Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Recovered Caravaggio copy: The Taking and Rolling of Christ

If the image (left) of the recovered copy of the Caravaggio work The Taking of Christ circulated by the German Bundeskriminalamt (BKA, German Federal Criminal Police Office) is an image of the actual painting, it would seem that Sergio Benedetti, the world's leading Caravaggio conservator and restorer, may be on a plane to Odessa before too long.

The image seems to show a network of cracks and creases as if the painting had been scrunched into a ball. We know from the original police reports following the theft in 2008 that the thieves cut the canvas from its frame before making off with it. It seems they may have rolled it up for easy transport, causing significant damage to the paint surface.

Any future volume on art theft might do well to invite papers from conservators about the sort of damage that pictures suffer as a result of thefts like this. The failure to treat the picture with even a modicum of respect also tells us something about the criminals concerned.

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