Art experts may never agree on whether it is an authentic Caravaggio, but a painting one family found when checking a leak in the rafters of an old house in southern France may turn out to be worth upward of $136 million. The large canvas, which measures 56 inches by 69 inches, has already been dated to between 1600 and 1610, reports the Guardian. A leading expert tells AFP that the painting depicting Biblical heroine Judith beheading an Assyrian general is a "true original" that is "almost certainly identifiable, even if we do not have any tangible or irrefutable proof." The so-called "Lost Caravaggio" likely went missing a century after it was painted, while another version of it rediscovered in 1950 hangs at the National Gallery of Ancient Art in Rome, reports the BBC.
Caravaggio, born in 1571, is known for having led a violent and chaotic life (he was jailed often and is said to have killed a man) and died mysteriously at just 38 years of age. But he also pioneered the Baroque painting technique known as chiaroscuro, which features light and shadow in sharp contrast. The expert the family turned the dusty painting over to upon finding it in April 2014 has consulted with many others, including at the Louvre in Paris and in Caravaggio's native Italy, and concludes that a "copier or a less talented artist" wouldn't have been able to paint so masterfully, reports the Los Angeles Times. Meanwhile, France has banned the export of the painting for 30 months to allow for a full investigation. (Another hundred early Caravaggio works were found just a few years ago.)