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This new Italian art project will help to spot genuine Caravaggio masterpieces from copies

An institute dedicated to the work of the Italian artist Caravaggio, aimed at identifying his genuine paintings, is to open in Rome.

art and culture Updated: Sep 14, 2017 17:46 IST
A journalist stands in front of Caravaggio’s painting Judith Beheading Holofernes during the opening of the exhibition Caravaggio and Bacon at the Borghese museum in Rome on September 30, 2009.(AFP)

The research and education centre — an unlikely collaboration between the Borghese Gallery and fashion house Fendi — follows a number of false claims of authenticity in recent years. “Since the great specialists of Caravaggio are no longer here, anyone can decide to attribute a piece to the artist,” said Anna Coliva, the director of the Borghese Gallery.

The latest example of controversy is a painting found in 2014 in an attic near Toulouse in the south of France, which some experts claim is an authentic Caravaggio, while others say is a copy. The Caravaggio Research Institute was created to avoid this kind of disagreement over the master of the ‘chiaroscuro’ technique of painting, Coliva said, referring to an oil painting technique using strong contrasts between dark and light shades to create three dimensional figures with dramatic effect.

The centre’s backers hope it will become the “global reference” in research on Caravaggio, the findings of which will be published on an online platform to form a comprehensive database on the painter, who lived from 1571 to 1610. To publicise their project, Fendi and the Borghese Gallery have designed a programme of exhibitions devoted to the artist, which will be hosted by several major museums across the world over the next three years.

The first stop of the tour will be the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, which will exhibit three Caravaggio works, loaned by the Borghese Gallery, from November 21. The partnership between Fendi and the Borghese Gallery was planned “almost in a joke” by Dario Franceschini — the Italian Minister of Culture — who invited Fendi to ‘adopt’ a museum, said Pietro Beccari, president of Fendi.

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First Published: Sep 14, 2017 17:38 IST