The Lost Caravaggio

I have just done a short piece on Sky News about the Mystery of the Lost Caravaggio, a programme about the Caravaggio which was stolen from an oratory in Palermo – it’s assumed by the mafia – and then stored in a barn where it was eaten by pigs or rats.   Now Factum Arte has been commissioned to create a replica using the latest three-dimensional digital technology.   The question is whether or not this will effectively replace the original.   The answer in this instance is surely no because however brilliantly its done, it’s based on a small number of old photographs and a great deal of guesswork based on close study and analysis of the painting technique of other, earlier works by Caravaggio.   But I find the issue trickier with three-dimensional works which have been studied in situ with the latest digital technology, as has happened with the Tomb of Tutankhamun where the replica is expected to replace the original and the original, like the Caves of Lascaux, will be closed.   Not to mention the Temples of Palmyra which have been destroyed forever and henceforth will only ever be experienced as replicas.   Can the aura described by Walter Benjamin as belonging only to the original transfer to the replica ?

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