Comparison of Caravaggios Begins in Milan

Opening 10 November is the exhibition “Caravaggio: Readings and Re-readings” at Milan’s Pinacoteca di Brera. Spotlighted in the exhibition is the controversial composition of Judith Beheading Holofernes that art expert Eric Turquin believes to be a lost Caravaggio.

Discovered in an attic in Toulouse, France, in 2014, the painting has undergone extensive yet inconclusive analysis, with chief cheerleader Turquin believing firmly that it is indeed by the famed Baroque artist. To further discussion of this work, Milan’s Pinacoteca pairs this questioned composition with some of Caravaggio’s most noted paintings, including Supper at Emmaus (1605-1606). Also displayed is a nearly identical version of Judith and Holofernes by Flemish painter Louis Finson to encourage an assessment of Turquin’s arguments for authorship. 

The museum is not taking a position on the work; indeed, the wall text includes a disclaimer that absolves the museum of any final attribution. Some suggest, however, that the mere fact that the museum is displaying the work lends some authenticity to Turquin’s claims of Caravaggio’s authorship. As art historian Giovanni Agouti is quoted in The Art Newspaper

“Brera is a museum of the Italian state… .Presenting a painting it its rooms automatically confers authority on it.” 

Of undoubted relevance to the comparative debate proposed by the exhibition is Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes (1598-1599), currently part of the collection of Rome’s Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica at Palazzo Barberini, however requests to loan this work were declined. “Caravaggio: Readings and Re-readings” will remain on view until 5 February 2017. 

Further reading: 

Hannah McGivern, “’’Caravaggio’ found in French attic unveiled in Milan” (The Art Newspaper, 8 November 2016).

Sarah Cascade, “Controversial New Caravaggio to Go On Public View for First Time” (8 November 2016). 

First image: the contested composition of Judith Beheading Holofernes; second image: the “found” composition (at left) paired with Louis Finson’s Judith Beheading Holofernes (right) (both images courtesy of The Art Newspaper). 

Posted by Alexis Culotta 

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