• gerard van weyenbergh

Painting attributed to Caravaggio, was sold privately to American collector.

Attributed to Caravaggio by renowned art expert Turquin, the sale of a painting "Judith and Holopherne" which was to be held in Toulouse on June 27 2019 was suddenly canceled.

The painting was sold in a private transaction for an undisclosed amount.

The work had been estimated at some 100 million euros, a normal amount for a Caravaggio artwork but exorbitant for a work whose attribution has been contested. The sellers therefore seem to have preferred to part with it without going through the heat of the auction and sound satisfied by obtaining a suitable price.

The buyer, a foreigner who insisted on preserving his anonymity, intends to deposit the painting within 18 months in a large museum. Still, it remains to be seen whether it will one day be recognized as a work by the hand of Caravaggio. Until then, the debate raged between specialists who were sure that it was by his hand and those who expressed doubts.

The painting only appeared in the catalog of the Caravaggio exhibition organized in Naples as painting by an artist of the cercle of Caravaggio while no French museum sought to acquire it. This is a sign of uncertainty that has certainly played during the days leading up to the sale since no buyer placed an order above the starting price.

Brought back from Naples around 1806 by an officer of Napoleon's army, the painting included elements pointing to Caravaggio, but others, which seemed weaker, could have been from the hand of Caravaggio's follower Louis Finson.

According to reliable sources, the buyer of the painting would be none other than billionaire American collector J. Tomilson Hill who would have paid it well above the starting price of 30 million euros (perhaps around 75 million euros).

Former president of the Blackstone Group, the latter has already made significant transactions in the fields of contemporary art and old paintings before inaugurating the Hill Art Foundation at the beginning of the year by exhibiting works by Christopher Wool.

In 2015, he had paid 30 million pounds for a portrait of a man in a red cap dated 1530 painted by Jacopo Pontormo taking advantage of the inability of the British Ministry of Culture to raise funds for the

Tomilson Hill thus took a risk by buying the painting due to the fact that Caravaggio specialists were divided as to its authenticity, especially since the French Ministry of Culture did not consider it appropriate to prevent its export. Nevertheless, the work is of quality, but some details let suggest the collaboration of a second hand, or at all that, it was finished by an artist other than Caravaggio who would have left it unfinished.

It would be Keith Christiansen, the director of the department of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, who had been of the opinion from the start that the painting was by the hands of Caravaggio, who would have pushed Tomilson Hill to acquire it.

In the meantime, even if the work was completed by another artist (we think especially of Finson), the sale of this painting will have been more significant because there are only six works attributed to Caravaggio that are today in private hands. It may well be that the Met exhibits it in its gallery of European paintings, which will be reopened after renovation work. Unless the buyer has entered into an agreement with the Getty Museum in Los Angeles to which he has already lent works.

Le Journal d'un fou d'art, Adrian Darmon , June 2019

Video about the painting and explanation by Turquin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=vfTMHI-Lf-A&feature=emb_logo