Caravaggio 'imitation' found to be the real thing

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For centuries the atmospheric oil painting depicting biblical figures was viewed as a remarkably adept imitation of a Caravaggio masterpiece that was believed to have been lost.

It was only when The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew was being cleaned at the Royal Collection's conservation studio for inclusion in next year's Art of Italy' exhibition at the Queen's Gallery, that experts made an astonishing discovery: the painting was an original Caravaggio.

A spokeswoman said: "In recent years the general view has been that the picture records a Caravaggio design and is a copy of a lost original.

"Several scholars have now expressed positive views as to the work's authorship and importance and it is now believed to be the original."

Caravaggio (1571-1610) is considered the first great representative of the Baroque school of art.