The Spanish authorities at the last moment removed the painting from the auction for 1,500 euros Automatic translate
A last-minute intervention by the Spanish Ministry of Culture prevented the painting from being auctioned in Madrid, which is believed to be the work of the Italian master Caravaggio.
Auction house Ansorena has withdrawn the painting, labeled Crown of Thorns, with a starting price of just € 1,500 ($ 1,785) after the ministry announced that the work could not be exported from the country pending an expert panel on authorship.
The oil painting, currently attributed to an artist belonging to the circle of the 17th century Spanish painter José de Ribera, depicts a suffering Christ with blood dripping from his crown of thorns.
“Let’s see if this is the work of Caravaggio or if it was written by a follower of Ribera, as previously attributed,” Spanish Culture Minister Jose Manuel Rodriguez Uribes told reporters.
The ministry intervened after some experts expressed doubts about the painting’s attribution. Now the Spanish authorities must determine whether the Italian Baroque painter, who died in 1610 at the age of 30 after a tumultuous life, is the real author of the painting. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was a master of the technique of chiaroscuro, allowing objects to appear alive.
At the moment, very few works by Caravaggio are exhibited in public spaces. Most of his works, which are worth millions, are in private collections.
The private gallery Colnaghi is hired to study the painting. “Be patient,” says Jorge Coll, head of the gallery. “People have waited 400 years to see this masterpiece, let’s wait another year, it’s a matter of getting our work done right,” he said, adding that the painting is in security in an unknown location in Madrid. He also described its "magnetic" quality and remembered how his first glance left an impression that he rarely experienced when viewing works of art.
The investigation is already bearing fruit. A document found at the Spanish Royal Academy of Fine Arts shows that the ancestor of the current owners, Evaristo Pérez de Castro, acquired the work in exchange for a painting by Alonso Cano in 1823.
Call didn’t think about how much the painting might cost if it turned out to be Caravaggio’s, and said that the owners were now more interested in authorship and restoration than selling. “When this kind of work comes out on the market, it is very difficult to determine what the final price might be,” he said.
In 2019, the painting "Judith and Holofernes" was discovered in a French attic, which turned out to be the work of Caravaggio. With a preliminary estimate of 150 million euros, it was sold to a mysterious buyer at an undisclosed price, after the Louvre refused to buy it for 100 million euros. It was later revealed that the painting was bought by an American billionaire, art collector, Metropolitan Museum board member and hedge fund manager James Tomilson Hill.
Spain has several months to predict (and possibly collect) the market price if it wants to keep working in the country.
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