Sunday Times

‘If it’s a Caravaggio, it’s not for sale’


● A last-minute interventi­on by Spain’s culture ministry has prevented The Crown of Thorns, a painting that could be the work of Italian master Caravaggio, from going on auction in Madrid on Thursday.

Auction house Ansorena withdrew the painting, with a starting price of à1,500 (R26,000) from sale after the ministry said the work could not be exported and experts were studying its provenance.

Attributed to an artist in the circle of 17thcentur­y Spanish painter Jose de Ribera, the oil painting depicts an agonised Christ, blood dripping from his crown of thorns.

“Let’s see if it is a Caravaggio, or was painted by a follower of Ribera, as previously attributed,” culture minister Jose Manuel Rodriguez Uribes told reporters. “Anyway, the decision [to ban export] was right because the painting is valuable,” he added.

The ministry intervened after some experts expressed doubts about the attributio­n. Now Spanish authoritie­s have to determine if the Italian baroque painter, who died in 1610 in his late 30s after a turbulent life, is the real painter. Caravaggio was a master of using the chiaroscur­o technique of lighting to make his subjects seem to come alive.

Very few of his works, all worth millions, are in private collection­s.

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