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Priceless Masterpiece Nearly Sold For $1,800

A rare Caravaggio painting, which was once misattributed with a shockingly low price tag of $1,800, will go on display at the Prado Museum in Madrid.

Caravaggio's Ecce Homo
Caravaggio's rediscovered Ecce Homo | @MuseodelPrado on X

In April 2021, the painting, Ecce Homo, depicting Christ in a crown of thorns, caused some delight and panic in equal measure after the Ansorena auction house in Spain announced plans to auction the piece for €1,500 (about $1,800 at the time). The auction house had wrongly attributed the painting to the "circle of [the 17th-century Spanish artist] José de Ribera."

Art Newspaper reported that experts at the Prado Museum swiftly declared that there was “sufficient stylistic and documentary evidence” the painting could actually come from Caravaggio, and the Spanish authorities slapped protected heritage status on the work, plus an export ban so that the piece could not leave the country.

Anthony Crichton-Stuart, a former Christie’s specialist, told the New York Times at the time that he believed the painting may actually be worth “at least €50 million.” Now, three years later, the Prado has confirmed that Ecce Homo is an original from the Italian Baroque master.

The Ecce Homo painting showcases hallmarks of the old master's style, such as a dramatic contrast of light and shadow, dark realism and an intense charge of emotion on the figure’s faces.

“Since its reappearance at an auction three years ago, Ecce Homo has represented one of the greatest discoveries in the history of art,” the Prado says in a statement. “Four of the most authoritative experts on Caravaggio and Baroque painting...all share the same passionate certainty: that Ecce Homo is a masterpiece by the Italian artist.”

The painting, which the museum calls “one of the most valuable old master artworks in the world,” is one of about 60 known Caravaggios in existence. Prado experts believe that the Italian painter created the piece around 1605 to 1609 and that the painting was part of the royal collection of King Philip IV of Spain.


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