Italian Art Experts Say They Found 100 Caravaggio Early Works in Milan

Italian art experts have reportedly discovered around 100 drawings and a number of paintings by the Renaissance master Caravaggio in a find that could be worth over $860 million.

One of the most striking matches was between a sketch of an old man’s wizened, wrinkled face and a figure in Caravaggio’s ‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’, painted in 1598, which shows the widow Judith decapitating the Assyrian general Holofernes. Photo: Playing Futures: Applied Nomadology/Flickr

A team of historians have claimed to have stumbled on 100 previously undiscovered early sketches by Caravaggio hidden in a castle in Milan.

The sketches and paintings were found among 1,378 works in the archive of painter Simone Peterzano, who employed the teenage Caravaggio, whose real name was Michelangelo Merisi, as an apprentice in his Lombardy studio between 1584 and 1588, before the young painter headed south to Rome to win fame, writes Guardian.

“We always felt it was impossible that Caravaggio left no record, no studies in the workshop … of his mentor,” said Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz, the artistic director of the Brescia Museum Foundation, who together with his co-researcher, Adriana Conconi Fedrigolli, Two years ago began to scrutinise the collection in earnest.

The art historians think that Caravaggio developed distinctive styles and techniques in those early years that provided the foundation for the rest of his career.

“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,” said Bernardelli.

The researchers found what Bernardelli called Caravaggio’s “structural DNA” standing out in sketches found at the castle, which is owned by the city of Milan. Of the 100 sketches attributed to the artist, 83 feature faces or parts of the body which he fully reprised in later paintings.

“That demonstrates that Caravaggio left Lombardy with very rich figurative baggage,” said Bernardelli. “Caravaggio left Lombardy (the region around Milan) with a rich collection of figures that he used throughout his career, but especially in his early years working in Rome. These works are proof.”

Hiwever, while the art experts said the works found in the collection were clearly executed by Caravaggio, Milan, the city, which owns the drawings, has urged caution.

“The drawings have always been there, and have never yet been attributed to Caravaggio,” said Elena Conenna, the council’s spokeswoman for culture.

“We’ll be very happy to discover it’s true. But it’s strange. They weren’t in a hidden place, they were accessible to all.”

According to Yahoo, some other art historians immediately expressed doubt on the authors’ claims after seeing pictures of the sketches attributed to Caravaggio, cautioning that the research had yet to be verified.

“I will wait to consult the complete research, but the drawings I’ve seen so far do not seem to me attributable to Caravaggio,” said Francesca Cappelletti, a researcher and author of a book on the Lombardy master.

“We must be very prudent,” said Cristina Terzaghi, an art historian at the University of Rome III and author of a book on Caravaggio.

“These sketches were well known. I had myself seen them. Their research must be carefully studied and verified by the scientific community,” Terzaghi said.

Caravaggio, who lived from 1571 to 1610, was famous for his mercurial temper and penchant for brawling.

The Telegraph says that the artist had to flee Rome for Sicily after a fight in which he killed a man. Later Caravaggio became involved in a brawl in Malta in which he wounded a knight.

His death, at the age of 36 in Porto Ercole on the coast of Tuscany, has been blamed variously on malaria, an intestinal infection and lead poisoning.

In April an Italian art historian put forward a new theory – that the artist was murdered on the orders of the Knights of Malta to avenge the attack on one of their members.

Caravaggio, was hailed as the master of “chiaroscuro” – a technique that uses light and dark to achieve a 3D effect.

On Friday the findings will be published in a lavish, two-volume, 600-page e-book in four languages to be sold on Amazon.

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