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Family stumbles on Caravaggio painting worth $137 million in attic

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The painting Judith Beheading Holofernes at its presentation in Paris on April 12, 2016. (Reuters)

Imagine you have to go to the attic to fix a persistent leak and you stumble on a Baroque masterpiece that turns out to worth more than $137 million. This is what happened to a French couple two years ago when they found a Caravaggio while attending to a leaky roof.

"They had to go through the attic and break a door which they had never opened ... They broke the door and behind it was that picture. It's really incredible," said painting expert Eric Turquin on Tuesday.

French art expert Eric Turquin stands beside a painting attributed to Italian master Caravaggio that was found in the attic of a house near Toulouse, southwestern France. (Reuters)

Stressing that the painting could be worth around $137 million, Turquin described it as having “the light, the energy, typical of Caravaggio, without mistakes, done with a sure hand and a pictorial style that makes it authentic.”

He added the painting “must be considered the most important painting, by far, to have emerged in the last 20 years by one of the great masters.”

Dubbed the “Caravaggio in the attic” it depicts Biblical heroine Judith beheading an Assyrian general and is thought to be have painted in Rome in the 1600s by Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio.

"A painter is like us he has tics, and you have all the tics of Caravaggio in this. Not all of them, but many of them -- enough to be sure that this is the hand, this is the writing of this great artist," said Turquin.

Hailing the art piece “as a very important Caravaggian marker, whose history and attribution are still to be fully investigated,” the French culture ministry has issued an export ban on the canvas.

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