From Caravaggio to CryptoPunks · weekly art market review

From Caravaggio to CryptoPunks · weekly art market review

Caravaggio — The Crowning with Thorns — 1604LarvaLabs — 104 CryptoPunks — Sothebys

Announcements of the possible sale of another Caravaggio in Italy and the future auction of a lot of 104 CryptoPunks have marked another busy week in the art market.

Images: Caravaggio, “The Crowning with Thorns”, 1604 — Lot of 104 CryptoPunks, by Larva Labs studio.

After the recent (and failed) attempt to sell the Casino dell’Aurora on the Via Veneto in Rome, which contains the only fresco by Caravaggio, with a starting price of 353 million euros, another Caravaggio is up for sale… and again with conditions that make it very difficult for the sale to materialise. It is “The Crowning with Thorns”, owned by the Banca Popolare di Vicenza, currently in liquidation. The work, a 178 × 125 cm canvas painted by Caravaggio around 1604 or 1605, cannot be moved from its current location because of Italy’s strict heritage protection laws.

This condition will, of course, discourage a large number of potential buyers in advance, and make a possible sale virtually anecdotal. However, several sources have published statements by Gloria Gatti, a lawyer and contributor to the Giornale dell’Arte, stating that the painting “could be worth more than 500 million euros” if it were sold on the open market without export restrictions, pointing out that the fresco in the Casino dell’Aurora “was valued at 350 million euros and ‘The Crowning with Thorns’ should be more valuable, as it is on a canvas, not a ceiling”.

Wait a minute… more than 500 million euros? Is that possible?

No, it is not.

First of all, “The Crowning with Thorns” is not a work of unanimous attribution. As we have already pointed out in our list of the most valuable paintings in private hands, several experts -such as Gash (2001) or Puglisi (1998)- have described its attribution as “doubtful”. It is true that a “dubious” Leonardo da Vinci was sold for $450 million some four years ago, but Caravaggio, despite being a colossus of art, does not have the mystical, almost deity-like status that the contemporary world has attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. Some sources point out, somewhat ambiguously, that the painting was authenticated in 2017… curiously enough, the same year that the Banca Popolare di Vicenza declared bankruptcy.

Moreover, to assume that the painting is more valuable than the fresco in the Casino dell’Aurora because it is a canvas is completely wrong, as the prohibition on being moved from its original location strips this painting of the great advantage of canvases over frescoes. In fact, one of the factors put forward (rightly) to justify the (greatly exaggerated) valuation of the fresco in the Casino dell’Aurora is that it is the only fresco painted by Caravaggio. “The Crowning with Thorns”, even if it is unanimously attributed, is not, of course, Caravaggio’s only work on canvas… and indeed, it is not his only painting dedicated to the theme of the Crowning with Thorns.

From an old master to the buzzword of the art world: NFT. Sotheby’s has announced that a lot of 104 CryptoPunks, created by the Larva Labs studio, will go on sale on 23 February. Last year, Sotheby’s auctioned CryptoPunk #7523 for $11.8 million, and now has announced that the 104 CryptoPunks have an estimated pre-sale price of between $20 million and $30 million. All of the CryptoPunks offered in the lot come from the collection of a single anonymous collector, known as “0x650d”. #2022 #ArtMarket #theartwolf

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