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Art & Culture

The Mysterious Journey of Caravaggio’s Lost Paintings

  • Craig Miller
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  • April 18, 2023
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  • 3 minute read
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The Mysterious Journey of Caravaggio’s Lost Paintings
Key Takeaways
  • Caravaggio was a famous painter known for his innovative and realistic painting style, as well as his tumultuous personal life and criminal history.
  • Some of Caravaggio's masterpieces were lost or forgotten for centuries after his death, only to be rediscovered in the 20th and 21st centuries.
  • The search for Caravaggio's lost paintings has involved a mix of art history, scientific analysis, and speculation, as experts and enthusiasts try to piece together the works' provenance and authenticity.
  • Caravaggio's legacy as a painter continues to influence artists today, and the rediscovery of his lost paintings highlights the enduring fascination and admiration for his work.
  • The story of Caravaggio's lost paintings offers a glimpse into the world of art history and the ongoing quest to uncover and appreciate the work of great artists.

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was a polarizing figure in his time. Despite being one of the best-known painters in Rome, his innovative and realistic painting style sparked controversy. 

Critics often accused him of excessive commitment to realism, which they considered tasteless. Caravaggio’s tumultuous personal life also contributed to his infamy.

Known for his volatile temper and gambling habits, he was arrested multiple times and eventually killed a man in a brawl in 1606.

This crime forced him into exile, spending time in Malta and Naples before his death under mysterious circumstances in 1610.

The Forgotten Masterpieces

Caravaggio’s work was largely forgotten for centuries after his death, which allowed some of his masterpieces to slip into obscurity.

The Taking of Christ (1602), a baroque painting depicting Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, was believed to be lost until the early 1990s when art student Francesca Cappelletti made a breakthrough discovery.

Cappelletti and her fellow students found that the painting, initially thought to be the work of another artist, was acquired by Scottish politician William Hamilton Nisbet in the early 19th century.

It eventually ended up in the possession of an Irish pediatrician named Marie Lea-Wilson, who gifted it to a Jesuit community in Dublin as a token of gratitude.

The Rediscovery of Caravaggio’s Lost Works

In 1978, medical student Christian Morand stumbled upon two paintings attributed to Louis Finson, a Flemish painter who knew Caravaggio in Naples and often imitated his style.

Morand became enamored with the paintings, eventually acquiring them despite financial constraints.

As the years passed, Morand and his family began to question whether the paintings were truly Finson’s work.

Their extraordinary quality and the fact that they were unsigned led the family to consider the possibility that they were actually Caravaggio’s creations.

The Taking of Christ (1602), a baroque painting depicting Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, was believed to be lost until the early 1990s when art student Francesca Cappelletti made a breakthrough discovery.

The Search for Answers

Motivated by the discovery of another potential Caravaggio painting in 2014, Morand and his sons embarked on a journey to find the truth about their paintings.

They consulted specialists, visited galleries and archives, and subjected the works to a battery of tests.

As they pieced together the theoretical journey of the paintings, they became increasingly convinced that they had discovered two of Caravaggio’s lost works from 1610.

Despite the compelling evidence, some questions about the paintings’ journey remain unanswered, leaving room for speculation and further exploration.

The Lasting Impact of Caravaggio

Caravaggio’s unique style and dramatic use of light and shadow have left an indelible mark on the world of art.

His influence can be seen in the work of numerous artists throughout history, and his masterpieces continue to captivate audiences today.

The search for Caravaggio’s lost paintings serves as a testament to his enduring legacy and the passion his work inspires.

As the mystery surrounding these paintings continues to unravel, it offers an intriguing glimpse into the tumultuous life of one of history’s most enigmatic artists.

Craig Miller

Craig Miller

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