MILAN (Reuters) - A collection of more than 1,000 sketches, some of which are thought to have been by 16th century Italian artist Caravaggio, were unveiled at Milan’s Sforzesco Castle on Wednesday.
If proved authentic, the drawings could be worth up to 700 million euros (552.4 million pounds), art historians say, and would add to the Italian city’s rich artistic collection, which includes Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper”.
“If these really are Caravaggio’s drawings they would be worth much more than that figure,” Milanese architect and the city’s councillor for Culture Stefano Boeri told Reuters, adding that non-invasive scientific work needed to be carried out to prove the works were from the hands of a young Caravaggio.
“The problem is that not one of Caravaggio’s works were signed with his name,” Boeri added.
Clues to tell whether the drawings were bona fide Caravaggio pieces could be detected from the way hands, noses, fingers and necks are etched, he said.
“But we are really not sure until tests go ahead: this one for example looks like it is more from the Leonardo school,” he added, pointing to a thin outline of a woman’s face, tracing his finger around the edge of her cheek.
Caravaggio, who died at 38 after a tormented life, was famous for the Chiaroscuro technique in which he used lighting to make his subjects more life-like.
The collection of up to 1,200 sketches found in the studio of Caravaggio’s master Simone Peterzano, now held within the castle’s walls, are owned by the city of Milan. The pieces were originally bought by the municipality in 1924 from St. Luke’s Academy, a late 16th century workshop that acquired the collection from the Church of San Celso, also in Milan.
The collection’s curator Francesca Rossi said the works have been studied since the 1940s, but will now undergo closer scrutiny from a team of art history experts.
The link between the artist and his master Peterzano could still be important to discover the origin of the sketches.
Caravaggio was a boy of between 13-17 when he worked under Peterzano. No paintings from his youth are known to have survived.
Caravaggio, whose real name was Michelangelo Merisi, often ended up in jail, and killed a man in a fight in Rome. The Pope issued a death warrant for him, and he died on a Tuscan beach under mysterious circumstances in 1610 after he had supposedly received a pardon.
The collection is available for public viewing online at the city of Milan website. (www.comune.milano.it)
Editing by Paul Casciato