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Dispute continues over 'Caravaggio' found in Toulouse

At least two experts attribute a painting discovered in a French attic to the Italian Renaissance master Caravaggio. But other critics still have doubts about the spectacular canvas.

Two experts have called the discovery of a painting they attribute to Caravaggio a great event in the history of art - and one that could be worth 120 million euros ($135 million).

The owners of a house near the French city of Toulouse discovered the apparently 400-year-old painting when investigating a leak in the ceiling in 2014.

"One has to recognize the canvas in question as a true original of the Lombard master, almost certainly identifiable, even if we do not have any tangible or irrefutable proof," Caravaggio specialist Nicola Spinosa wrote in an evaluation reported by the AFP.

Spinosa backed up French historian Eric Turquin (right in photo), who said the painting had "the light, the energy typical of Caravaggio, without mistakes, done with a sure hand and a pictorial style that makes it authentic." Turquin acknowledged that some historians attributed the work to Flemish master Louis Finson, a Caravaggio contemporary who copied his art.

In 2012, Italian art historians

Authors claim discovery of new Caravaggios

reportedly found 100 Caravaggio sketches.#

'All the tics'

"Judith Beheading Holofernes" depicts the biblical heroine decapitating an Assyrian general. Specialists date the 144 centimeter-by-175 centimeter (57x69-inch) painting to between 1600 and 1610 and say it has been preserved remarkably well.

Auctioneer Marc Labarbe (left in photo) said the family had had the painting since the mid-1800s and that it may have come from Spain with an ancestor who had served under Napoleon. "It probably was left in the attic because of its particularly violent content," Labarbe said, "which would not have been easy to hang in a bedroom or living room."

The authenticator Turquin told reporters that Caravaggio, christened Michelangelo Merisi, may have created the painting in Naples while on the run from a murder charge in Rome. Caravaggio had painted an earlier version of the work, which now hangs in the National Gallery of Ancient Art in the Italian capital.

"A painter is like us," Turquin told the news agency Reuters. "He has tics, and you have all the tics of Caravaggio in this. Not all of them, but many of them - enough to be sure that this is the hand, this is the writing of this great artist."

The Culture Ministry slapped a 30-month export ban on the canvas after experts from the Louvre spent three inconclusive weeks studying it. The ministry demanded that the painting stay on French soil "as a very important Caravaggian landmark, the history and attribution of which are still to be fully investigated."

The Caravaggio expert Mina Gregori, however, told France's Le Quotidien de l'Art that she considered the painting "not an original," although she recognized the "undeniable quality of the work."

mkg/bk (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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