A painting believed to be Caravaggio’s long-lost Judith and Holofernes (ca. 1607) has been sold privately just days before it was due to go up for auction in the south of France, where it was expected to sell for between €100 million and €150 million ($113.8 million–$170.7 million). On Monday, a collector of contemporary art and Old Masters who’d registered to participate in Thursday’s auction offered “exceptionally more” than the opening bid of $34 million, the dealer Eric Turquin (co-organizer of the sale with Toulouse-based auctioneer Marc Labarbe) told the Wall Street Journal’s Kelly Crow.
The sellers, a family based in Toulouse who discovered the large painting in their attic in 2014, agreed to the deal in part because the buyer pledged to put the work on display in a public museum. Per the terms of the deal, the identity of the buyer and the selling price cannot be disclosed, though Turquin and Labarbe made clear in announcing the sale that the buyer isn’t French, and the work will consequently leave France. (The painting was previously subject to an export ban, which would have allowed the French state to acquire it, but that expired in late 2018.)
Though the exact sum paid for the work may never be known, it did eclipse Caravaggio’s auction record of just $145,500, set in 1998.