Recovered Caravaggio is Probably a COPY!

Earlier this week I posted about a stolen Caravaggio painting, The Taking of Christ (“The Kiss of Judas”) that was recovered in Berlin (see above (and note damage incurred by theft!)). However, a lot of debate has occurred this week as to the authenticity of this painting, which originally was housed in the Odessa Museum of Western and Eastern Art (Ukraine).  As reported here, it is very likely that this this recovered “masterpiece” is actually a contemporary copy from the 17th century.  Experts argue that this copy was probably created 20 or 25 years after Caravaggio’s original painting of c. 1602.

In truth, the authenticity of the Odessa painting and another version of the painting (located in Dublin) has been disputed over the years.  At this point, most experts agree that the Dublin painting is an original work by Caravaggio.  In fact, the Odessa painting was only authenticated as recently as 2005 (it had long been considered a copy, but was authenticated while it was on exhibit in Spain).  In a twisted way, I guess it’s good that this Odessa painting was stolen: the events have afforded experts another chance to reexamine this work.  Although I haven’t examined the painting for myself, I have a feeling that this new (and not-so-new) opinion of the painting is correct.  I think that it’s a copy.  Although I don’t know the specifics regarding the 2005 authentication, it seems like someone (a Spaniard?) was a little too hasty and a little too determined to authenticate the Odessa painting.  And hey, I can’t blame that person too much.  I would want to authenticate and “discover” a work by Caravaggio, too.

Obviously, it’s hard for the Odessa museum to accept this new opinion.  No one wants to hear that their prized piece is no longer a masterpiece (and also not worth the previous estimated value of $100 million).  I guess that by now the thieves have heard this news, as well.  How ironic: they went through all of that trouble to steal a fake.

  • columnist says:

    Maybe the thieves were art experts themselves, and realised they had a fake? But seriously, how is there a market for stolen masterpieces? It can't be tradeable, so once you have it in your possession it becomes valueless.

  • H Niyazi says:

    Cheers for the update M! I always wondered why there were two copies.

    I know other artists that churned out copies of their work but wasn't sure if Caravaggio did this. Even his versions of David and Goliath, whilst looking similar, are still different.

    I'll need to update my post about this too!

    Kind Regards
    H Niyazi

  • heidenkind says:


  • M says:

    Columnist, I have thought the same thing. An art thief needs to be extremely well-connected in order to sell a stolen painting. It's such a dumb thing to steal. From what I have read, some gangsters have a hard time selling stolen art, so they will trade art with other gangsters (as financial collateral for drugs, etc.). How sad.

    H Niyazi, Caravaggio did make similar versions of the same painting, such as with his work Boy Bitten by a Lizard. You can see the two versions of this painting here. In this case, though, the Odessa painting of The Taking of Christ is a copy by some unknown artist from the 17th century. The artist probably created this copy in order to practice and refine his artistic skill.

  • M says:

    On a side note, it makes me so mad to see the damage caused to this painting by the thieves. You can plainly see the creases where the thieves folded the canvas. What kind of idiot folds up a painting (instead of rolling it)?


  • ixoj says:

    Such drama!

  • e says:

    Wow, that's an exciting development!

    Even though it is a copy, it's kind of cool just thinking about how old that copy is.

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This blog focuses on making Western art history accessible and interesting to all types of audiences: art historians, students, and anyone else who is curious about art. Alberti’s Window is maintained by Monica Bowen, an art historian and professor.