A significant hoard of old master paintings by the artist Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio has been discovered in a castle outside of Milan. It was kept under wraps by two prominent art historians, for over two years and could very well turn out to be the find of the 21st century. Caravaggio only lived to the age of 36 leaving some of the most important paintings of the Italian Baroque, and this recent discovery could very well attribute one hundred additional works to the artist’s already impressive oeuvre.
The collection of works in discussion were found among nearly 1,500 paintings and drawings from the workshop of Simone Peterzano in Milan. It has been known that Caravaggio studied under Peterzano for four years, from the age of 13, but there was no physical evidence of the work he accomplished within the workshop. Since the early twentieth century the works were held in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan after residing in a church since the closure of the workshop. Until two years ago there was little scholarly interest in or knowledge of the collection, but the careful research since undertaken has lead to really incredible results. It has been commented that this collection has been hiding in plain sight as it has long been accessible to the public but without a significant name attached it received little attention.
Working as an apprentice was an important stepping stone to becoming a professional painter, and it is during this time that artists develop their own styles. Though primarily working in the style of his mentor, connoisseurs have been able to determine technical and stylistic tendencies that became fundamental characteristics of Caravaggio’s later style. Known for his stunningly beautiful and hauntingly violent representations of well-known biblical narratives, Caravaggio had a unique approach to the depiction of light and shadow.
Not only an artistic innovator, Caravaggio became somewhat of an enigmatic figure in art history based on his biography. Known for his violent and tempestuous temper, it is believed that Caravaggio was guilty of murdering a man forcing his exile from Rome. It has also been posited that the artist was gay or bisexual. While praised for his realistic style, Caravaggio controversially used models from the lowest parts of society. Prostitutes and beggars became forever immortalized as saints and the biblical figures angering many. Mystery surrounds the death of the artist at a relative young age – proposed causes of death ranging from lead poisoning to murder.
At the time of his death, it was believed that his oeuvre consisted of approximately 80 paintings. This new discovery more than doubles the number and grants insight into the development of his career. It is estimated that the group of paintings and drawings would be worth about £560 million if the attribution claims are deemed to be authentic. A discovery of this scale is essentially unheard of provoking disbelief and wonder in the astonished public. The studies of the researchers is to be published today in an e-book format shedding further light and evidence on the discovery.
Words: Emily Sack © ArtLyst 2012