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Early Diego Velázquez Masterpiece Identified at Yale University
Attributed to Diego Velazquez, The Education of the Virgin, ca. 1617–18. Oil on canvas. Yale University Art Gallery.
NEW HAVEN, CT.- Based on the research of John Marciari, currently Curator of European Art and Head of Provenance Research at the San Diego Museum of Art and formerly the Nina and Lee Griggs Associate Curator of Early European Art at the Yale University Art Gallery, the seventeenth-century Spanish painting portraying the Education of the Virgin in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery has been reattributed to Diego Velazquez. The painting was donated to the Gallery in 1925 by Henry Hotchkiss Townshend, b.a. 1897, ll.b. 1901, and Raynham Townshend, md, b.s. 1900s. It is thought to have been in the Townsend family for at least 40 years and was in poor condition when it arrived at the Gallery. Prior to the current attribution, the painting was considered to be by an unknown artist from Seville, Spain. The work is now believed to have been painted by Velazquez in Seville around 1617, making it one of the artist’s earliest works. The painting is currently being studied in advance of conservation treatment and is not on view.

As part of the Gallery’s renovation and expansion project—which began with the renovation of its 1953 Louis Kahn building in 2003 and continues now with the renovation and expansion of the 1928 Egerton Swartwout building and the 1866 Street Hall, designed by Peter Bonnett Wight—the Gallery completed a thorough and extensive review of its collections. Curators, working closely with the Gallery’s conservation staff, have been studying works both with the naked eye and with conservation techniques that make visible the underlayers of the objects. In some instances, this research has resulted in new attributions, a long process involving technical and documentary research, visual analysis, and consultation between curators and their specialist colleagues throughout the world. The Velazquez painting discussed in Marciari’s article for the July–September 2010 issue of Ars magazine is the result of six years of research and analysis.

The Gallery’s Department of European Art, founded in 2002, focuses on art from the ninth through the nineteenth century. Laurence Kanter, formerly Curator-in Charge of the Robert Lehman Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, became the Gallery’s inaugural Lionel Goldfrank III Curator of Early European Art in 2002. That same year, John Marciari, who holds a ph.d. in the History of Art from Yale University, came to the Gallery as the Florence B. Selden Curatorial Fellow in the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, and in this position he coorganized the traveling exhibition and catalogue Master Drawings from the Yale University Art Gallery. Marciari became the Gallery’s first Nina and Lee Griggs Associate Curator of Early European Art in 2004, and in 2008, he left Yale for his current position in San Diego.

Yale University Art Gallery | John Marciari | Diego Velázquez |

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