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Suspected $135 million Caravaggio found in French loft

Mystery surrounds a painting that has been found in the loft of a house in the south of France that could be a $135 million missing masterpiece by Italian painter Caravaggio.

The painting was discovered in the house in Toulouse two years ago and passed on to art expert Eric Turquin and is thought to be a version of Caravaggio’s gruesome 1599 work Judith Beheading Holofernes. It was only discovered when the owners of the house investigated a leak in their roof.

The French government has now placed a ban on the painting being taken from the country for 30 months while tests are carried out.

The better known version of the painting (pictured) hangs in the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in the Italian capital Rome and depicts Biblical character Judith beheading an Assyrian general.

Caravaggio was known to have worked on several versions of the painting. Another version, which was also thought to be lost before it was rediscovered in 1950, hangs in Rome’s National Gallery of Ancient Art. The rediscovered work is now being examined by art experts at Paris’ Louvre Museum.

Should the work prove to be genuine it is unlikely to come onto the open market as the French government will be given the first opportunity to purchase the work.

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Mark Banham

Mark Banham