LONDON (Reuters) – British art restorers working on a painting long thought to be a later imitation of a Sandro Botticelli masterpiece have found it in fact came from the Italian renaissance artist’s own workshop.
English Heritage said on Thursday its conservators made the discovery while removing layers of aging varnish from the “Madonna della Melagrana” (Madonna of the Pomegranate), which shows the mother of Christ holding both her child and the fruit.
“I noticed instantly that the painting bore a striking resemblance to the workshop of Botticelli himself. Stylistically, it was too similar to be an imitation, it was of the right period, it was technically correct and it was painted on poplar, a material commonly used at the time,” said English Heritage senior conservator Rachel Turnbull.
“To see these colors come out under these layers of later restoration, it was just a wonderful experience,” she told BBC radio.
The experts used X-ray and infra-red examination to reveal drawing underneath, including changes to the original lines, which provided clues to its real identity.
It is the closest version of the 15th century painter’s original masterpiece, which sits in Florence’s Uffizi gallery.
Famous for paintings like “The Birth of Venus” and “Primavera”, Botticelli commonly made copies of his own work to sell to those who liked a painting they had seen elsewhere.
Part of the collection amassed by 19th century diamond magnate Julius Wernher, the restored painting will go on display at London’s Ranger’s House gallery on April 1.
Writing by Elisabeth O’Leary; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne