A hidden composition was discovered under the layers of paint of a painting by Sandro Botticelli.
The “Man of Sorrows” painting is scheduled to be auctioned at Sotheby’s on January 27 and the discovery was made during a technical analysis undertaken by the auction house in preparation for the sale in which the painting is guaranteed $ 40 million, according to Le Journal des Arts.
Chris Apostle, senior vice president and director of Old Master paintings at Sotheby’s in New York City, believes the abandoned composition is an image of a Madonna and child. As The Art Newspaper noted, Madonna “cradles baby Christ’s head intimately against hers, cheek to cheek.” The facial features would be visible on the infrared images.
The lines of the underlying design vary in thickness, suggesting that they may have been drawn from a standard cartoon and then run in liquid pigment, the store noted. However, the Apostle suggests that the head of the Infant Jesus was “unique” because no replica exists in Botticelli’s autographs or studio works.
Sotheby’s further notes that the reverse side of the panel “bears what appears to be an old unidentified inventory number (355) painted red in the upper left corner”. There is also a wax seal near the center of the supper rim “which may indicate the provenance of the painting in Rome, possibly where the first recorded owners, the Sartoris, acquired it, as they resided in the Eternal city for many years “.
Finding an abandoned composition can be somewhat unusual, but it’s not uncommon. The apostle explained that he had seen something similar in the past.
“The panel was a precious commodity during the Renaissance,” he said. With that in mind, if an artist painted something and then decided to give it up, “then we wouldn’t want to throw it away.” In this case, it appears that Botticelli simply flipped the panel the other way around and decided to use it for another composition – one that became a defining piece in the artist’s end of career.
It is believed to be dated to around 1500 or possibly as late as 1510, which was very close to Botticelli’s death, according to Sotheby’s.
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