New Caravaggio said to have been uncovered in France

Judith Beheading Holofernes

While its authenticity has yet to be fully determined, a painting discovered in a French attic is being attributed by some to the Italian master Caravaggio.

At least one expert said the 400-plus-year-old work, called “Judith Beheading Holofernes,” could be worth as much as $135 million.

However, experts aren’t in agreement as yet regarding the work’s authenticity, with some attributing the painting to Louis Finson, a Flemish painter and art dealer. Finson possessed a number of works from the Italian master and made copies of his pictures, according to the Associated Press.

The painting was discovered two years ago in Toulouse, in southern France, when the owners of the house went into the attic to repair a leak.

The picture was kept out of the public eye while it was cleaned and submitted to a deep examination that included infra-red reflectography and X-rays, the wire service added.

Judith Beheading Holofernes, said to be by Caravaggio, on display in Paris.

Judith Beheading Holofernes, said to be by Caravaggio, on display in Paris.

Eric Turquin, the French expert who retrieved the painting two years ago, said it is in an exceptional state of conservation.

The work depicts the biblical heroine Judith beheading an Assyrian general and is thought to have been painted in Rome around 1600.

The work is believed to have gone missing about 100 years after it was painted. Another version of it, which was also thought to be lost before its rediscovery in 1950, hangs in Rome’s National Gallery of Ancient Art, according to the BBC.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) was among the most innovative of the Renaissance painters, and his works are often spectacular for their realism and dramatic lighting. Only about 80 of Caravaggio’s paintings survive.

Turquin told a news conference Tuesday that there “will never be a consensus” about the artist.

Turquin believes the work “must be considered the most important painting, by far, to have emerged in the last 20 years by one of the great masters.”

The picture has been awarded “National Treasure” status by French authorities, meaning that it can’t be exported for 30 months, leaving the national museums enough time for its acquisition.

While the work has yet to be authenticated, France’s Culture Ministry justified its decision to ban the export of the painting because it “deserves to be kept on (French) territory as a very important landmark of Caravaggism.”

Bruno Arciprete, the Naples-based expert who restored Caravaggio’s “Flagellation of the Christ” and “Seven Works of Mercy,” said the painting could well be a Caravaggio but that further studies are needed.

“It has interesting characteristics that can be attributed to Caravaggio,” he told the Associated Press.

Arciprete said he saw the work a few months ago in Paris and came away with a “very good impression.”

“What is required is more scientific research, and then studies by art historians,” to specifically look at the technique, pigments, the type of canvas and its preparation to see if they correspond to those used by Caravaggio, he said.

On the other hand, Richard E. Spear, a scholar of Italian Baroque art who is an expert on Caravaggio, said he was “highly dubious” that the Italian master actually painted the art work.

Spear, who has only seen photos of the painting, told the AP that he wasn’t convinced by the handling of the brushwork and that some anatomical details of the characters raised questions.

“Altogether, the picture looks rather coarse and heavy to me,” he said.

(Top: “Judith Beheading Holofernes,” a different version of the work discovered in the attic of a house in southern France recently and purported to be the work of Renaissance master Caravaggio. The above is part of the collection of the National Gallery of Ancient Art in Rome.)

 

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Flemish altarpiece undergoes major restoration

Adoration of the mystic lamb ghent

An elaborate Renaissance altarpiece that has transfixed churchgoers and art lovers alike for centuries is undergoing its most ambitious restoration in its nearly 600-year history.

Flemish masterpiece “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” also known as the Ghent Altarpiece, is the work of masters Hubert and Jan Van Eyck. A $1.6 million, five-year project to restore it is unusual in that it taking place in full public view at the Ghent Fine Arts Museum.

The work, designed for Ghent’s Saint Bavo Cathedral, was completed in 1432. It is believed that Hubert Van Eyck designed it before his death in 1426 and Jan Van Eyck executed much of it.

Made of 12 oak panels painted on both sides, the 11-foot-by-15-foot work has attracted attention since its unveiling, though not all of it good.

During the Reformation, Protestants attacked Ghent in the 16th century and the altarpiece was hauled up to safety in the cathedral tower.

Following the French Revolution, the altarpiece was among a number of art works plundered in today’s Belgium and was later exhibited at the Louvre. Those panels seized by the French were returned to the church by the Duke of Wellington after his victory at Waterloo against Napoleon in 1815, according to Agence France-Presse.

Several of the painting’s wings were sold in 1816 to an English collector living in Berlin, Edward Solly. Among panels not sold was one with Adam and another with Eve, which were the first known nudes in Flemish art.

Solly’s panels were bought in 1821 by the King of Prussia, Frederick William III, and were displayed in a Berlin art museum.

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Old plate found on English wall brings $880K

1540 Italian maiolica plate

A glazed plate that had sat in a make-shift frame hidden behind a door in an English cottage for years was recently discovered to be worth far more than its owner knew.

