By Dr. Andrea da Montefeltro
The recent unveiling of a remarkable masterpiece by Raffaello Sanzio, depicting Mary Magdalene and dating back to 1505, has sent shockwaves through the art world. This extraordinary find, acquired by a discerning French private collector from a gallery, has rekindled the fervor surrounding Raphael’s genius. The astute gallery owner, with a discerning eye, purchased the painting at an auction, oblivious to the fact that the poplar board had been subtly mounted onto the back of a nineteenth-century Florentine-style parquet. This feature mirrored that of another Raphael masterpiece, the three Graces, housed at the Condé Museum. Interestingly, this newfound treasure originated from a private London collection, adding a layer of mystery to its storied past.
Renowned conservator and restorer, Nathalie Nolde of Chantilly, has lauded the artwork’s exceptional craftsmanship and finesse. A comprehensive study on this masterpiece was published in the esteemed scientific journal, “ISTE, OPEN SCIENCE, ARTS et SCIENCES,” boasting an editorial committee featuring luminaries such as Philippe Walter, Director of the CNRS and former Director of the Louvre laboratory, and Ernesto Di Mauro, Vice President of the European Interdisciplinary Committee of the Academy of Sciences.
Delving into the historical tapestry of Raphael’s Magdalene, scholars unearthed fascinating details. A notarial deed from 1565 confirmed its ownership by the Fontana family. Subsequently, this painting found its place in the 1623 inventory of Della Rovere’s collection and in the 1631 inventory of the Ducal Palace of Urbino. The painting’s journey then led to Florence, where it was included in an inventory of works transferred from Urbino. Intriguingly, another Magdalene, assumed to be a copy, surfaced in this transfer. The presence of Perugino’s Magdalene in the Villa del Poggio Imperiale’s 1654 inventory further complicates the narrative. Over time, attributions shifted, with Perugino’s work eventually attributed to Raphael, underscoring the intricacies of art historical assessment.
However, at the Palazzo Pitti, there is a Magdalene attributed to Perugino, but it does not appear in the inventory of the Ducal Palace of Urbino in 1631 or in the list of works transferred from Urbino to Florence. It could therefore be that Perugino’s Magdalene is the painting considered to be a copy of Raphael’s Magdalene. In the inventory of the Villa del Poggio Imperiale of 1654, Perugino’s work was found in the apartment of Vittoria Della Rovere. Although the attribution to Perugino is now commonly accepted by modern critics, in the 1691 inventory, this same painting became a work attributed to Raphael because historians of the time knew that the young prodigy had painted a portrait in effigy of the Saint! The detailed description of Perugino’s work currently at the Pitti Palace reveals valuable information. At the end of the 17th century, the name of the donor was inscribed on the bust of Mary Magdalene, but today it no longer appears there! If the inscription on the bust “S. Maria Madalena” replaced the name of the donor, this demonstrates that the Mary Magdalene of the Villa Borghese, which appeared in their collection in 1693 and bears the same inscription “S. Maria Madalena,” is a copy dated from the end of the 17th century of the work attributed to Perugino. Raphael’s version, highly superior to the other versions, does not have an inscription on the bust but diamond-shaped patterns reminiscent of those found on the Mona Lisa.
Raphael’s Mary Magdalene, a masterpiece measuring 46 cm x 34 cm, was presented at a prestigious conference in Marche, Italy. Experts such as Annalisa Di Maria, Dr. Andrea da Montefeltro, Professor Emeritus Jean-Charles Pomerol, and Mother Maria Cecilia Vicentin, Professor of Art History, illuminated the audience with their insights.
Scientific analyses of Raphael’s Magdalene have revealed compelling evidence supporting its authenticity. The palette’s consistency with Raphael’s Florentine period, the use of translucent monochrome layers similar to Leonardo’s teachings, and the meticulous execution process mirror Raphael’s known techniques. Remarkably, the total thickness does not exceed 1mm. The study also identified the use of the spolvero method and showcased numerous repentances throughout different phases of execution, up to the final work, a testament to the artist’s exceptional skill. In Perugino’s Magdalene, the repentances only appear at the level of the hands. These findings definitively affirm the rediscovered Mary Magdalene as the original work.
This breathtaking masterpiece not only underscores Raphael’s artistic brilliance but also sheds light on the collaborative and innovative spirit of the Renaissance art scene. As we marvel at this resplendent artwork, we are reminded of the enduring impact of these geniuses on the evolution of art and human creativity.
Story submitted by Annalisa Di Maria. The World Art News (WAN) is not liable for the content of this publication. All statements and views expressed herein are only an opinion. Act at your own risk. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission. © The World Art News