A painting that was about to be sold at auction, and was then pulled after experts from the Prado Museum suspected its true author was the Italian master, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, has been granted protected status as an bien de interés cultural.
The small oil painting called La coronación de espinas * The scourged Christ, was withdrawn from sale in April of this year, after suspicions grew that it had been incorrectly attributed to the 17th-century Spanish artist, José de Ribera.
The painting had been given a catalogue guide price of €1,500 but experts from the Prado Museum said that there was “sufficient stylistic and documentary evidence” to suggest it was a Caravaggio, meaning it could be worth as much as €50m
It described the painting as “an example of the excellence and pictorial mastery of the Italian naturalism” that had a great influence on the Madrid school of painting in the 17th century.
“Elements such as the psychological depictions of the characters, the realism of the faces, the luminous force that illuminates the body of Christ, the interplay of the three characters and the communication it establishes with the viewer make this a work of great artistic interest,” said the regional government statement.
“The information that has appeared over the past few months, together with the studies undertaken by experts, reinforces the theory that it is the work of Caravaggio,” the statement said.
The painting’s protected status means that its owners must inform the authorities if they decided to sell it to allow the regional government to decide if it wishes to make an offer.