Exhibition Showcases Newly-Uncovered Renaissance Paintings

Faked, Forgotten, Found opens June 28

Pittsburgh, PA…Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) 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 (1542–1576), 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 museum’s 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.

Before and after: Isabella de’ Cosimo I de Medici, c. 1570–1574

Attributed to Allesandro Allori
Isabella de’ Cosimo I de Medici, c. 1570–1574
oil on canvas (transferred from panel)
Gift of Mrs. Paul B. Ernst
Courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art

The museum was skeptical about the origins of the portrait of George Nevill, Lord Bergavenny (1469–1535), 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 painting’s 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.

Holbein work, showing partial-treatment

Hans Holbein the Younger or workshop; Sir George Nevill, 3rd Lord Bergavenny; oil and tempera on panel; Bequest of Roy A. Hunt

Hans Holbein the Younger or workshop; Sir George Nevill, 3rd Lord Bergavenny; oil and tempera on panel; Bequest of Roy A. Hunt

Joining these two paintings are the museum’s now authenticated Madonna and Child with Angel by Francesco Francia, hanging alongside the London National Gallery’s 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.

Francesco Francia Madonna and Child with Angel, 1495–1500 oil on panel Howard A. Noble Fund Courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art

Francesco Francia; Madonna and Child with Angel, 1495–1500; oil on panel; Howard A. Noble Fund; Courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art

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.

Support for Faked, Forgotten, Found: Five Renaissance Paintings Investigated is provided by the Kaufman Endowment, the Bernard and Barbara Mars Works on Paper Art Exhibition Endowment, the Henry Gailliot Exhibitions Endowment, the Alexander C. & Tillie S. Speyer Fund, and the Gailliot Family Foundation.

General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Carnegie Museum of Art
Carnegie Museum of Art, founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895, is nationally and internationally recognized for its collection of fine and decorative art from the 19th to 21st centuries. The collection also contains important holdings of Japanese and old master prints. Founded in 1896, the Carnegie International is one of the longest-running surveys of contemporary art worldwide. The Heinz Architectural Center, part of Carnegie Museum of Art, is dedicated to enhancing understanding of the built environment through its exhibitions, collections, and public programs. The Hillman Photography Initiative serves as a living laboratory for exploring the rapidly changing field of photography. For more information about Carnegie Museum of Art, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, call 412.622.3131 or visit our website at www.cmoa.org


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