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Rediscovered Caravaggio painting turned out to be real – goes on public display

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This painting was to be auctioned with an asking price of NOK 17,000 in 2021 – until some suspected that it could be a Caravaggio work that had been thought to have disappeared. On Monday, the Prado Museum confirmed that it is just that. Photo: Prado Museum / AP / NTB

Of NTB | 06.05.2024 16:14:28

Science and technology: From 27 May to October, the work “Ecce Homo”, Latin for “see man”, painted by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, will be exhibited publicly for the first time.

It happens by agreement with the new owner, who has not been named, AP reports.

The picture was long considered lost, but turned up at an art auction three years ago. The Prado Museum calls it “one of the greatest discoveries in the history of art”.

In April 2021, Spanish authorities halted an auction of the artwork, originally put up for sale as painted by a student of the Spanish painter and Caravaggio admirer José de Ribera. There was also an export ban when the Prado museum said it could be a work by Caravaggio.

The asking price was originally 1,500 euros. If it was a real Caravaggio, the painting is worth tens of millions of euros – if not more.

– For our part, we are more than happy to be the stage where this unknown work by Caravaggio is presented to the public and reviewers, says museum director Miguel Falomir.

The oil painting measures 111 by 86 centimeters. The title “Ecce Homo” (See man) is taken from the Bible, and is supposed to be the words that Pontius Pilate uttered when he showed the whipped, bound and crowned Jesus Christ to the crowd before the crucifixion.

Although the picture is now in private ownership, it is not allowed to leave Spain without permission from the authorities. The exhibition in the Prado Museum is described as a one-off event.

The picture was painted by the Italian artist around 1605-1609, and is believed to have belonged to the private collection of King Philip IV of Spain. It is one of only 60 known works by Caravaggio, and thus “one of the most valuable works of art by one of the old masters in the world”, according to the museum.

In the time since, the owners have had the painting examined and restored – which confirmed that it was painted by Caravaggio, and that it arrived in Spain in the 18th century. Since the 20th century, it has been owned by a family in Madrid, who recently sold it to a person who wanted the public display of the picture to take place in the Prado Museum.

(© NTB)

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