A British Caravaggio expert spotted it at an auction in London. Sold as done by a student of Caravaggio copying one of his works, the painting actually turned out to be an earlier, cheaper version of ‘I Bari’. Sir Denis Mahon bought it for $100,000, lucky bastard, authenticated it, and loaned it to the Pepoli Museum in Trapani, Sicily.
Maurizio Marini, another Caravaggio expert who has studied the newly found painting, said the work is true to Caravaggio’s style, and X-rays have confirmed it is an original by revealing the lead-laced sketch that was drawn to outline the painting.
An analysis of the paint has also come up with traces of very fine sand, another trademark of the artist, he said.
“The Cardsharps” is an early work by Caravaggio and shows a young, fresh-faced page being tricked at a card game by two cheaters. The scene is typical of Caravaggio’s revolutionary style of depicting realistic characters and images found in everyday life.
Gregori said she was convinced the London painting was a Caravaggio when she noticed that the face of one of the cheats, though partially covered by the page’s hat, had still been sketched out in detail by the artist before being painted over.
“That’s the ultimate proof,” she said. “A copycat doesn’t do that.”