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Lost Caravaggio to go on display in Spain after Briton buys it for €36M

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AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Lost Caravaggio to go on display in Spain after Briton buys it for €36M
There are doubts over how Caravaggio's Ecce Homo made it to Spain.

Madrid's Prado museum said Monday it will display a 17th-century oil painting by Italian master Caravaggio that has reportedly been sold to a UK national who is a resident in Spain for €36 million.

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Entitled "Ecce Homo", the dark canvas depicts a bloodied Jesus wearing a crown of thorns just before his crucifixion. It is one of around only 60 known works by the Renaissance artist.

A Madrid auction house had been due to auction the painting in April 2021 with an opening price of €1,500 ($1,615), mistakenly attributing it to an artist belonging to the circle of 17th century Spanish painter Jose de Ribera.

But just hours before it was to go under the hammer, the culture ministry blocked the operation on suspicion it was actually by Caravaggio, whose works are worth millions.

READ MORE: Spain blocks auction of possible Caravaggio painting with opening price of €1,500

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The ministry action came after the Prado museum sounded the alarm, saying it had "sufficient documentary and stylistic evidence" to suggest that the work was in fact by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.

"A detailed authentication process led by the most authoritative specialists of Caravaggio and Baroque painting have shown the work is, without a doubt, a Caravaggio masterpiece," the museum said Monday in a statement, calling it "one of the greatest discoveries in the history of art".

The Prado said it would display the "exceptional work" - which has been restored -  from May 28th until October following an agreement with its new owner, who has not been identified.

According to Spanish newspaper ABC, a UK national who is a resident in Spain bought the artwork for €36 million, far below Caravaggio's average market value, having already been owned by Spanish family called Pérez de Castro. El Prado has not provided the name of the new owner. 

As Madrid declared the Ecce Homo an Item of Cultural Value (Bien de Interés Cultural), the painting cannot leave Spain, only temporarily and in exceptional circumstances. 

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