Possible Raphael found in Modena

Remember when there was a lot of hype over “La Bella Principessa,” the painting recently attributed to Leonardo? It looks like similar excitement has built over a new painting, which possibly could be attributed to Raphael (shown right). The painting was discovered in a storage room in the ducal palace of Este, located in Saussolo (outside of Modena, Italy). Mario Scalini, state art superintendent for the area, was going through the storage inventory and found the painting tucked away. After noticing the high quality of the painting, he wondered if it could actually be by Raphael (instead of an 18th century painting, as it was previously described). There was no record of a Raphael currently in the estate collection, but Scalini went through the ducal archives and found a 1663 reference that mentions a “portrait of a woman” by Raphael. There is no record that this Raphael painting was ever sold from the collection or loaned, so it could be that this painting was simply forgotten.

It will be interesting to see what results from tests and analysis of this painting. The History Blog points out that recent tests have revealed the painting was restored in the 17th and 19th centuries, which shows that the painting is older than the 18th century. In addition, these restorations also show that artwork was valued, since people made the effort to restore the painting throughout different centuries.

So, what do I think of the possible attribution to Raphael? I think it’s possible, but I’m trying to not get too excited. At this point, I think the most exciting discovery is that a Raphael painting was listed as part of the ducal collection. In regards to the painting itself, I’d recommend that you read this great post from Art History Today, in which the author discusses some reservations about the painting being by Raphael. I agree with the ideas that are presented there; I think it is possible that this painting might be by a student of Raphael (perhaps Giulio Romano?), but not the master himself.

  • heidenkind says:

    It could be, but I don't know… there's something wrong about it. Raphael's female portraits usually look at the viewer instead of away. It almost looks closer to Leonardo's style to me.

  • ixoj says:

    I just wish I could live in a place where I could discover works of art in strange places like in the bathroom wall…or in my storage room…or somewhere else.

  • M says:

    Oh, heidenkind, I forgot to mention one other thing, which helps solidify the attribution to Raphael and/or his followers. It was thought that this portrait of a woman was an 18th century copy of The Holy Family (The Pearl) by Giulio Romano (with Raphael), c. 1518. It's located in the Prado. I think the resemblance is pretty striking. If I didn't see it, I probably would have doubts similar to yours, heidenkind. Superintendent Scalini wants to borrow the Prado piece to compare it with his find.

    ixoj: Sigh. Me too! I'd want it to be European art, too, which means I'd probably have to move to Europe. Darn. 🙂

  • M says:

    P.S. You might need to scroll down once you click on the Prado link. Their site can be temperamental, and sometimes the image and information appear at the bottom of the page.

  • M says:

    UPDATE: The Telegraph reported that the underpainting of the portrait has been determined as a genuine Raphael. The rest of the painting was probably finished by Giulio Romano after Raphael died in 1520.

  • heidenkind says:

    That does look really similar! Very cool.

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This blog focuses on making Western art history accessible and interesting to all types of audiences: art historians, students, and anyone else who is curious about art. Alberti’s Window is maintained by Monica Bowen, an art historian and professor.