Italian art sleuths announced on Friday, February 24 they have successfully authenticated a painting of the snake-haired Medusa from Greek mythology as the work of 17th-century master Caravaggio using X-ray technology.
“The X-rays allowed us to see some sketches under the surface. This is therefore a creation, not a copy,” Caravaggio expert Mina Gregori said in Rome at the presentation of a book about the project which has lasted several years.
The round painting has a diameter of 50 centimetres (20 inches) and is a smaller, earlier version of a Caravaggio Medusa in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery.
The legend of the Medusa monster being slain by the heroic Perseus was popular among Florence’s famous ruling family and art patrons, the Medicis.
Gregori said the painting could be dated to between 1597 and 1598, making it “the most important work from the youthful period” of the artist.
The painting, which shows the decapitated head of the Medusa, is held by a private Italian collector and is currently kept in a safe in London.
Michelangelo Merisi (1571-1610), or Caravaggio, is known as one of history’s most tormented painters. He was involved in frequent brawls and vicious beatings and fled Rome after being sentenced to death for killing a love rival.
He died of fever as he was returning to Rome and was buried in a mass grave.