The Modena Madonna: Raphael resurfaces in the 21st Century?

May 10, 2010

The Holy Family, or The Pearl was a collaboration between Raphael and one his most accomplished pupils Giulio Romano. It is now housed at the Prado Museum in Madrid

On an art history site with a penchant for the Renaissance, reporting on current affairs isn't something I'd commonly get to do - but thanks to something spotted at Livius Drusus ' wonderful History Blog, the news being reported is very fresh indeed - and involves none other than the sublime young Renaissance master Raphael.

The find was reported across the world on Friday May 7th 2010.  The painting is a small portrait which bears a striking resemblance to the Madonna in The Holy Family now on display at the Prado in Spain.

During an inventory of works stored near Modena Italy, Art Curator Mr. Mario Scalini took note of an exquisite frame housing a tiny oil painting. When inventory documents were equally mysterious about the painting's origin, he arranged for further investigations to be carried out in Florence.

Infrared scanning demonstrated promising signs of the handiwork of the Italian Master, though further examination will be required to verify the attribution.

One of the initial indicators that suggested the 12x16 inch image was not a copy was the lavish frame that it was mounted in - not a frame that would be squandered on a mere copy of a Raphael, which was what the painting was originally thought to be.

Left: Detail of the 'Modena Madonna'   Right: The Lavish frame speaks volumes of the perceived value of the frame to its most recent owners.

This actually isn't the first time one of Raphael's famous Madonna's has been at the centre of some modern excitement.

The de Brecy Tondo is a large painting depicting the Madonna and child. It is widely held to be a later copy of Raphael's Sistine Madonna. In 2004, pigment evidence placed the de Brecy Tondo as a pre 17th Century work, and the debate still rages on as to whether it can be attributed to Raphael. The de Brecy Trust, owners of the Tondo, would most definitely like to think it was - as the value of the painting would reach astronomical proportions. Unfortunately for de Brecy, it was not uncommon for later artists to make copies of famous Madonna's for private patrons, so they won't be getting $40million for the Tondo just yet!

The debate rages on... is the deBrecy Tondom, a 17th Century copy, or the real deal?

In the case of the Tondo and the 'Modena Madonna', much still needs to be done before either work can be definitively attributed to the man from Urbino.


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