The news that, after forty years of “absence”, a Caravaggio will be put for sale has aroused great interest among the press, the curious and collectors. Between 27 and 29 of January, Christie’s will propose, as part of the Old Masters Week, the oil on canvas Boy peeling a fruit of which there are at least ten versions and whose estimate is between 3 and 5 million dollars.
We know that a work with this subject was one of the first made by the Master after his arrival in Rome, and which was already showing one of the hallmarks of his style: the use and representation of light. A subject most likely painted from life, one of the first examples of fusion between the genre of still life and the half-length portrait. Several different meanings were attributed by art historians to the painting, sometimes seen as an allegory of autumn, or the sense of taste, or as a warning, or as a simple interest of the painter for this genre.
But is that the original copy?
We would like propose a little game here: here you can see four versions of the Child Peeling a pommel. Which one would you say is the original?
There are not many Caravaggio paintings which are part of private collections. Art-Test Florence has had the pleasure to perform diagnostic campaigns on various works of Caravaggio’s, private and public, including one of the very same subject that is among the ones pictured above.
Certainly an ad-hoc diagnostic campaign can help to shed the light on uncertainties and dispel doubts on authenticity! Scientific investigations have allowed us both to make new discoveries (remember the self-portrait of Caravaggio identified in the Uffizi Bacchus’ pitcher) and to confirm the authenticity (e.g. the “Saint Jerome Writing” of the Oratory of St. John’s Co-Cathedral in La Valletta, Malta).
Would you feel comfortable offering some 5 million dollars without any scientific investigation?