Of Neighbors and Fences

From Patrick at Popehat comes news of a blockbuster art theft. Someone with no intention of selling the thing, and every intention of savoring it (or perhaps eliciting ransom for it), has contracted a crack team of pane-removing window climbers to cut from its frame a priceless Caravaggio:

The Arrest of Christ, Caravaggio

The interesting detail here is that the person who commissioned the black bag operation is no connoisseur. The painting by Caravaggio, commissioned by Ciriaco Mattei, created around 1602, and documented within that generation, is most assuredly the one safely hanging in Dublin.

The stolen painting is a copy.

The very good copy in Odessa, closer to the original than any of the other half dozen seventeenth century copies, is probably not an autograph replica. Instead it may well be the copy Asdrubale Mattei commissioned from the otherwise unknown artist Giovanni di Attili.

Or is it?

For the gritty details from the pen of the fellow who cleaned and authenticated the Dublin piece, see Sergio Benedetti, “Caravaggio’s ‘Taking of Christ’, a Masterpiece Rediscovered”, The Burlington Magazine #135:1088 (Nov. 1993), pp. 731-741.

For a contrary view, and to gain a sense of how diplomacy and collegial relationships taint connoisseurship, see Peter Conrad, “In search of the real Caravaggio“.

This entry was posted in A Periodic Decoction, Ephemera and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Of Neighbors and Fences

  1. Eric says:

    Caravaggio was the best!

  2. Jeff Nisbet says:

    My article, “Beyond the Lost Caravaggio,” contains information about the National Gallery of Ireland version of the painting that is not available anywhere else.

    It is readable on my website at the following address:




  3. eudamidas says:

    You suggest that the thief was no connoisseur. But does the museum in Odessa have anything better to steal than an excellent period copy of a $100 mln painting that Denis Mahon believed was autograph? Their website mentions only a Frans Hals, a Teniers the Younger, and a couple also-rans. There’s a photo of a Canaletto, or is it a Bellotto, or is it a Guardi.

    It came back!



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