The 16.5 inch Italian maiolica plate was “uncovered” by an auctioneer who been asked to assess some items in the unidentified woman’s home in Dorset, England.

Only about two inches of it were visible when appraiser Richard Bromell caught a glimpse of the plate behind a door.

“It had been on the wall for a number of years and you couldn’t really see it but it was hugely exciting …” he told the BBC.

When put up for sale by Charterhouse Auctioneers on Feb. 14, the plate brought $880,000, despite having a small chip.

Maiolica is Italian-style tin-glazed pottery dating from the Renaissance. It is decorated in bright colors and often depicts historical and legendary scenes.

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Lost masterpiece said to be in Uzbekistan

Ertugrul_Gazi_Mosque_in_Ashgabat,_Turkmenistan

Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where the largest statue of Vladimir Lenin once resided for decades, may be home to a lost masterpiece of Renaissance art.

One of Paolo Veronese’s versions of “Lamentation of Christ” has gone on display at the Uzbek State Arts Museum, according to Uzbek experts. Officials with the museum say it is one of several versions of the 16th century work the Italian artist painted that portrays the lamentation after Christ’s descent from the cross.

However the Italian embassy in Tashkent has urged caution, saying while the show is a remarkable event, further work will be needed to confirm that the picture is a genuine Veronese, according to Agence France-Presse.

The Arts Museum said the work was brought to Uzbekistan in the 19th century when the territory was part of the Russian Empire. It was part of the collection which belonged to the Romanovs, Russia’s last dynasty.

“The painting came to Tashkent as part of the luggage of Grand Duke Nikolai Konstantinovich Romanov, the grandson of Tsar Nicolas I who was exiled to Uzbekistan after falling out with the royal family over an affair with an American woman,” according to the wire service.

Veronese, Titian and Tintoretto are known as the pre-eminent Venetian painters of the late Renaissance. Veronese is touted for his work with colors and for his illusionistic decorations in both fresco and oil, according to art historian Lawrence Gowing.

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Beauty of old manuscripts accessible online

The fruits of the Europeana Regia project, a 30-month effort which involved the digitization of more than 850 rare manuscripts from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, offer a tantalizing glimpse into a world where the written word’s beauty was as important as its meaning.

Three collections of royal manuscripts – the Bibliotheca Carolina, the Library of Charles V and Family, and the Library of the Aragonese Kings of Naples – were scattered among five major libraries in four countries.

But the Europeana Regia project, with the support of the European Commission, has brought the different collections together online, with each representing a distinct period of history.

The Bibliotheca Carolina (from the Carolingian Court) dates to the 8th and 9th centuries, the Library of Charles V is from the 14th century and the Library of the Aragonese Kings of Naples goes back to the 15th and 16th centuries.

Parts of all were dispersed among different European libraries.

This is the first time that the public at large will have easy access to some of Europe’s most precious Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, according to information aggregator called ResourceShelf.

“Almost none of these manuscripts have been digitized before … If you want to see these manuscripts at the moment, you have to do a tour of European libraries, which is far from practical, or you have to ask for copies.”

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Italian cathedral unveils magnificent mosaics

Called “the most beautiful, the greatest and most magnificent floor” ever created, the sweeping marble panels which make up the floor of the Siena Cathedral in Italy are so spectacular that they are unveiled for just a few weeks each year.

Recently, the stunning Renaissance mosaics were revealed, giving visitors a chance to glimpse scenes local artists worked centuries to create.

Made up of 56 panels designed by some 40 artists, the inlaid panels are usually covered to protect them from the thousands of visitors who flock to Siena each year, according to Agence France-Presse.

They depict vivid stories from the Bible and classical antiquity, in black, white, green, red and blue marble, with some dating back to the 14th century.

The marble mosaics cover the entire floor of the cathedral.

Most of the panels, created between the 14th and 16th centuries, have a rectangular shape, but the later ones are hexagons or rhombuses.

They represent many different concepts, including the sibyls, scenes from the Old Testament, allegories and virtues.

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Claim made that new Caravaggios found

A pair of Italian art historians say they have found as many as 100 works by famed artist Caravaggio, purportedly done when the temperamental master was very young.

The works, most of them drawings, were discovered in a collection long attributed to a Milanese artist Caravaggio studied under as a youth in the late 16th century.

The claim, being made by Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz and Adriana Conconi Fedrigolli, could not be verified, according to The Associated Press. The duo will shortly release a pair of ebooks laying out the case for their assertion.

If true, the find would be stunning. There are few surviving examples of Caravaggio’s work. The Italian baroque painter, whose realistic and dramatic canvases set a new standard for Western art, died in 1619 in his late 30s after a troubled life.

“But one expert familiar with the collection said it was unlikely that more than a few at most were actually done by Caravaggio and that none show the mature hand of the temperamental artist – who was famed for his dramatic chiaroscuro effect of dark space contrasting with light, vivid still life and the then-scandalous use of models from the lower walks of life for religious scenes,” according to the wire service.

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