Museum Security Network

Odessa “Caravaggio” Recovered

The Telegraph reports “Stolen ‘$100 million’ Caravaggio recovered by police.” The painting was stolen from an Odessa, Ukraine museum in July 2008.

According to the article, “Some experts cited have said the painting could fetch up to $100 million (£66 million) on the black market.” Unfortunately, it appears as if the media has not performed much research into the painting’s history. Although the Telegraph includes the fact that in “1950, a Moscow art expert declared that the painting in Odessa was in fact the work of Caravaggio,” it fails to add that in 1993 the art historian Sergio Benedetti reattributed the painting to be a contemporary copy (Sergio Benedetti “Caravaggio’s ‘Taking of Christ’, a Masterpiece Rediscovered” The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 135, No. 1088 (Nov., 1993), pp. 731-741). Benedetti based his reattribution upon his extensive examination and analysis of Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ (pictured above; source: AFP. “German police recover stolen Caravaggio painting” 28 June 2010), which was rediscovered in the early 1990s and currently hangs in the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland. In “Caravaggio’s ‘Taking of Christ’, a Masterpiece Rediscovered,” Benedetti concluded, “The case of the Dublin picture is, as we have seen, quite different. It is obviously superior in quality to the Odessa version, which, although faithful to Caravaggio’s in design, reveals its status as a copy by the evident weaknesses of its execution (741).”

Perhaps, the press needs to confirm and corroborate its information so as to avoid sensationalizing art theft stories needlessly. When huge values are alleged for certain paintings, the requisite for accuracy goes up. While coverage of stolen art recoveries is valuable to the heightened public awareness of our cultural heritage’s vulnerability, the public also needs verification of art provenance. Nevertheless, this case underscores the reality that art theft is fraught with consequences, and in most cases, simply doesn’t pay!

*Originally posted at

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