A painting being auctioned in Madrid has turned out to be a missing work by Italian Baroque master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Spain's Prado Museum has confirmed that the painting, auctioned in 2021, is the work of Caravaggio. The painting will be presented to the public for the first time at the museum later this month.

The Prado said the work, titled "Ecce Homo" (Latin for "Look at Man"), will be on display as a special one-piece exhibition from May 27 until October, following an agreement with the new owner, whose identity has not been disclosed.

"Since its reappearance at an auction three years ago, Ecce Homo represents one of the greatest discoveries in art history," the museum said in a statement.

Spanish authorities halted the auction of the work, which was thought to belong to a student of 17th-century Spanish painter Jose de Ribera, but was suspected to be Caravaggio's after the museum's warning, in April 2022, and then imposed an export ban on the work.

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The painting was to be auctioned with a starting price of 1,500 euros. A genuine Caravaggio painting can be worth tens of millions of euros.

Since then, thanks to restoration work carried out by the owners, it has been discovered that the painting belonged to Caravaggio and arrived in Spain in the 17th century.

The work, which had been in the hands of a family in Madrid since the 19th century, was recently sold to a person who wanted it to be on public display at the Prado Museum.

Miguel Falomir, Director of the Prado Museum, said in a statement: "For our part, we are delighted to present this new, previously unseen work by Caravaggio to the public and critics."

Ecce Homo

"Painted by the great Italian artist between 1605-09 and once believed to have been part of the private collection of King Phillip IV of Spain, the painting is one of around 60 works by Caravaggio known to exist and is therefore one of the old master's most valuable works of art in the world," the museum said.

The oil on canvas depicts the biblical passage Ecce Homo, in which Jesus Christ is presented to the crowd before his crucifixion. The work measures 111 by 86 centimeters.

Although currently owned by a private individual, the painting is not allowed to leave Spain without government permission.

The Prado said the work has been under the custody of the Colnaghi art gallery in collaboration with experts since April 2021. The painting was restored by expert Andrea Cipriani and his team under the supervision of experts from the Madrid regional government.