By Armen Apresyan
A new chapter may be opening in the history of world art. Italian art historians have found about a hundred previously unknown works by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.
The unique discovery was made as a result of research work conducted by art historians Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz and Adriana Conconi Fedrigolli.
What is at issue are early works by Caravaggio created in the period from 1584 to 1588 during his study at Simone Peterzano’s Studio in Milan. More than 1,400 paintings and graphics are stored in the Peterzano Fund located in Sforza Castle in Milan. Until recently it was believed that all of them were created by Caravaggio’s teacher.
While studying the collection, the scientists have discovered a stylistic and compositional similarity of some of the works – mostly the graphics – to the famous works by Caravaggio. This allowed them to conclude that 83 drawings were painted by one of the most influential artists of the Baroque period.
If the authenticity of the discovered drawings is confirmed by the international community, their value may come to some 700 million Euros. This is rather a rough estimate, as the works by Caravaggio almost never appear on the antiques market, and a comparative base simply does not exist.
“The story is as fascinating as it is incredible,” art critic and specialist of the antiques market Irina Osipova said in an interview with Voice of Russia. “Caravaggio’s legacy is rather small and it is scattered at museums all over the world, and there are only a few museums that can boast of owning more than one work by Caravaggio. If Caravaggio’s authorship is confirmed, the Sforza Castle Museum’s collection will become significantly richer. But in this connection it is worth remembering another recent discovery – the ‘Salvator Mundi’ painting by Leonardo da Vinci. Last year before it was displayed on show at the National Gallery in London, Leonardo’s authorship had been confirmed by the absolute majority of all the living specialists in his works – only one person had had some doubts. But things can happen the wrong way round. Perhaps, if art critics reattributed only one picture or a couple of paintings to Caravaggio, it would have aroused more confidence. At present, the number of works and their evaluation seem unreal,” Osipova added.
“Miracles do happen, of course,” Moscow antique dealer Alexey Zaitsev believes. “But we must not forget that very often a student’s drawings do not resemble even remotely the manner of a mature master. I think there is still a lot of work left for experts, both Italian and the rest of the world. And, they may come to an agreement. At least, I would not deny this discovery outright. It is worth admitting that today is the perfect moment for such a discovery: Italy is struck by a serious crisis, and suddenly there appears an opportunity of supporting both the economy and national feelings.”