On this day 20 years ago, the National Gallery of Ireland confirmed that a lost masterpiece by the sixteenth century Italian painter Caravaggio had been found and authenticated following extensive investigation. The painting titled ‘The Taking of Christ’, which is owned by the Jesuit order, had been in the gallery since 1991.
‘The Taking of Christ’ is one of three paintings by Caravaggio painted for the Matei family in Rome between 1601 and 1603. The whereabouts of the painting had been unknown for a number of centuries, and had made its way to Ireland via Scotland. An eminent Dublin paediatrician Dr. Lee Wilson had given the painting to the Jesuit community. Final restoration on the painting is taking place in preparation for the unveiling at an exhibition on the 17th of November, 1993.
Dr. Brian Kennedy Assistant Director of the National Gallery speaks about the significance of the painting and says that the painting is in fantastic condition. The painting is valued at between £25 and £50 million and is amongst the most valuable paintings at the National Gallery of Ireland.
Fr. Noel Barber of the Jesuits, who was responsible for passing the painting over to the National Gallery, speaks about the painting. He says he had believed the painting, which has been in the possession of the Jesuits since the early 1930s, was by Flemish artist Gerard van Honthorst. After approaching the National Gallery about getting some restoration work done, it was discovered that the painting was in fact a Caravaggio. The Jesuits presented the painting on indefinite loan to the National Gallery of Ireland making it available to view by the public.
This RTÉ News report by Byran Dobson was broadcast on the 20th of August, 1993.