Lost Botticelli masterpiece goes on display in Cardiff

BBC Four series 'Britain's Lost Masterpieces' has rediscovered a 500 year old Botticelli painting

Cardiff Madonna Botticelli head detail

A rediscovered painting of Madonna and Child by Italian renaissance master Sandro Botticelli has gone on display at National Museum Cardiff after it was discovered in the BBC Four series ‘Britain’s Lost Masterpieces’ on Wednesday night. Painted in the 1480s, the artwork was thought to be a copy by an unknown artist but, after significant research and conservation, has been identified as originating from Botticelli’s workshops.

Advertisement

The painting was given to the museum by renowned Welsh art collector Gwendoline Davies in 1952, but doubts were soon raised as to whether the painting was an original Botticelli and it was downgraded to the status of a copy. This was due to an unusual arched background (now thought to have been added by by a forger in the early 20th century) and the layers of paint, varnish and grime which obscured the artwork’s true beauty.

Cardiff Madonna Botticelli after conservation

As seen on ‘Britain’s Lost Masterpieces’ last night, hours and hours of cleaning and analysis have revealed the work’s extraordinary quality. Madonna’s head is thought to be painted in a style particular to Botticelli, and infra-red photographs of the piece show a doodle (almost certainly by Botticelli) of a profile sketch of a man’s head made before the painting was finished.

The painting will now go on display at National Museum Cardiff for the first time in 10 years with the attribution ‘Botticelli and Workshop’.

Botticelli Cardiff Madonna Doodle XRay
A doodle of a man’s head beneath the painting, thought to be by Botticelli.
Advertisement

BBC4’s Britain’s Lost Masterpieces investigates overlooked paintings in British public collections. Previous discoveries have included works by Rubens, Titian, and Peter Brueghel. All three episodes of the fourth series can be watched on BBC iPlayer now.