The “170 Million Dollar” Dust Collector
Judith Beheading Holofernes (attributed), 1606-1607 Caravaggio, Italian ‘Master Painter’ of the 17th Century Baroque period, was far from holy. In fact, the most divine part of his being existed only in his paintings. Throughout his 38 year run on planet earth, he caused himself quite a bit of drama. Whether …
Caravaggio, Italian ‘Master Painter’ of the 17th Century Baroque period, was far from holy. In fact, the most divine part of his being existed only in his paintings. Throughout his 38 year run on planet earth, he caused himself quite a bit of drama. Whether it was his outright love for male and female prostitution, excessive drinking, gambling, and even murder, drama is the mildest adjective to describe his life. And now in the 21st century, he’s stirring up more problems in the art world with the acclaimed discovery of his “Judith Beheading Holofernes (attributed)”.
Found by Prominent French Auctioneer and ‘Master Expert’ Eric Turquin in the attic of a Toulouse estate in 2014, the second rendition of this painting raises many questions. Allegedly the attributed painting is speculated to have been produced in the 1606-1607 range, nearly 6-7 years after the first Judith Beheading piece. At this time in Caravaggio’s life, we know that he had already been exiled from Rome for murder, and bounced around the country until landing in Naples where he would eventually pass away in 1610. During these later years, it is believed that Caravaggio had a studio hand/apprentice. This has not fully been confirmed because of minimal historical documentation, but in his earlier years commissioning for the church, it was widely known that he was a brutal-loner, not one to be bothered while working on any paintings.
The reason I mention such a thing is in the context of this newly found painting. Besides the obvious condition of the painting, the face of Judith’s maid Abra is far more wrinkled than usual. The decapitated head of Holofernes seems to belong to another body, as well as his razor-sharp teeth.
Overall what I found most interesting about this controversy was that my knowledge of art was to be tested. Having minored in Art History in college it was exciting to sit back and debate amongst myself whether or not this was a true Caravaggio painting. The Lourve Museum in Paris had turned down the purchase of this painting in 2016. Turquin suspected the reasoning was that 100 million Euros was half a decades budget. This could be. Or This is yet again another greedy auctioneer inflating prices in the art world.
I myself believe this painting to be somewhere in between the realm of a quarter to a half Caravaggio. The difference in styling suggests to me that he had lent a hand to an apprentices work. The four Caravaggio’s I have seen with my own two eyes I have left below for your own interpretation. In late June the market will decide once and for all!