Going up into the attic is one of those unpleasant things that most people avoid. When forced to do so, one inevitably finds a motley collection of discarded sports equipment, VHS tapes, and several boxes abandoned by former owners who didn't want to go up there either. But when one family had to unseal a blocked-off part of their attic thanks to a leaky roof, what they found was hidden treasure.
As the Independent reports, while looking for the source of a leak in the roof, the owners of a house in Toulouse, France made an incredible discovery— a possible baroque masterpiece.
The painting, which was found in 2014, is thought by several experts to be Caravaggio's “Judith Beheading Holofernes.”
If the story of how the painting was found is romantic, how it was lost is simply mysterious. According to CNN, the somewhat gruesome image was painted between 1600 and 1610 and depicts biblical heroine Judith slicing off the head of the Assyrian general.
Caravaggio painted two different works with this subject. One hangs in Rome's National Gallery of Ancient Art. The other one disappeared sometime in the early 1700s.
Experts now think that the painting found in the attic is the missing Caravaggio. What's more, it might have been sitting in the house, waiting to be found, for more than a century.
“The rediscovery of an original masterpiece by Caravaggio is a great event,” said Eric Turquin, an expert in Old Masters who has been studying the painting for the past two years. He added that the discovery of this painting, “should be considered by far the most important canvas recovered in the last twenty years, from one of the geniuses.”
Despite Turquin's enthusiasm, there are others in the art world who doubt that the painting is truly by Caravaggio. Instead, critics claim that it is a copy by Louis Finson, a Flemish painter and contemporary of Caravaggio.
Devotees of the Italian master of chiaroscuro say that the lighting, “energy”, and details of the painting point to its authenticity.
“The canvas should be considered a true original work by the Lombard master, even if we have no tangible and irrefutable proof,” said Nicholas Spinoza, former director of the Naples Art Gallery.
The French government has temporarily banned the painting from being sold outside the country and a French museum might find the funds to acquire it. If it is a Caravaggio, the painting is estimated to be worth about $136 million. Even with the doubts about the true artist, it should fetch a price in the tens of millions.
And if that doesn't send you up to the attic to take a good look around, nothing will.