Painting nearly sold off for £1,280 is a lost Caravaggio, says Spain’s Prado museum SuperNayr

Spain’s Prado Museum has confirmed that a painting that was due to be auctioned in Madrid in 2021 is in fact a work by Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio that was considered lost. It will be unveiled to the public for the first time in the museum later this month.

The Prado said in a statement on Monday the work titled “Ecce Homo” (Latin for Behold The Man) will go on display from May 27 until October as a special one-piece exhibition following an agreement with its new owner, who has not been identified.

“Since its reappearance at an auction three years ago, Ecce Homo has represented one of the greatest discoveries in the history of art,” the museum said.

“Painted by the great Italian artist around 1605-09 and believed to have once been part of the private collection of Phillip IV of Spain, the painting is one of around only 60 known works by Caravaggio in existence, and thus one of the most valuable old master artworks in the world,” the Prado added.

In April 2022, Spanish authorities halted an auction of the work, which was then attributed to a disciple of a 17th-century Spanish painter, José de Ribera. They also put an export ban on it after the museum alerted the government it could be a Caravaggio.

The painting was due to be auctioned with a starting price tag of 1,500 euros (£1,280).

The value of an authentic Caravaggio would stretch into tens of millions of euros, if not more.

Prado Museum Director Miguel Falomir said that since then the owners carried out studies and proceeded with the painting’s restoration, which led to the discovery “that it is, in fact, a work by Caravaggio and a work that arrived in Spain in the 17th century.”

A painting of the artist Caravaggio in his Italian birthplace (REUTERS)

He said that since the 19th century it had been in the hands of a family in Madrid who recently sold it to an individual who wanted the public presentation to take place in the Prado Museum.

“For our part, we are more than happy to be the stage to present this new unshown work of Caravaggio to the public and critics,” Falomir said in a video statement released by the museum.

The oil-on-canvas work depicts the Biblical passage of the Ecce Homo, in which Jesus Christ is presented to the crowds before being crucified. The work measures 111 by 86 centimeters (44 by 34 inches).

Although now owned by a private individual, the painting will not be allowed to leave Spain without government permission.

The Prado said that since April 2021, the work has been under the custodianship of the Colnaghi art gallery in collaboration with experts. The painting was restored by specialist Andrea Cipriani and his team under the supervision of experts from the Madrid regional government.

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