Case Study: Historians Claim Discovery of 100 Unseen Caravaggio Paintings

Art historians in Italy are claiming they have discovered 100 previously unseen works by Caravaggio, one of the great master painters of the Renaissance. In an article published in the UK’s Telegraph, it was stated that the historians have been working secretly for the past two years rigorously analyzing the pieces for similarities to known Caravaggio paintings, and are now sure enough in their findings to assert that the 100 works were in fact painted by him. They believe them to have been created during his early years  as an apprentice under the Mannerist painter Simone Peterzano, between 1584-1588. If found to be genuinely authentic, the sketches and paintings have an estimated worth of well over 800 million USD.

Read on for an article from The Telegraph debating the possible authenticity of these findings.

By Mark Hudson for The Telegraph

Caravaggio discovery: to find 100 new works is simply astonishing

Telegraph critic Mark Hudson wonders at the possible discovery of 100 Caravaggio works in Italy and says if confirmed it could throw fresh light on the artist’s reputation

The prospect of a hundred newly discovered works by any great artist of the past is little short of astonishing. The entire oeuvres of several of great figures – Vermeer and Giorgione for example – barely gets into double figures. When you think that 200 works is a pretty respectable total for the average, world-changing old master, then the prospect of an extra hundred constitutes a massive increase, that is likely to significantly alter our view of them.

The idea that there are suddenly 100 more Caravaggios in the world is frankly mind-blowing. Quite apart from his reputation as art’s ultimate wild man – probable bisexual, almost certain murderer who died on the run from the Papal authorities – Caravaggio is one of art’s few truly essential figures: the original dirty realist, who swept away decades of Mannerist frippery, introducing a stark new honesty and intensity.

That signature harsh chiaroscuro – the highlighting of dramatic detail against darkness: how could we have had Rembrandt, Velasquez and most of the significant artists of the following century without it? Caravaggio wasn’t the first artist to use prostitutes, street urchins and grimy-soled peasants as models, but he dragged them into the great stories of the Bible with unprecedented pathos and – all too frequently – violence.

Anyone who has entered the dimness of Rome’s church of San Luigi dei Francese, put a coin in the slot and seen Caravaggio’s paintings of the life of St Matthew suddenly illuminated will have had perhaps the ultimate Caravaggio experience: a plunging sensation in the stomach at their mixture of tenderness and brutality. The final image of martyrdom shows that the Don McCullins of this world have taught us nothing about the portrayal of cruelty.

However he managed it, alongside the carousing, brawling and mild psychopathy that is retailed in endless sensationalist books and TV programmes, Caravaggio was an extraordinarily diligent craftsman, an artist of superb balance and control. Perhaps these 100 new works – and it is difficult to judge from what we’ve seen so far – will help answer that question. The best we can hope for from them is that they will help rescue one of the truly great artists from his own monstrous legend.

Originally published in The Telegraph on July 5, 2012

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