By Charlotte King
It was recently discovered that a painting housed in the National Museum Cardiff thought to be a copy is actually an authentic Botticelli masterpiece. The painting of the Madonna was dismissed as a bad copy of Sandro Boticelli’s artistic style, but BBC Four’s programme, Lost Masterpieces, discovered that it is, in fact, an original.
The 400-year-old painting became part of Gwendoline Davies’, a Welsh philanthropist, collection who bequeathed the piece to the National Museum Cardiff in the early 1950s. Davies had believed that the painting was an original masterpiece when it was in her collection, however over time, experts downgraded its status to a bad copy. The museum describes Botticelli as “one of the most esteemed artists in Italy” at the height of his fame in the 15th century.
The Madonna painting had been kept in storage for over 50 years at the museum in Cardiff, with one of the presenters of the BBC programme stating this is because “experts never quite made the effort to go and see it” because it was just too far away from London.
The BBC presenter said that when looking at the painting, however, parts of it reminded him of the Birth of Venus, Botticelli’s most renowned painting, and concluded that the Florentine artist was crucial in Madonna’s creation.
It is even thought that one small doodle of a man’s face in the bottom corner of the painting was done by Botticelli himself, discovered through X-ray scans of the piece. Infra-red photos uncovered this drawing typical of Botticelli’s style and this is what proved that the painting was not a copy but in fact an original.
Speaking to the BBC, Adam Webster, Chief Conservator at the National Museum Cardiff, commented: “The results are striking and demonstrate the crucial role that conservation plays in the proper understanding of our heritage.
“We are delighted with and grateful for the results.
“The painting now sits beautifully in our galleries and I hope fans of the series will come and enjoy this masterpiece.”
The painting will now be put on display at the National Museum Cardiff in Cathays Park.