Article- Caravaggio Paintings Discovered
in Loire Valley Church
This BBC article was kindly pointed out by Wendy Grossmann,
herself an art historian. Wendy will be on our Loire tour next
summer. Loches is very near our hotels in the Loire Valley, and
we’ll try to swing down there and see these newly discovered
Delight at Caravaggio discovery
Art historians have spoken of their shock and delight after two
paintings discovered in a French church were found to be by old
Pilgrimage of Our Lord to Emmaus and Saint Thomas Putting his
Finger on Christ's Wound have hung in the town of Loches for
nearly two centuries.
"This kind of thing happens once in a lifetime," said one specialist.
It is thought the paintings were probably bought by a French
ambassador to Rome, and friend of Caravaggio.
Pilgrimage of Our Lord to Emmaus by
The works were kept under the organ loft in the church of Saint Anthony in Loches, until in 1999 a
curator expressed an interest in a coat of arms on the works.
It turned out to belong to Philippe de Bethune, a minister of France's King Henry IV, an enthusiastic art
collector who befriended Caravaggio in Rome.
After seven years of investigation, the origin of the pictures has been confirmed.
"When I walked into the room where the paintings were, I was completely shocked... It was very
emotional," said Caravaggio specialist Jose Freches.
It is thought the paintings were probably half of a batch of four bought by Bethune, for which an
inventory survives, kept in the national archive in Paris.
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, a notorious brawler who fled from Rome after killing a rival in a
duel, was born in about 1570 and was found dead on a beach in 1610.
He is one of the most highly regarded Italian masters, whose biblical scenes, in tight detail, and
mastery of light and darkness are considered revolutionary.
"A whole series of technical clues plus the pictorial quality of the works were enough to convince me
without any doubt that these are originals," said Mr Freches.
"Scientific tests have shown that the linen canvasses are identical to those used by Caravaggio, and
the same goes for the pigments," he told the French AFP news agency
The pictures are similar to other Caravaggios in London and Potsdam.
"But they are not exact copies... We know that Caravaggio did many versions of his pictures," he said.
The paintings will be kept in Loches in the Loire Valley, where they will go on display later this year.