PITTSBURGH, PA.- Carnegie Museum of Art
announces the results of two recent investigations of old master paintings in its collection: the discovery of an original 16th-century portrait of Isabella de Medici (15421576), hidden beneath Victorian-era overpainting; and the findings of a technical analysis of a portrait of Sir George Nevill, Lord Bergavenny, historically attributed to Hans Holbein the Younger. Both paintings were examined for display in Faked, Forgotten, Found: Five Renaissance Paintings Investigated, a new exhibition which details the careful analysis, conservation, and outstanding questions surrounding selected works in the museums collection.
Through inspection of paint crack-lines, and later X-radiographs, conservators determined that the original portrait of Isabella de Medici had been creatively repainted, likely to suit 19th-century tastes. CMOA paintings conservator Ellen Baxter was able to successfully clean and restore the painting, revealing a portrait of much greater depth and personality.
The museum was skeptical about the origins of the portrait of George Nevill, Lord Bergavenny (14691535), when new research began in 2013. CMOA undertook extensive provenance research, used infrared reflectography to reveal the underdrawing, and conducted elemental analysis of its ground and pigment layers. The results of these analyses, along with information from recently discovered documents describing the paintings condition and restoration in the 1920s, suggest that CMOA owns a 16th-century painting that originated in the Holbein workshop. It will hang in Faked, Forgotten, Found in a partially cleaned state that allows visitors to see some of the heavily damaged original surface that had long been obscured by early 20th-century repaints.
Joining these two paintings are the museums now authenticated Madonna and Child with Angel by Francesco Francia, hanging alongside the London National Gallerys known copy. In addition, the exhibition presents a work by Jan Rombouts the Elder, which for years had its own case of mistaken identity, and now finds itself the subject of still-unresolved Holocaust-era claims.
The detective work surrounding these paintings is presented through extensive multimedia documentation, highlighting a fascinating but little-seen aspect of museum practice. Taken together, the works in Faked, Forgotten, Found offer a behind-the-scenes look at the science of art preservation and restoration, as well as the winding paths that these works have followed to Pittsburgh.