A French export ban on a Judith Beheading Holofernes painting that Old Masters dealer Eric Turquin maintains is a Caravaggio has expired, clearing the way for the work’s restoration and possible export and sale. The export ban, which ended on December 24th, had allowed the Center for Research and Restoration of Museums of France, which is based at the Louvre, to analyze the painting for possible acquisition by the French government. Ultimately, though, France decided to pass. Now the work is now being restored and could potentially be exhibited outside France or sold.
Turquin told Le Figaro:
This allowed us to immediately begin cleaning it, which is very encouraging. But in any case no decision to sell the work will be made before the end of this restoration. That choice belongs to the family and the auctioneer in Toulouse who represents their interests.
The painting was discovered in 2014 in the attic of a house near Toulouse, a city in the southwest of France, when the family living there went up to investigate a leaky roof. It depicts the same subject as the Judith Beheading Holofernes (circa 1598–99) at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, which is a confirmed Caravaggio. In addition to the Italian painter’s distinctive and theatrical lighting, the Toulouse painting appears to feature the same model portraying Judith’s maid Abra. While Turquin is adamant about the attribution, others are skeptical. Princeton art historian Richard Spear told The Art Newspaper: “It's not a dilemma nor necessarily a surprise since opinions on the attribution are divided.”