• gerard van weyenbergh

Botticelli painting discovered in Cardiff.

It is still possible today to discover treasures of art.

Recently, a Virgin and Child by Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) were rediscovered at the National Museum Cardiff (Wales) by art historian Bendor Grosvenor and his team.

After being the subject of an episode of the English documentary series Britain lost Masterpieces on the BBC Four channel , the painting painted in the 1480s was installed in the museum rooms with the attribution "Botticelli and his studio." After the painting's legacy to the Welsh institution in 1952 by Gwendoline Davies, one of Wales's leading art collectors, the experts doubted its authenticity and demoted the work to a copy.

Because the presence of an unusual arch in the background and the alteration of layers of paint and varnish, darkening the work, the artwork was refused the status of masterpiece.

However, the painting, once cleaned and analyzed by the restorer and art historian Simon Gillespie, presented some surprises to the specialists.

First of all, it turned out that the head of the Madonna was painted specifically in the manner of Botticelli. The infrared photographs revealed drawings similar to those of the Italian master's studio, showing many changes in the position of the hands, as well as the drawing of a profile man's face, hidden until then, done before the painting was finished. These features hidden under the painting prove that the work is not a simple copy. "

" We had to proceed millimeter by millimeter because of the fragility of the panel and the original layers of paint. Removing the dust and the old varnish to reveal the beauty of Madonna's features was like witnessing the rebirth of a masterpiece, "describes Simon Gillespie.

The conservator discovered the arched background was added in the early of the19th century.

After a discussion with the museum, it was decided to keep this anachronistic background to illustrate the history of the painting. Now, the National Museum Cardiff hopes that future research and scientific work around Botticelli will help confirm the attribution of this Virgin to the Child. " Clearly, this wonderful painting comes from Botticelli's studio. Botticelli himself is probably responsible for more than a small part of the work. Additional studies are needed to determine how much and what areas of the work are in the hands of the master, "Says Laurence Kanter, curator at the Yale University Art Gallery, painter specialist. Article in Connaissance des arts