Caravaggio, Judith Beheading Holofernes (circa 1598-1599).
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The second, long-lost version of Caravaggio's Judith Beheading Holofernes might have been rediscovered in the hands of private owners in France.
Caravaggio painted two versions of the biblical scene in which Judith beheads the Assyrian general Holofernes to defend her beleaguered city. The first version, painted in Rome, is currently on display at the National Gallery of Ancient Art, at Pallazo Barberini. However, the second version, which was painted in Naples, has been missing without a trace since the early 17th century, according to Le Figaro.
While the authenticity of the painting found in France is still being established, the Ministry of Culture has already placed a preemptive ban on its exit from the country, following interest reportedly expressed by an unnamed American museum to acquire the masterpiece.
A statement from the Minstry of Culture translated by artnet News reads:
By order of the minister of culture and communications, dated March 25, 2016, the export certificate required for a painting possibly attributed to Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio, Judith and Holofernes, oil on canvas, 1600- 1610 is denied. This recently rediscovered work of great artistic value, which could be identified as a lost composition of Caravaggio, known so far by indirect evidence, merits being retained in the territory as a very important milestone in the work of Caravaggio, while its attribution is researched.
The mysterious second version was mentioned by the Flemish painter Frans Pourbus the Younger in a letter penned in 1607 in which he claimed to have seen the famous work in the studio of the painter Louis Finson.
If authenticated, the painting could be worth €100 million ($113 million). However, the Caravaggio specialist Mina Gregori says she hasn't found the touch of the master's hand in the painting found in France. But, according to Le Figaro, some of her recent attributions have been misguided, so her verdict isn't final.
The Italian experts and Caravaggio specialists Giuseppe Porzio and Maria Cristina Terzaghi are slated to weigh in on the painting in the coming weeks.