Lost ‘USD170 million Caravaggio’ snapped up before French auction

TOULOUSE, France (AFP) – A painting thought to be a “lost masterpiece” by Italian painter Caravaggio has been bought two days before it was due to go under the hammer in France.

Judith and Holofernes, which was found under an old mattress in the attic of a house in the French city of Toulouse, was snapped up by a foreign buyer, the auction house selling it said on Tuesday.

Art expert Eric Turquin – who authenticated the painting – said it was worth between 100 and 150 million euros (up to USD170 million), although several Italian specialists have doubts about the canvas. But Turquin, France’s leading authority on Old Masters paintings, had staked his reputation on the work being the fiery artist’s lost Judith and Holofernes.

The painting is to be auctioned in Toulouse today.

But before bidding could start a foreign buyer “close to a major museum” stepped in, said Marc Labarbe, the local auctioneer who discovered the painting when he was asked to value some “old things in the attic” five years ago.