The American billionaire hedge fund supervisor and artwork collector J. Tomilson Hill is the mysterious purchaser of an early 17th-century canvas billed as a rediscovered masterpiece by Caravaggio, in accordance to an individual with data of the sale.
The portray, “Judith and Holofernes,” depicts a scene from the Old Testament’s Book of Judith wherein a Jewish widow saves her besieged metropolis by tempting after which beheading an Assyrian normal.
The unsigned art work was estimated to promote on Thursday in Toulouse, France, for a minimum of $110 million, the best public sale worth ever achieved for any art work in Europe. But on Tuesday, the auctioneers Marc Labarbe and Eric Turquin introduced that the portray had bought to a collector outdoors France and that the public sale had been canceled.
That collector is Mr. Hill, who not too long ago retired as a vice chairman of the personal fairness agency Blackstone and who has amassed a noteworthy assortment of Modern and up to date artwork in addition to previous masters. Mr. Hill serves on the board of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in February opened his personal personal museum, the Hill Art Foundation, in Chelsea. The Foundation’s first present featured the up to date artist Christopher Wool (Mr. Hill owns 14 of his work). Mr. Hill was unavailable for remark.
How a lot Mr. Hill agreed to pay for the art work is not going to be disclosed underneath the phrases of a confidentiality settlement surrounding the acquisition. The auctioneers stated earlier this week that the worth was greater than the deliberate public sale’s minimal bid of 30 million euros, or about $34 million.
The portray is anticipated to be lent to a significant establishment such because the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., or the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
Mr. Hill, who goes by Tom, and his spouse, Janine, the director of fellowship affairs on the Council on Foreign Relations, have lent a lot of their assortment to main establishments over time. Their vital assortment of bronzes was featured in an exhibition on the Frick Collection in 2014. More not too long ago, the Hills lent their Florentine Renaissance masterwork, “Portrait of a Young Man in a Red Cap,” by Jacopo Pontormo, to the Uffizi Gallery and the Pitti Palace in Florence, Italy; the Morgan Library & Museum and the Getty.
Mr. Labarbe, an auctioneer based in Toulouse, found “Judith and Holofernes” in an attic there. Mr. Turquin, a specialist dealer in old masters based in Paris, who collaborated with Mr. Labarbe for the sale, conducted five years of painstaking research, determining it to be a long-lost Caravaggio masterpiece. (Mr. Turquin, contacted by email, declined to comment on the sale.)
The painting is not without complications, given the ongoing debate about its authenticity. Cataloged as having been made in Naples in about 1607, it has been viewed by a number of specialists at the Pinacoteca di Brera museum in Milan in 2016 and 2017. “The touch of the brush screamed out Caravaggio,” the museum’s director, James Bradburne, told The New York Times.
Among those who have confirmed the painting’s authenticity are Keith Christiansen, the chairman of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mr. Christiansen said in a report that the picture was “fully consistent with the work of Caravaggio,” except for one area where the execution was untypical, suggesting the possible “intervention of a second hand.”
Similar questions have been raised about “Salvator Mundi,” the reputed and rediscovered masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci, which Christie’s sold in 2017 to a close ally of a Saudi prince for $450.3 million, the highest price paid for a work of art at auction.
The Caravaggio was shown at Colnaghi gallery in London in February, at Kamel Mennour gallery in Paris in April and at Adam Williams Fine Art gallery in New York in May.
If it is indeed by Caravaggio, the painting would become one of just six by the painter — out of a total of 69 — in private hands.
“I think it was begun by Caravaggio and finished by another artist,” said Fabrizio Moretti, a leading old masters dealer in London. Because fully authenticated works by the artist are exceptionally rare, he added, “it’s the most important painting associated with Caravaggio to have appeared on the market for 20 years.”
Scott Reyburn contributed reporting from London.