Is this Caravaggio's Lost Masterpiece?


Nov 05, 2014 by Smart Blog

In October 2014, Italy's 'La Repubblica' newspaper reported that one of the great masterpieces of European art, Caravaggio's 'Magdalene in Ecstasy', which had been missing for 400 years, had been found in a private collection. One of Italy's best-known art historians and experts has said that she firmly believes the painting to be authentic, and the painting is now being examined to see whether its origins can be proved.



If the painting is by Caravaggio, it is probably worth more than £20 million. Although several copies are known to exist, it seems that the original went missing when Caravaggio died in July 1610. Experts think that he had the painting with him when he travelled from Naples to Rome, believing that he was about to be pardoned for having killed a man in Rome four years previously. However, Caravaggio never completed the journey, dying en route of a fever at Porto Ercole on the coast of Tuscany.


Fascinating Character

Caravaggio himself was a fascinating character. Born in 1572, he had lost both parents by the age of 12 and trained in Milan under a master painter. At the dawn of the seventeenth century he moved to Rome, largely to escape the aftermath of various fights and disputes in Milan, with which he had become involved. In the Italian capital, a huge number of churches and palaces were being built - and for these, paintings were required.

Caravaggio's startling use of naturalism, which was highly unusual at the time, combined with his innate sense of the dramatic, made him a hugely popular artist and he was greatly sought after by the rich, famous and powerful. However, his personality was as dramatic as his painting, and Caravaggio responded to success with a wide range of bad behaviour.

Arrogant, aggressive and always up for a fight, he was frequently in trouble with the authorities. Although his work made Caravaggio the darling of the elite, his close friends generally existed in the shadier areas of society. Having killed a man in a brawl (some say a duel) in 1606, he was involved in two further fights soon after.

Despite his high profile career, Caravaggio slipped quickly into obscurity following his death aged 38. His work was largely ignored until the twentieth century, when he was 'rediscovered' and his work re-interpreted as the source of modern art. Caravaggio's painting has remained highly popular ever since.


Wait and See

For now, the world will have to wait and see whether the 'new' painting is the lost original, or just another copy. To date, several experts have gone on record as saying they think the painting is probably by the artist, but that further examination, including public exhibition, is needed to confirm this. If they are right, the original 'Magdalene in Ecstasy' will be one of the greatest artistic discoveries of the modern era.

At the moment we do not even know which country the painting is in, only that it is in Europe and part of a private, family collection. Whether that family wishes to share the picture with the world, only time will tell.