ROME – Caravaggio was notorious for his brawling, so it might be fitting that a claim by two Italian art historians that they discovered as many as 100 drawings by the painter in his boyhood has sparked an art world uproar.

The researchers say they found dozens of early drawings by Caravaggio in the collection of master Milanese artist Simone Peterzano, the painter’s teacher from 1584 to 1588.

Many experts have responded with skepticism to the startling claim: Over the centuries, art historians have never definitively attributed any drawings to Caravaggio, who shook up 16th-century art by using models from the lower walks of life for religious scenes and dramatically counterpointing light and dark.

On Friday, the curator of the drawings collection at Milan’s Sforzesco Castle, where the collection of 1,500 painting generally attributed to Peterzano is kept, challenged the seriousness of the researchers’ methods and contended that the pair had never set foot in the room to scrutinize the works.

“We would be happy to have a Caravaggio,” Francesca Rossi said. Making it especially difficult to pin works on Caravaggio was his habit of not signing his own work.

“What surprised us about this thing is the fact that these experts never came here in the drawings department to see the works,” Rossi told The Associated Press. “They evaluated (the drawings) using black and white photographs.”

The researchers defended their claim, which they made public on Thursday in an interview with the Italian news agency ANSA.

Adriana Conconi Fedrigolli, told the AP in a phone interview that some of their research team studied the drawings firsthand, then passed the phone to Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz.

The art historian said he say the drawings and was able to visit the collection “after hours,” thanks to his contacts with a high-level city official who was authorized to enter the drawings department.