Possible Caravaggio now has protected status in Spain. Photograph: handout

Possible Caravaggio work given protected status in Spain

Culture News

The Scourged Christ nearly sold for €1,500 at auction before experts suggested it could be a Caravaggio. As such, its true value is nearer to €50m.

The painting’s new status gives the Madrid government first refusal if its owners decide to sell.

The Scourged Christ painting, which measures 111cm by 86cm, was withdrawn from sale in April. Suspicions grew that it had been incorrectly attributed to the circle of the 17th-century Spanish artist José de Ribera.

Experts at the Prado museum in Madrid suggested it could be the work of the Italian master Caravaggio.

“Stylistic and documentary evidence”

The experts who raised the alarm believe there is “sufficient stylistic and documentary evidence” to suggest it could be an original Caravaggio.

The small oil painting almost sold at a Spanish auction for €1,500 earlier this year. Now it has status as an item of cultural interest. It could be worth as much as €50m.

Six months after Spain’s culture ministry imposed a precautionary export ban on the painting, the regional government of Madrid formally declared the work a bien de interés cultural, or item of cultural interest.

The painting is “an example of the excellence and pictorial mastery of the Italian naturalism”. This style of work influenced the Madrid school of painting in the 17th century.

“Elements such as the psychological depictions of the characters, the realism of the faces, the luminous force that illuminates the body of Christ, the interplay of the three characters and the communication it establishes with the viewer make this a work of great artistic interest,” the regional government said in a statement.

Protected status

“The information that has appeared over the past few months, together with the studies undertaken by experts, reinforces the theory that it is the work of Caravaggio,” the statement also said.

The painting’s protected status means that its owners must inform the authorities if they decided to sell it. This will allow the regional government to decide if it wishes to make an offer.

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