Spanish authorities have slapped an export ban on a painting a day before it was due to be auctioned with a starting price tag of 1,500 euros ($1,780), saying it could be a lost work by Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, APA reports citing Washington Post.
The oil-on-canvas work apparently depicts the Biblical passage of the Ecce Homo, in which Jesus Christ is presented to the crowds before being crucified. The 111-by-86-centimeter (44-by-34-inch) piece had been attributed to disciples of José de Ribera, a 17th-century Spanish painter who was fond of Caravaggio’s work.
The painting was taken off the final list of items to be auctioned after Spanish authorities banned its possible export Thursday citing initial evidence that its real author could be the Italian master, Spain’s Ministry of Culture said in a statement.
The price tag for an authentic Caravaggio would stretch into dozens of millions of euros (dollars), if not more.
The work still appears in the online catalog of Ansorena, a long-established Spanish auction house specializing in antique goods and jewelry, as “The Crowning with Thorns.” The catalog says it can be attributed to the “circle of José de Ribera.”
A so-called “tenebrist” who made dramatic use of light and shadow — like Caravaggio — especially in his young days, Ribera was nicknamed “Lo Spagnoletto,” or the Little Spaniard, in Italy, where he pursued most of his career in the first half of the 17th century.