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Charles Beddington said Caravaggio is a particularly difficult artist as the quality of his execution is variable, and so he’s easy to copy. Beddington said the big auction houses are keen to avoid bad publicity and are extremely careful about consulting the relevant academics.

Samson Spanier said several recent high-profile cases suggest a rise in art litigation as collectors are increasingly willing to sue to recoup losses, and because the authenticity of works of art is becoming easier to prove as more scientific tests are being used.

Authenticated works by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio rarely appear on the art market, and no painting catalogued as being by the artist has appeared at auction this century. His paintings are coveted by many wealthy art collectors for their rarity.

Many historians regard Caravaggio as the most innovative artist of the Baroque period.

Works of art whose true value is missed by cataloguers, known as sleepers, can create difficulties for auction houses once owners become aware of lucrative after-sales. Cases involving sleepers at international auction houses have mostly been settled before going to trial.

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