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Unknown Caravaggio un-earthed in UK

The discovery of a long lost painting by the artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is a thrilling event for both historians and art lovers.  It was found in a private collection in Britain, almost obscured by old varnish and repainting, but when it was restored the artist’s genius was apparent to experts in the field.

To anyone familiar with Caravaggio’s work, the oil on canvas depiction of St. Augustine absorbed in his books and manuscripts is an unmistakable example of his extraordinary skill in bringing a combination of beauty and realism to all of his paintings.  Caravaggio was a legend even in his own time, and the impact of his vision and technique was immense.  He was probably the inspiration to more of the artists who succeeded him than any other painter in history.

An innovator in all respects, Caravaggio never made sketches but painted directly on canvas with live models as his reference (and occasionally a corpse.)  His use of light and shadow, known as chiaroscuro, set a standard that has been the envy of artists from his time in the 16th -17th centuries to this day.  The painting of St. Augustine has been dated to approximately 1600, when the artist would have been 28 years old.

Caravaggio’s amazing talent was accompanied by a tumultuous lifestyle; he was often in flight from one society or another because of the very realism that made him so unique in his day and age, and so remarkable in his achievements.  The ‘new’ painting will be included in next month’s publication ‘Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome’ from the Yale University Press and the National Gallery of Canada.

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