Ecce Homo: Painting once up for auction for €1,500 confirmed as rare Caravaggio work

A painting that had been up for auction for just €1,500 (£1,285) has been confirmed as a lost work of Italian master Michaelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.

Spain's Prado Museum says the work titled Ecce Homo - which means behold the man in Latin - was due to be auctioned in April 2021 as a painting by 17th-century Spanish artist Jose de Ribera.

But before it could go under the hammer at a Madrid auction house, Spanish authorities imposed an export ban on the painting after the museum alerted the government it could be a Caravaggio.

The painting is one of only 60 Caravaggio paintings known to exist, the museum said, and its true value could stretch into tens of millions of euros.

It dates back to 1605-09 and is believed to have once been part of the private collection of Spanish king Phillip IV of Spain, the Prado added, and it will go on display from 27 May until October.

"For our part, we are more than happy to be the stage to present this new unshown work of Caravaggio to the public and critics," Prado Museum director Miguel Falomir said.

He added since the 19th century it had been in the hands of a family in Madrid, who recently sold it to an individual who wanted it displayed in the Prado Museum and has not been identified.

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The oil-on-canvas work, which measures 111 by 86cm, depicts the Biblical passage of the Ecce Homo, in which Jesus Christ is presented to the crowds before being crucified.

Although now owned by a private individual, the painting will not be allowed to leave Spain without government permission.

The Prado said the work has been under the custodianship of the Colnaghi art gallery since April 2021.

The painting was restored by specialist Andrea Cipriani and his team under the supervision of experts from the Madrid regional government.