Following an important restoration, experts discovered that the ‘copy’ was painted by the Master
At the National Museum Wales collection, a Madonna, considered a copy of Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), was relegated to the Museum’s warehouses. However, the experts working with BBC Four program Britain’s Lost Masterpieces, thanks to a careful restoration, revealed it to be an original work.
The painting is now finally exhibited in the rooms of the Museum in Cardiff as “work of the Florentine master Sandro Botticelli”.
The painting was part of the collection of the Welsh philanthropist Gwendoline Elizabeth Davies (1882-1951) who donated it to the Cardiff museum as a painting of Botticelli’s workshop. The team carried out an in-depth analysis and the removal of layers of dirt that allowed the attribution to the Florentine Renaissance master.
“It was like witnessing the rebirth of a masterpiece”, explained Gillespie, who conducted the investigation. The scholar, with infrared rays, observed that the underlying preparatory drawing was made by Botticelli’s hand. A clue was hidden in the design of the hands, which showed a series of telltale signs of the numerous attempts made by the author before arriving at the final work. This particular detail confirms that it is not a simple copy but an original.
Bendor Grosvenor, co-presenter of the show, said: “When I first saw this painting in the museum store, I was struck by the extraordinary beauty of the Madonna’s face. Despite all the over-paint, parts of it reminded me of Botticelli’s most famous painting, the Birth Of Venus. I’m now convinced that Botticelli played an important part in its production, and am delighted it has once more gone on public display.”