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A possible Caravaggio in Mexico

A newly-found document reveals the possible connection between the Italian painter and a painting in Mexico
A possible Caravaggio in Mexico
Painting - Photo: Gregorio Borgia/AP
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Thanks to a document recently discovered, almost by chance in a corner of the State Archive of Rome, director Jesús Garcés Lambert has launched a search for a Caravaggio painting which an ancient congregation wanted to commission to the famous Italian painter, to place it on one of their churches in Mexico.

The brief document is dated June 25, 1602, and records a commission of the Congregation of the Holy Trinity of the Pilgrims and the Convalescent to one of their members, brother Carlo Cropelli.

While the calligraphy is hard to decipher, several phrases can be read unmistakenly: “Michel Angelo da Caravaggio,” “painting of the Holy Trinity,” “40 coins,” and “Mexico.” This last word is written with an “x” and a capital “m.”

According to the translation of the historians, Cropelli was tasked with commissioning a painting of the Holy Trinity to Michelangelo Merisi (1563-1610) for the temple of this congregation in Mexico, and the group was willing to pay 40 escudos for it.

“It means Caravaggio had a relationship with Mexico and that, perhaps, there is a painting of the maestro in our country which no one knows about,” claimed excitedly Mexican filmmaker Garcés Lambert during an interview with Notimex.

The Mexican filmmaker came in contact with the document during the research he did for his documentary “Caravaggio, The Soul and The Blood.


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The art documentary, directed by Mexican Jesús Garcés, will be screened this May
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While the document had already been archived, as it is listed in the files of the congregation, no one had noticed its potential relevance because it had never been reviewed by art historians.

Garcés Lambert stressed out that the amount of money offered in the document was high and quite attractive, as it was the equivalent to what the painter paid for a year's worth of rent in Rome.

According to the filmmaker, the fact that Caravaggio was known beyond Italy and that one of the most important congregations had chosen him for a commission speaks of the relevance the painter had in Mexico and New Spain.

Another of the phrases contained in the document provides new and exciting clues. For instance, when talking about the painting, the phrase “con qualche bel capriccio” – which translated literally means “with some good caprice” – for Garcés Lambert it means that the artists had total freedom on the work he was going to be commissioned but at the same time, that it refers to one of the qualities which stood out in the public and private life of Merisi: his whimsical nature.

“I'm currently doing some research, beyond the film, to determine whether the painting was made and where it could be. It could be it does, like other Caravaggio paintings which suddenly pop up. I'm going to go to Mexico City to continue my research,” he stated.

In fact, Garcés Lambert will display a copy of this document on May 3, during a conference at the Institute of Italian Culture of Mexico City. On May 4, he will attend the Latin America premiere of his documentary.

“Researchers are currently looking into the history of Merisi and the paintings they already know which is why if a new painting appears it could be an important finding, although we cannot deny this could also be a dead end,” insisted the director.


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