Amazon withdraws controversial Caravaggio book
A controversial new book in which two Italian art historians claim to have discovered 100 previously unknown Caravaggios has been withdrawn from sale, amid growing doubts over its reliability.
By Nick Squires, Rome
4:25PM BST 10 Jul 2012
The lavishly illustrated two-volume e-book , ‘Young Caravaggio – One hundred rediscovered works’, went on sale on Amazon just days ago and was available for download to Kindles.
But the book, which contained 1,000 images of Caravaggio’s work and the supposed “new” drawings, was abruptly withdrawn from Amazon’s website on Tuesday, with the title crossed out and a blank space where the cover of the book had been displayed.
Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz and Adriana Conconi Fedrigolli, the art historians who wrote it, claimed to have found 100 previously unrecognised sketches and drawings by the Baroque master after sifting through an archive of art work held by a castle in Milan.
The collection came from the studio of Simone Peterzano, a Milanese artist under whom Caravaggio studied as a teenager from 1584 to 1588.
The historians claimed that “after a long period of research”, their studies had “made it possible to understand the secret mainspring of one of the greatest painters of all time, overturning among other things the widespread theory that Caravaggio never drew.”
But their claims were met with scepticism by many scholars, while the custodians of the archive said they were unaware that the two art historians had been researching the collection.
The withdrawal of the book raised questions about why the historians’ claims, which garnered worldwide media attention, had not been peer-reviewed.
A spokesman for Amazon in Italy confirmed that the book was no longer on sale but declined to comment on whether the book had been withdrawn because of doubts over the calibre of the research. “It was available, but no longer,” she told The Daily Telegraph.
Meanwhile Stefano Boeri, a cultural official with Milan city council, announced the launching of an investigation to ascertain “the correctness of the procedures regarding the publication” of the e-book.
A panel of heritage experts from Castello Sforzesco, the castle where the archive of sketches and drawings is kept, would scrutinise “with rigour the ideas advanced by the authors of the e-book,” he said.
The curators of the collection pointed out that it had been studied by many well-qualified scholars in the past and none had identified any of the drawings as being the work of Caravaggio, whose real name was Michelangelo Merisi.
They said the two art historians had only studied photographic reproductions of the drawings, not the originals.
Maria Teresa Fiorio, the former director of the castle’s collection, said last week that she was “perplexed” by the claims made in the book.
“A serious scholar doesn’t produce an e-book – they would publish their findings in the appropriate journals. Everyone who has studied the collection has asked themselves – is it possible that some were drawn by Caravaggio? No one has drawn that conclusion.”
The authors of the book said it would instead be available for sale on lulu.com, a website for self-published books.
They said they did not know why their book had been dropped by Amazon.
“The jamming of the Amazon system has damaged us because to understand the discovery it is essential to see the 1,000 images that we have collated,” Mr Bernardelli Curuz told Ansa, the Italian news agency.