Who decides if it is a Caravaggio?

Sep 29, 2021 | Art-Test News, Authentications & attributions, Conferences, Fakes

Tomorrow is Caravaggio’s 450th birthday.

There will not be celebrations, except for something almost improvised. Nothing to do with what had been organized for the 400 years since his death. 

In that occasion, Art-Test analysed several paintings of undisputed autography, including the Bacchus of the Uffizi, the 7 works of mercy of Naples, the Resurrection of Lazarus of Messina, and others that are still discussed, such as the Boy bitten by a green lizard from the Longhi collection.

The lack of official celebrations is probably due to the prolonged pandemic, which made it impossible to plan and above all to have a sufficient return on investment, given the fact that it was not possible to predict whether any exhibitions could remain open.

As  such, we lost the opportunity of a debate on a painter who nevertheless continues to fascinate, with his art so “instagrammable”, and with the somewhat gloomy charm of his personal events.

And whose mother “continues to be pregnant”, paragraphing the fortunate title of an essay by T. Montanari.

In fact, there are several paintings that have been proposed as autographs in recent years.

On the last one, the Ecce Homo of Madrid, the scientific article by Cristina Terzaghi has just been published, in the proceedings of the conference held in Naples in 2020.

While the recent Caravaggio’s Cardsharps on Trial: Thwaytes v. Sotheby’s, written by one of the protagonists of the long trial on a copy of “the Bari”, that ended in 2015, describes in detail what happens when experts disagree on the autography of a painting. And on the role to be assigned to technical and historical analyses.

In the absence of a live confrontation, the battle is fought with publications. And as for how and who decides if it is a Caravaggio, while waiting for shared protocols to be agreed upon, it is not over yet.