The “Toulouse Caravaggio” will be sold to the highest bidder, probably a long way from France

[08 Jan 2019]

The “Toulouse Caravaggio” will not be kept in France (along with the five canvases by the brilliant Baroque artist that it already has).

A month and a half after expiry of the official pre-emption period, the French State has officially declined to make an offer. Art appraiser, Eric Turquin, entrusted with the sale of the canvas, is now free to take the work beyond France’s frontiers as he sees fit. He told Artprice and its president and founder thierry Ehrmann that after a global road show, the painting would probably be offered for sale at the end of spring 2019 in Toulouse where it all began. Auctioneer Marc Labarbe, originally contacted by the owners of the painting, may well be involved in this historic sale.

Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio (1571-1610)
Judith and Holopherne (c.1604 – 1605)

The value of such a work is of course difficult to estimate because there is nothing similar on the market. In 2016 a value of €120 million was announced, but that was before Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi fetched $450 million (incl. fees), illustrating the massive demand that exists for old masterpieces. The acquisition of this paintingwhich could well be the sister of a Caravaggio masterpiece conserved at Rome’s Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica – will undoubtedly appeal to the world’s biggest collectors, but also to the world’s most prestigious museums.

In recent years the Art Market has become an efficient and mature market, structured by the virtuous economy of the Museum Industry. In this context, Eric Turquin’s brilliant strategy corresponds to that of the financial markets: the value of the work will be determined by the market rather than by a qualified expert. A public sale reveals the value of a work in the eyes of the public, but also in the eyes of the Art Market’s key movers and shakers who advise the big collectors.

Mr. Turquins sales strategy may well be similar to the one used for the sale of Raden Saleh’s The Wild Bull Hunting (Banteng) (1855). The work was presented in Indonesia but was sold in the town of Vannes in Brittany by the auctioneer Ruellan on 28 January 2018. Far from the Art Market’s major capitals, The Wild Bull Hunting was finally purchased by an Indonesian collector for over $11.1 million (€8,922,240), the highest price ever hammered for an artwork in Brittany).

The owners and Mr. Turquin’s Appraisal activity have left the French State plenty of time to acquire the ‘Toulouse Caravaggio. The Louvre’s experts were invited to discover the work very soon after its lucky discovery in an attic in Toulouse in 2014.

The Caravaggio’s unique story, that Artprice has followed since the begining, has only just begun…