Vatican Issues Mea Culpa on Hasty Caravaggio Claim

Vatican Issues Mea Culpa on Hasty Caravaggio Claim

Just a week after the Vatican proudly proclaimed the discovery of a new work by Caravaggio, just in time for the 400th anniversary of the Renaissance master’s death, the head of the Vatican Museums has taken to the pages of the city-state’s official newspaper to suggest that the Holy See may have spoken too soon.

In an article titled "A New Caravaggio? Not Really," Vatican Museums director Antonio Paolucci writes that the quality of the contested work, which depicts the fiery martyrdom of St. Lawrence in 258, is "modest." The perspective isn’t quite right and some of the saint’s parts are awkwardly painted, according to Paolucci, who says that Caravaggio would not have made such errors.

While Paolucci has said that more tests will be required to authenticate the painting, the Italian culture ministry is set to unveil the disputed work — which was found on a Jesuit-operated property in Rome — to the public today. The ministry, one might remember, made news earlier this year for the decision to boycott the Cannes film festival over the inclusion of a documentary it deemed biased against Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. (Culture minister Sandro Bondi is also fondly remembered in the art community for declaring contemporary art a "dictatorship" early last decade.)

If the Caravaggio turns out to be a fake, Vatican officials should be comforted to know that they can download "CaravaggioMania," an iPad app that provides photographs and information about the artist’s work, which could prove helpful in avoiding future authentication embarrassments when it comes to clearly inferior paintings.