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 June 25th.
Art expert Eric Turquin, who authenticated the painting, said it was worth between 100 and 150 million euros (up to $170 million), although several Italian specialists have doubts about the canvas, AFP has reported. 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 depicting a grisly biblical scene of the beautiful Jewish widow Judith beheading a sleeping Assyrian general was to be auctioned in Toulouse on June 27th. 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. "The fact that the offer comes from a collector close to a major museum convinced the seller to accept (the offer)," he said.
Labarbe said he could not reveal the name of the buyer or the price paid because of a confidentiality agreement but he confirmed that the painting, dated to 1606, will leave France after an export ban, which classed the canvas as a "national treasure", was not renewed in November.
Turquin had earlier told AFP that he was sure the painting was by the volatile and violent genius, who created it while he was on the run from a death sentence for murder.