AFP

PARIS

A painting discovered in the attic of a house in France is an “authentic” painting by the Italian Renaissance master Caravaggio, which could be worth up to 120 million euros, experts said Tuesday.

The owners of the house near the southwestern city of Toulouse discovered the 400-year-old painting when they went to fix a leak in the ceiling. The large canvass of the beheading of the general Holofernes by Judith from the apocryphal Book of Judith is in remarkably good condition, and was painted between 1600 and 1610, specialists believe.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, expert Eric Turquin said it could be worth as much as 120 million euros ($137 million), describing the painting as having “the light, the energy typical of Caravaggio, without mistakes, done with a sure hand and a pictorial style that makes it authentic”.

While other specialists have questioned its provenance, Turquin got the backing of a top Caravaggio specialist, Nicola Spinoza, former director of the Naples museum. In an expert assessment seen by AFP, Spinoza wrote: “One has to recognise the canvass in question as a true original of the Lombard master, almost certainly identifiable, even if we do not have any tangible or irrefutable proof.”

The French culture minister slapped an export ban on the work after experts from the Louvre museum in Paris spent three weeks studying it. In a statement, the ministry said the painting should stay on French soil “as a very important Caravaggian marker, whose history and attribution are still to be fully investigated”.

Turquin said “some serious” art historians “had attributed the work to the (Louis) Finson”, a Flemish painter and disciple of Caravaggio who died in 1617. But the French art newspaper Le Quotidien de l’Art quoted another expert on the artist, Mina Gregori, as saying that it was “not an original” although she recognised the “undeniable quality of the work”. The painting, which measures 144 cm by 175 cm (57 inches by 69 inches) was found in April 2014 in the rafters of the house.