Last Friday, the publication of a two-volume e-book proclaiming that Caravaggio's earliest works have sat unrecognised in a public building in Milan for almost 90 years raised a storm of scepticism from art historians and Italian cultural officials.
Michelangelo Merisi, known to most by his mononymic nickname Caravaggio, pioneered the technique of chiaroscuro during the height of his career in Rome, but has artistic roots in the workshop of Milanese mannerist painter Simone Peterzano. Caravaggio studied with Peterzano from ages 13 to 17 (1584-1588), but none of his work from that period is known to historians.
Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz and Adriana Conconi Fedrigolli set out to fill this gap through their study of the 1,378 paintings and drawings from Peterzano's studio, housed at the Castello Sforzesco, owned by the city of Milan. After two years of independent work comparing sketches from the collection to the style of faces and limbs in Caravaggio's known works, they self-published the 477-page two-volume set Young Caravaggio—One Hundred Rediscovered Works to support their claims that the sketches and paintings they've identified could only have been done by Caravaggio.
Art historians specialising in Caravaggio's work have expressed concern with Curuz and Fedrigolli's claims, from their timeline to the accuracy of their stylistic attributions to the quality of the sketches they drew their conclusions from. Such discoveries are typically peer reviewed in academic journals before wider publication.
Amazon removed the book from its inventory early this week. Though no statement has been issued, the removal may centre around the illegal use of copyrighted images. Officials at the castle did not give permission for Curuz and Fedrigolli to reproduce the paintings and sketches and claim to have no record of the pair ever visiting the collection, just a request for low-resolution digital copies of the images.
If the paintings and sketches can be independently verified as the work of Caravaggio, their value is estimated to be 700 million euros. The city of Milan owns the collection from Peterzano's studio and has made it available online through the city's website.