Possible long-lost €120m Caravaggio painting found in leaky attic in France

A 400-year-old painting that might have been executed by Italian master Caravaggio has been found in an attic in southern France. Eric Turquin, the French expert who retrieved the painting two years ago, says it is in an exceptional state of conservation and estimates its value at €120 million (about $135 million). The picture, the authenticity of which has not been established, had been left for more than 150 years in a property in the outskirts of Toulouse. Called “Judith Beheading Holofernes”, it depicts the biblical heroine Judith beheading an Assyrian general. It is thought to have been painted in Rome circa 1604-05.

Judith Beheading Holofernes must be considered the most important painting, by far, to have emerged in the last 20 years by one of the great masters.

Eric Turquin

Turquin told a news conference that there “will never be a consensus” about who painted the canvas. Two Caravaggio experts he consulted attributed the painting to Louis Finson, a Flemish painter and art dealer who was familiar with Caravaggio, Mr Turquin said. "But the third expert I met told me that it was not only a Caravaggio, but also a masterpiece,“ Turquin said. The picture has been awarded "National Treasure” status by French authorities, meaning that it cannot be exported for 30 months, leaving national museums enough time for its acquisition. The owners of the house in Toulouse discovered the painting, which had been partially damaged by water, when they went to the attic to fix a leak.

I told the owners they had found a beautiful picture and gave them an estimation that I do not dare say.

Auctioneer Marc Labarde