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Caravaggio painting found in French attic sold to mystery foreign buyer

FILE PHOTO: Workers prepare to hang a painting entitled “Judith Beheading Holofernes”, that might have been painted by Italian master Caravaggio (1571-1610), at the Drouot auction house in Paris, France, June 14, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

TOULOUSE, France (Reuters) – A mystery foreign buyer has snapped up a painting by Italian master Caravaggio that was discovered five years ago in a French attic before it could be sold at auction, the auction house said on Tuesday.

The painting, which had been estimated at up to 150 million euros ($170 million), dates from 1607 and depicts biblical heroine Judith beheading the Assyrian general Holofernes.

“Judith and Holofernes” had been scheduled to be sold at an auction in the French city of Toulouse on June 27. It was found in 2014 by the owners of a house in Toulouse as they investigated a leak in their attic.

“The painting was sold privately to a foreign buyer,” the Marc Labarbe auction house and art expert Turquin said in a statement. “This sale is covered by a confidentiality agreement concerning the price and identity of the buyer.”

The auctioneers said the painting will leave French soil but will soon be on display in an unnamed “great museum”, which was a stipulation of the seller — that the public should continue to be able to see it.

“It went for a very good price,” Marc Labarbe told Reuters, declining to give the amount.

The painting, which had been kept in the attic “for at least 100 years”, has undergone exhaustive, and initially secret, analysis to establish its authenticity and is in surprisingly good condition, Turquin said earlier this year.

The painting is the second by Caravaggio to depict the decapitation of the drunken Holofernes by Judith. The first, dating from around 1600, is on display at the Barberini Palace in Rome.

Reporting by Johanna Decorse in Toulouse, and Michaela Cabrera and Luke Baker in Paris; writing by Michel Rose; Editing by Gareth Jones and Catherine Evans

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