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Stolen ‘Caravaggio’ likely a copy, experts say

A purported masterpiece by painter Caravaggio stolen from a Ukraine museum and recovered last week by Berlin police is in fact probably a contemporary copy, experts said Wednesday.

Stolen 'Caravaggio' likely a copy, experts say
Photo: DPA

Police announced Monday they had seized the painting, “The Taking of Christ,” last Friday and arrested four suspected members of an international group of art thieves as they tried to sell the 17th century painting in Berlin.

In the joint operation with Ukrainian authorities, another 20 people were arrested in Ukraine. The painting was stolen from a museum in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa in July 2008.

But now art experts have stepped forward to dispute the Odessa Museum of Western and Eastern Art’s claim that the painting is the original, worth hundreds of millions of euros.

Roberto Contini, curator for Italian and Spanish art for the 16th through 18th centuries at Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie art museum, told daily Der Tagesspiegel he believes it is a “very good contemporary copy” – which is not the same as a forgery.

According to popular expert opinion, the actual original is housed at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin, the paper said.

“Forgery would naturally be the wrong term,” a spokeswoman from the Dublin museum told news agency DPA. “Back then copying the work of other masters belonged to the training and refinement of an artist.”

The authenticity of both paintings has been the subject of controversy over the years.

The Dublin version was discovered in 1990 in a Dublin Jesuit monastery, where it had reportedly been since 1930. Up until then, the Odessa version was thought to be the original, Der Tagesspiegel said.

But the Odessa version, also known as “The Judas Kiss,” probably wasn’t painted until about 20 to 25 years after the original in 1602, said Contini, who is preparing for an upcoming Caravaggio exhibition in Berlin.

Despite being a copy, it is “still a historically important piece,” he said, but not worth quite as much as Odessa has claimed.

Unfortunately the work confiscated by Berlin police was heavily damaged, showing wrinkles and lost chips of paint because the thieves folded it, instead of rolling.

According to news agency DPA, German prosecutors were aware they were dealing with a copy, but a spokesperson said on Wednesday this made no difference in their arrests.

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POLITICS

Ex-chancellor Schröder sues German Bundestag for removing perks

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has sued the German parliament for removing some of his official post-retirement perks over his links to Russian energy giants, his lawyer said Friday.

Ex-chancellor Schröder sues German Bundestag for removing perks

Schröder, 78, has come under heavy criticism for his proximity to Russian President Vladimir Putin and involvement with state-backed energy companies.

The decision to suspend Schröder’s taxpayer-funded office and staff in May was “contrary to the rule of law”, Michael Nagel, told public broadcaster NDR.

Schröder “heard of everything through the media”, Nagel said, noting that the Social Democrat had asked for a hearing before the budget committee responsible but was not given the chance to express himself.

READ ALSO: Germany strips Schröder of official perks over Russia ties

Schröder’s lawyers filed the complaint with an administrative Berlin court, a spokesman for the court confirmed.

In its decision to strip him of the perks, the committee concluded that Schröder, who served as chancellor from 1998 to 2005, “no longer upholds the continuing obligations of his office”.

Most of Schröder’s office staff had already quit before the final ruling was made.

Despite resigning from the board of Russian oil company Rosneft and turning down a post on the supervisory board of gas giant Gazprom in May, Schröder has maintained close ties with the Kremlin.

The former chancellor met Putin in July, after which he said Moscow was ready for a “negotiated solution” to the war in Ukraine — comments branded as “disgusting” by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Last week, the Social Democrats concluded that Schröder would be allowed to remain a member after he was found not have breached party rules over his ties to the Russian President.

Schröder’s stance on the war and solo diplomacy has made him an embarrassment to the SPD, which is also the party of current Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

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