The alleged Behold the man of Caravaggio is already the soap opera of spring-summer 2021: it is about the piece that was about to be auctioned at the beginning of April at the Casa Ansorena in Madrid at the paltry price of 1,500 euros, owned by the Pérez de Castro family, and whose first documentary evidence in Spain dates back to the early nineteenth century. Furthermore, as revealed by the specialized publication Ars Magazine, the canvas is mentioned in the testamentary testaments of Carlos II (1701-1703) and Carlos III (1789-1794) in their palace in the Casa de Campo.

The work was attributed to the painter José de Ribera before going on sale and later became the property of Evaristo Pérez de Castro, liberal politician and editor of La Pepa, in 1823 when he changed it to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando for another painting by Alonso Cano. Since then, the alleged Caravaggio It has been in the hands of his family, who have assured at all times that they did not know that he had in his possession a painting of one of the greatest figures in the history of art.

According to specialists, among whom there is considerable unanimity when it comes to confirming authorship, the Behold the man It was probably painted in Naples around 1606, during the artist’s first stay in the Italian city. The commotion is generalized: for a few weeks, different specialists from different parts of the world have been approaching the facilities bordering the Madrid airport where the piece is guarded and evaluating the matter briefly – they are not allowed to study it for more than half an hour – in order to draw the first conclusions that will be collected in a preliminary report to be published in September.

Meanwhile, as it has advanced El País, the renowned world expert on Caravaggio María Cristina Terzaghi, who has been studying the subject for months, has detailed in a first 35-page report that the painting does indeed belong to Caravaggio. Of course, despite tracing the historical route of the piece with enough precision, there are current gaps, such as the place where the painting was acquired before arriving in Spain, or what happened to the canvas during Napoleon’s invasion, or where it was supposedly created by Caravaggio.

In this regard there are only hypotheses: Terzaghi argues that perhaps the Count of Castillo could have bought the Ecce homo in “a Neapolitan market” and that Juan de Lezcano referred to that piece in his inventory of 1631.


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