Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Caravaggio painting worth £129 million almost stolen by burglars

The ‘Lost Caravaggio’ discovered in the attic of a Toulouse farmhouse in 2014 (Jonathan Brady/PA)
The ‘Lost Caravaggio’ discovered in the attic of a Toulouse farmhouse in 2014 (Jonathan Brady/PA)

A long-lost painting by the artist Caravaggio was almost stolen by burglars years before it was rediscovered in an attic in Toulouse.

The work by the Italian master, found five years ago in a farmhouse in the French city, was unveiled on Thursday in London after being restored.

Burglars broke into the home and stole items including bottles of perfume but left the painting as they thought it worthless, according to auctioneer Marc Labarbe.

The Lost Caravaggio
The Caravaggio is unveiled following restoration work (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Titled Judith And Holofernes and valued at £129 million, the piece sat for a century in anonymity against a wall between old clothes, family antiques and crockery.

Speaking at the unveiling of the work at the Colnaghi gallery, Mr Labarbe joked the burglars had not deemed the painting “adequate” enough to steal it.

He said: “One of my clients was clearing his attic and he needed two men to help him. It took a year to sell all the antiquities.

“Clocks, toys, pieces of religion, in good and bad condition, clothes, crockery, as well as many things of no interest. Everything was very dusty.

“I have to tell you that a few years before, burglars broke into the attic and stole many things, included eau de parfum bottles.

“Fortunately, our painting was not adequate.”

The Lost Caravaggio
The painting depicts a biblical tale of temptation and murder (Jonathan Brady/PA)

He added: “On the 23rd of April 2014, late in the morning, my client called me again because he had found a painting and wanted my opinion on it.

“I went to his house and climbed the stairs to the landing of the attic where the painting was displayed.

“At this moment there was what was like a fog across the whole canvas.

“The painting was blurry and it was almost impossible to see the details, but I was impressed by the state of the composition.”

According to Paris-based art appraiser Eric Turquin, the work was painted in 1607.

The Lost Caravaggio
Auctioner Marc Labarbe describes how he came across the work in the attic of a Toulouse farmhouse in 2014 (Jonathan Brady/PA)

It depicts the biblical tale of Judith, a widow from the city of Bethulia, who breaks the siege of her home by seducing the Assyrian leader and beheading him.

It will be sold without reserve on June 27 in Toulouse at the La Halle aux Grains, with Mr Labarbe saying: “This magnificent story began in Toulouse. It has to continue in Toulouse.”

The painting is Caravaggio’s second version of the same subject, with the first painted in Rome around 1600.

The discovery means there are now 68 known paintings attributed to the artist, who was born in 1571 and died in 1610 of suspected lead poisoning from his paint.

Judith And Holofernes will be on display at Colnaghi at 26 Bury Street from March 1 until March 9.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]