Long-lost £129m Caravaggio masterpiece unveiled after being found fluke in attic and missed by burglars

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A PAINTING by the artist Caravaggio worth £129 million was found by homeowner clearing out his attic after it was almost stolen by burglars.

The work by the Italian master, found five years ago in a farmhouse Toulouse,  was unveiled on Thursday in London after being restored.

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The masterpiece is on display in London ahead of going on sale later this year[/caption]

Titled Judith And Holofernes is due to go on sale in the French city later this year after sitting anonymously against a wall between old clothes, family antiques and crockery.

Auctioneer Marc Labarbe burglars broke into the home and stole items including bottles of perfume but left the painting as they thought it worthless.

The owners initially believed that the painting was bought by an ancestor who served in the Napoleonic Wars but experts ruled that out.

One possibility is that the painting was already in the house when the family bought it in 1871.

Speaking at the unveiling of the work at Colnaghi gallery, Mr Labarbe joked the burglars had not deemed the painting “adequate” enough to steal it.

“One of my clients was clearing his attic and he needed two men to help him. It took a year to sell all the antiquities.

“Clocks, toys, pieces of religion, in good and bad condition, clothes, crockery, as well as many things of no interest. Everything was very dusty.

100 YEARS IN ATTIC

“I have to tell you that a few years before, burglars broke into the attic and stole many things, included eau de parfum bottles.”

Labarbe explained that late one morning in April 2014, late in the morning, the client called him again because he had found a painting and wanted my opinion on it.

“I went to his house and climbed the stairs to the landing of the attic where the painting was displayed.

“At this moment there was what was like a fog across the whole canvas.

“The painting was blurry and it was almost impossible to see the details, but I was impressed by the state of the composition.”

According to Paris-based art appraiser Eric Turquin, the work was painted in 1607.


It depicts the biblical tale of Judith, a widow from the city of Bethulia, who breaks the siege of her home by seducing the Assyrian leader and beheading him.

The painting is Caravaggio’s second version of the same subject, with the first painted in Rome around 1600.

The discovery means there are now 68 known paintings attributed to the artist, who was born in 1571 and died in 1610 of suspected lead poisoning from his paint.

The masterpiece was painted in 1607
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