An auction for a small oil painting came to a standstill back in April after nearly last-minute evidence was brought to demonstrate that it could be an original Caravaggio. Now, with sufficient proof, Madrid’s regional government has officially given it protected status due to its newfound standing of cultural interest.
The painting, entitled The Crowning of Thorns, was put up for sale at Spanish auction house Ansorena earlier this year with an opening bid of just €1,500 (US$1,700)—its price presumably attributed, in part, to its mere size of 111 x 86-centimeters (43.7 x 33.9-inches). If indeed proven to be a work of Italian master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, however, it could be worth up to €50 million (US$56.7 million).
When it listed the artwork, the auctioneer described it as having been created by the “circle of José de Ribera,” who was an admirer of Caravaggio.
Then, days before the auction, Madrid’s Prado Museum got in touch with the Spanish Ministry of Culture and presented “sufficient stylistic and documentary evidence” that it could be a valuable Caravaggio painting, as quoted by the Guardian, compelling the ministry to impose a precautionary export ban on the piece.
On Wednesday, the regional government of Madrid formally granted the work the title of a bien de interés cultural, or an item of cultural interest. The ministry detailed that further research poured into the work (which you can view in full here) since the ban “reinforces the theory that it is the work of Caravaggio.”
Suspected Caravaggio work given protected status in Spain t.co/vdeDUptygT
— The Guardian (@guardian) December 22, 2021
However, whether or not it is a Caravaggio, authorities are standing by the work as “an example of the excellence and pictorial mastery of the Italian naturalism,” and are thus deeming it worth protection no matter its origin.
“Elements such as the psychological depictions of the characters, the realism of the faces, the luminous force that illuminates the body of Christ, the interplay of the three characters and the communication it establishes with the viewer make this a work of great artistic interest,” the ministry added.
Under this protected status, the owners of the work—the children of Antonio Pérez de Castro, founder of the IADE design school in Madrid, and artist Mercedes Méndez Atard—are required to declare to the government if they decide to sell the painting.
[via The Guardian and ARTnews, images via various sources]
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