One of the world’s oldest art dealerships and commercial galleries, Colnaghi, has been selected to oversee the restoration, authentication and sale of a painting withdrawn from auction in Madrid which some specialists say could be by the 16th-century artist Caravaggio.
The work, entitled The Crowning of Thorns, was listed to be sold at Ansorena auction house earlier this month with an estimate of €1,500. The painting is owned by the children of Antonio Pérez de Castro, founder of the IADE design school in Madrid and the artist Mercedes Méndez Atard.
The family has selected Colnaghi to lead an assessment and analysis of the work which was attributed to the “circle of the 17th century Spanish artist José de Ribera” in the Ansorena auction catalogue. Ribera was a notable follower of Caravaggio but experts were quickly convinced that the work could very well be a Caravaggio original. The family originally received an offer of €500,000 for the work, before they realized that they had a masterpiece at hand. Offers of up to €3m then started coming in which was when they began to seek expert guidance.
With the possibility of it being attributed to Caravaggio, Spanish culture minister José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes intervened and requested its removal from the sale, acting on advice from Madrid’s Prado museum. An emergency museum was held to impose an export ban on the work which lead to its immediate withdrawal from auction.
Colnaghi, which is based in London and New York City, has been dealing Old Masters since 1760 and has led authentication and sales efforts of major masterpieces during the past two hundred years. The gallery provides expert services and connoisseurship to major institutions and collectors around the world.
The gallery will draw upon its history in dealing with masterworks and its vast network of relationships with museums, scholars, scientists, and conservators to collaborate in the painting’s restoration and attribution. The work has never been restored in over 400 years and so Colnaghi’s expert efforts will aim to bring it back to life with the typical splendour of Caravaggio’s colours and style.