15th Century Painting Confirmed as Botticelli
Madonna of the Pomegranate will be on display at Ranger’s House in Greenwich from 1 April.
A painting long thought to be a later imitation of Sandro Botticelli’s famous Madonna of the Pomegranate has been revealed to be a rare example by the artist’s own workshop, English Heritage has revealed today.
The discovery was made while the painting was being cleaned by the charity’s conservators. The work’s true colours – hidden under more than a century of yellow varnish – will be revealed when it goes on display at Ranger’s House in Greenwich on 1 April.
Bought by diamond magnate Julius Wernher in 1897, Madonna of the Pomegranate (Madonna della Melagrana) (c.1487) is the closest version of the famous masterpiece by the Florentine master Botticelli, now in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.
Showing the Madonna and Christ Child flanked by four angels, the title refers to the pomegranate that is held by the Madonna and Child to symbolize Christ’s future suffering.
The assumption that the painting was a later imitation arose because of its variations in detail to the original and the thick yellow varnish that concealed the quality of the work. However, x-ray testing, infrared studies and pigment analysis have revealed that the painting is from the very workshop in Florence where Botticelli created his masterpieces.
'Too Similar to be an Imitation'
Rachel Turnbull, English Heritage’s Senior Collections Conservator, said:
'Being able to closely examine and conserve this painting for the first time in over 100 years has really given us the chance to get up-close and personal with the paintwork. 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.
'After removing the yellowing varnish, x-ray and infrared examination revealed under-drawing, including changes to the final composition uncommon in straight imitations. After consultations with our colleagues at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Gallery London, we are finally able to confirm that Madonna of the Pomegranate is from the Florentine workshop of master painter Sandro Botticelli.'
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