Art experts in Rome are analysing what they believe is a previously unknown painting by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio.
As his homeland marked the 400th anniversary of his death this weekend, the Vatican’s official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano published the newly discovered work on its front page. Depicting the martyrdom of St Lawrence, it was found recently among the possessions of the Society of Jesuits in Rome. It shows a semi-naked young man, his mouth open in desperation with one arm stretched out as he leans over flames. If the suspected provenance is confirmed, it would be the first painting by the Baroque genius to emerge since The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew, which went on display two years ago.
“What is certain is that we’re dealing with a stylistically impeccable, beautiful painting,” said the art historian Lydia Salviucci Insolera. “Particularly notable is the light that leaps from the areas of darkness to reveal the surface volume in sudden flashes.”
Caravaggio, born Michelangelo Merisi, is celebrated for his revolutionary use of contrasting light and dark -– chiaroscuro – which anticipated the work of later Baroque giants including Rembrandt and Velázquez.
The art historian cautioned that experts should be careful to avoid the trap of labelling it a Caravaggio “at all costs” at a time when interest in the revolutionary painter was at an all-time high, saying that further analysis and research would be needed.
Another Caravaggio expert, Maurizio Marini, was sceptical about the provenance of the painting in question, noting that St Lawrence, a martyr burned to death during Roman persecutions in 258AD, was not a known Caravaggio subject.