6 Jul 2012

Stash of 100 Caravaggio art works found in Milan

Italian art historians say they have discovered almost 100 works by the famous Italian artist from the late 1500s. But Channel 4 News finds the art world is sceptical about the claims.

Caravaggio’s total oeuvre amounts to just 90 paintings, and none from his youth are known to survive. So the sudden discovery of 100 in an attic in Milan has left the art world reeling with the news.

Two art historians found the works in the workshop of the mannerist painter Simone Peterzano, who Caravaggio worked under from 1584 to 1588, and they have been valued at around 700m euros (£555.6m). After two years of research, they have now compiled a dossier packed with these newly discovered early sketches and several paintings, and have published an E-book on Amazon which contains their findings.

Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz Guerrieri, artistic director for the Brescia Museum Foundation, and his colleague Adriana Conconi Fedrigolli, sifted through 1,000 pieces that were found in Peterzano’s workshop collection in Milan’s Sforzesco castle.

Caravaggio was hugely influential in the transition in style from late mannerism to baroque and is recognised as the leading artist of his time. To determine the new paintings’ authenticity, the historians examined Caravaggio’s existing art works and developed a survey methodology for identifying underlying geometric patterns from the artist’s career

Stash of 100 Caravaggios works found in Milan

“We always felt it was impossible that Caravaggio left no record, no studies in the workshop of a painter as famous as his mentor,” Bernardelli told the Italian news agency ANSA.

“Every artist has a matrix style, unique to them that is distinguishable through the postures and body types in their sketches. They memorize them as students, learning by force of repetition, and carry them into maturity for their later works,” emphasized Bernardelli.

Who was Caravaggio?
Born in 1571, Caravaggio is considered the greatest Italian painter of his time. His real name was Michelangelo Merisi, and he studied under Peterzano from 1584 to 1588.
Many of his public commissions were religious works and depict famous biblical scenes in a naturalistic style with a dramatic use of lighting.
He died when he was just 38-years-old after a life that was permeated with violence and periods of time in jail. He killed a man in a fight in Rome, and the Pope issued a death warrant for him. But he then died on a beach south of Rome under mysterious circumstances after supposedly receiving a pardon.
Despite the professed rigour with which the stash of 100 paintings have been examined, various art experts told Channel 4 News they were sceptical about their authenticity.

Despite the professed rigour with which the stash of 100 paintings have been examined, various art experts told Channel 4 News they were sceptical about their authenticity. Art historian Cristina Terzaghi, who has written a book on Caravaggio, said the sketches were well known. “I had myself seen them. Their research must be carefully studied and verified by the scientific community,” she said.

The British art historian David Freeman said the art community would be “delighted” if it were true. “Much to the opposite of possible public belief, no one harbours a grudge or demeanour rubbishing every possible new attribution which turns up,” he told Channel 4 News.

But to convince the art community, an independent review would have to be made, Mr Freeman added: “Science and technology will perhaps prevail.”