Milano. Until recently, it was believed that Caravaggio’s teacher created all of them. While studying the collection, researchers discovered a stylistic and compositional similarity of some of the works… mostly the graphics… to famous works by Caravaggio. This allowed them to conclude that one of the most influential artists of the Baroque period created 83 of the drawings.

If the international community confirms the authenticity of the discovered drawings, their value may come to some 700 million Euros (28.3 billion Roubles. 860 million USD. 560 million UK Pounds). This is rather a rough estimate, as the works by Caravaggio almost never appear on the antiques market, and a comparative base simply does not exist. Irina Osipova, art critic and of the antiques market expert, said in a VOR interview, “The story is as fascinating as it is incredible. Caravaggio’s legacy is rather small and is scattered in museums all over the world and only a few museums that can boast of owning more than one work by Caravaggio. If Caravaggio’s authorship is confirmed, the Sforza Castle Museum’s collection will become significantly richer. Nevertheless, in this connection it is worth remembering another recent discovery… the Salvator Mundi painting by Leonardo da Vinci. Last year, before it was displayed on show at the National Gallery in London, the absolute majority of all the living specialists in his works had confirmed Leonardo’s authorship… only one person had had some doubts. However, things can happen the wrong way round. Perhaps, if art critics reattributed only one picture or a couple of paintings to Caravaggio, it would’ve aroused more confidence. At present, the number of works and their evaluation seem unreal”.

Moscow antique dealer Alexei Zaitsev believes, “Miracles do happen, of course. However, we mustn’t forget that very often a student’s drawings don’t resemble even remotely the manner of a mature master. I think there’s still a lot of work left for experts, both Italian and the rest of the world. Furthermore, they may come to an agreement. At least, I wouldn’t deny this discovery outright. It’s worth admitting that today’s the perfect moment for such a discovery… a serious crisis has struck Italy, and, suddenly, there appears an opportunity of supporting both the economy and national feelings”.

7 July 2012

Armen Apresyan

Voice of Russia World Service



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