Newly verified Caravaggio goes on show in Madrid

A newly authenticated painting by celebrated 17th Century artist Caravaggio is going on show at the Prado museum in Madrid.

Ecce Homo, which shows Roman governor Pontius Pilate presenting Christ to the people, is one of only about 60 known works by the Italian master – but it nearly escaped the attention of the wider art world, having initially been attributed to a lesser artist.

It was withdrawn from sale on the orders of the Spanish government in 2021, hours before it was due to be sold at auction for an opening price of €1,500 (£1,280).

Now, three years after that decisive intervention, the work is being exhibited for the first time since its true status was confirmed.

Earlier this month, the Prado said the painting was “without a doubt, a Caravaggio masterpiece”, calling it “one of the greatest discoveries in the history of art”.

Caravaggio, who died in 1610 at the age of 38, was renowned for his dramatic use of light and shadow to bring deep psychological realism to the violent scenes that he generally depicted.

Art historians have described his work as the beginning of modern painting.

Ecce Homo is believed to have belonged to the private collection of Spain’s King Philip IV, before being exhibited in the apartments of his son, Charles II.

It resurfaced in Madrid in April 2021, when it was described as the product of an artist belonging to the circle of 17th Century Spanish painter José de Ribera.

But after experts at the Prado voiced their suspicions about the painting’s true authorship, the Spanish culture ministry stepped in to block its sale.

It will be on display until October in a special one-off exhibition following an agreement with its new owner, believed to be a British national who lives in Spain.

After that, the canvas will move to the Prado’s permanent collection for another four months.

According to Spanish media reports, the painting changed hands for €36m (£30.6m).

Jorge Coll, the lead of London art gallery Colnaghi which handled the sale, told El País newspaper that the painting would remain on loan to public collections, rather than ending up in the owner’s home.

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