NEW YORK – Judith and Holofernes (1571-1610), the long-lost painting by Caravaggio, will be heading to Adam Williams Fine Art in New York for its only U.S. and North American exhibition May 10-17. The free and open exhibition will give the public a chance to view the masterpiece that was discovered five years ago in an attic in Toulouse, France, where it had lain forgotten for over 100 years.
The painting will be auctioned on June 27 Toulouse by Maison de Ventes Marc Labarbe in collaboration with the art appraisal firm Cabinet Turquin. It is estimated at up to €150 million ($170 million) which reflects the rarity of works by the artist, the exceptional state of conservation of the painting and the fact that it is a unique masterpiece.
The painting has been exhibited in London’s Colnaghi Gallery and will also be exhibited in Paris and Toulouse before the auction.
The authenticity of the rediscovered work, which is in exceptional condition for a painting dating from 1607, is well documented. Furthermore, many experts of the work of the Lombardi master have supported the attribution to Caravaggio. It has also been confirmed by a number of scientific analyses and supported by the results of a recent light cleaning of the old varnish. Scientific analyses reveal a total concordance of our painting with the works of Caravaggio dating from 1600-1607 in both the preparation and the stages of execution.
In 2014, Marc Labarbe, a Toulouse-based auctioneer known for having discovered a Chinese imperial scroll in 2011 that sold for €22 million, the highest price ever fetched at auction for an Imperial Chinese painting, received a call from one of his clients in Toulouse. While clearing out the attic, the client had discovered a painting belonging to his family. Labarbe quickly recognized it as an important 17th century Italian work. He called on the art appraiser Eric Turquin, a renowned expert in Old Master paintings, who, together with his team, researched the painting for two years in the greatest secrecy.
All the experts recognized it as a major work and while the research continued, the French Ministry of Culture classified it as a National Treasure, which prevented it from being taken out of the country for a period of 30 months. The deadline expired Dec. 24, making it possible for the painting to circulate freely. The canvas has now been lightly cleaned and will be auctioned on June 27.
The family that owns it has lived in Toulouse for decades and descends from a Napoleonic officer who participated in the Spanish campaign from 1808 to 1814. Forty years ago, the heirs sold another famous painting that dated from the Spanish Golden Age. A few years before the discovery of the present painting, thieves stripped this same attic of a number of small objects while the Caravaggio painting luckily remained unnoticed.
The painting’s remarkable state of preservation, exceptional for a 400-year-old work, is an indication that it has probably passed through few hands since it was remounted around 1800.
The painting will be on view at Adam Williams Fine Art, 24 E. 80th St., May 10-17, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Eastern time.