Prado Museum In Madrid

Lost Caravaggio Painting, That Was Previously Misidentified, To Be Shown At Prado Museum In Madrid

A lost Caravaggio painting depicting a suffering Jesus Christ wearing a crown of thorns is set to go on display at the Prado Museum in Madrid. The painting itself made headlines a few years ago after it was misattributed and almost sold for €1,500 (about $1,600).

The Ecce Homo measures 111 centimeters by 86 centimeters and was initially attributed to the 17th-century Spanish artist José de Ribera in April 2021 when it was offered for sale at a Madrid auction house, according to reports. Art experts in Spain and Italy, however, were led to re-examine the work due to its luminous quality. 

Experts from the Prado Museum contacted Spain’s culture ministry once collectors around the world heard about the painting’s potential mystery painter. The ministry ordered an export ban for the painting and gave it a protected heritage status so that it would stay in Spain. 

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The Prado stated on Monday that The Ecce Homo will be on display in the museum from May 28th until October of this year. Miguel Falomir, the Prado’s director, stated that the museum has been working with the painting’s newest owner to restore the piece and figure out how its traveled since its creation. 

The painting was purchased from a family that had owned it for generations by an anonymous purchaser for an undisclosed sum, according to the museum.

“We’ve discovered that this is indeed a Caravaggio, and a painting that was brought to Spain in the 17th century and attributed to the Italian painter,” said Falomir. 

“During the Napoleonic invasion, it left the royal collection and it had been in a private family collection in Madrid since the 19th century. The family recently decided to sell the picture to a private buyer, and this person became interested in exhibiting this very important work at the Prado.”

Falomir stated his excitement for the work to be on display in the museum for the public and critics to enjoy. 

“It’s an enormous opportunity and one we’re thrilled about. We’re also celebrating the fact that this great work of art will stay in Spain and become part of Spain’s culture,” he said. 

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The Prado currently has one Caravaggio on display, David with the Head of Goliath, which was initially painted in Rome around 1600 when the artist was 30-years-old. The Prado’s head of pre-1800 Italian and French painting, David García Cueto, expressed his excitement to have a second Caravaggio on display in their museum. 

“By then [1600], he [Caravaggio] had achieved a stylistic maturity through his refined use of light and shade that allowed him to capture reality in a close-up manner,” said García Cueto. 

“Caravaggio’s stylistic evolution in the last 10 years of his life was pretty innovative, expressionistic, free and striking. The Ecce Homo, painted around 1607-1610, offers a complementary vision of Caravaggio’s late work and condenses the best of the master’s style in his final years,” he stated. 

Massimo Pulini, an art historian and professor at the Bologna Fine Arts Academy, told the Guardian that he was able to identify the painting as a Caravaggio when one of his colleagues in the antique industry sent him a photo. 

“When I saw the painting, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The impact was so immediate that I instantly knew this was a Caravaggio. It was like meeting someone on the street who you haven’t seen for a long time. It’s difficult to explain what happens in certain moments when, in a millisecond, you have such an impression. It’s often a question of instinct,” said Pulini.