Madonna It is a very old canvas, browned with age. This is not a modern production stretcher (available only in the last 60 years, which uses construction staples) but the traditional hand nailed (ancient nails but, not square head nails) canvas to handmade stretcher. The frame, or molding, is much newer, probably replaced during the last 75 to 50 years. This was done no doubt due to wear or taste, in the modern era. The present frame is pine, stained: staining wood for moldings was not a practice at the time we assume this “Piece” to have been painted. The liner, however, shows every bit of the age assumed for this dramatic Original Oil Painting. The liner was crusted with ‘the dust of the ages’, heaped in the corners, discovered during disassembly. Additionally, the liner 3/8” wide, appears handmade, not manufactured, with some anomalies on its surface. The unmistakable sheen of gold leaf paint on the liner was evident upon inspection. No one, in that era, would have used a Gold Leaf liner on an inexpensive, none too important painting. Therefore, it is an important painting. One more reason I need to clean it, and search again for the Signature.

Upon interviewing client, Mrs. …………., we ascertained history of the Painting back to the early 1900’s. It had been purchased by Client’s mother’s Uncle, who resided in Vienna, which was at that time, truly one of the Art Capitols of Europe. It is understood; this Uncle would have had the Means, the Interest, and the Taste to purchase something extraordinary, such as this “Piece”. He conveyed to client’s mother, when gifting it to her, “This is Special.” He had evidently been told that at the time of acquisition or simply understood what he had as, …an Art Treasure. Client received it from her mother prior to …………’s marriage to Mr. ……. in 1931. Client doesn’t recall when she received it from her mother.

The Painting itself shows the expected attrition of an Art Treasure this ancient. Additionally, Madonna’s fingers definitely need restoration. This anomaly in the painting has been the case since Client received the “Piece” previous to 1931, from her mother. In addition, there is a definite darkening of the image, particularly in the background, reminiscent of Rembrandt’s valuable Oil paintings. We assume, this is due to the ancient varnish darkening with age, just as many of Rembrandt’s renowned “Pieces” did. Also the surface of this painting shows the hinging of the differing layers of pigment, most especially in the upper background. All of these issues point to antiquity of this Fabulous Find.

The image itself, shows the resigned and despondent visage almost exactly like that of Madonna in the Pietà, by Michelangelo, his famous sculpture done 1497-99; the same expression found in many other paintings of that epoch. This expression was common in that era, with the nearly closed eyes, plus the drape over the blond hair, speaks volumes about the century when this was painted. At that time, virtually all artist’s painted in the manner specified by the Pope, who was their only pay check. Moreover, culturally the church and adherence to its tenants was quite strong, nearly universal. Later, Royalty became a source for Artist’s commissions as well, but by then, things had changed, thanks in large part to Michelangelo, daVinci, Raphael and many other Old Master’s serious commitment to realism, accurate and anatomically correct figure drawing. In that new freer atmosphere {engendered by the de Medici circle of humanists, flourishing in Florence} artists were allowed to enlarge their choice of subject matter. In the previous era, when this “Piece” (or the Original oil from which it was coped) was composed, the dictates of the Papal World were staunch & forbidding. This “Piece” must be THAT old.

This Original, for all the above stated reasons, is considered to be a copy of an important image from the early to middle 1500’s, which had been painted by an Old Master. This “Piece”, itself, could have been painted any time after that date, until approximately the early 1800’s… due to the type of varnish & nail heads on the stretcher, which changed as of approximately 1850. However, the porcelain like flesh tones, and the appearance of “the light shinning from within” makes me believe the actual painting of this copy was definitely earlier, nearer to 1600; when artist’s still attempted to achieve that porcelain like complexion on ethereal figures. This was a technique done to please the Pope and his court. Regrettably the ability to compose those lifelike flesh tones seemed to have been lost to the art world, by the following century. Now, consider for a moment, how could a fledgling artist have known, later on in the 1700’s how to achieve what even the Old Masters had, by then, become “out of the habit” of doing? It must have been painted earlier. It must have been an old, respected and coveted Original Painting when purchased by the Uncle in Vienna sometime before he gifted it to his Niece, Mrs. ….., sometime, possibly many many years previous to 1931…(which is the only date we have) when it was passed forward to the Client; “before her mother’s marriage in 1931. ….does not recall when.” The Uncle could have purchased it as early as the 1860’s or 70’s, while still a young man. I gleaned that he was a young man of means.

Without further proof to the contrary, I am at ease in assuming the earlier date, closer to 1600, as the date of composition. Sadly, this “piece” is not signed. However, I am asking the Client to allow a moderate cleaning, to remove the patina of the ages… and via that route, possibly find a signature. The expertise of this artist disallows me to think his tutor wouldn’t allow him sign it. It is too good, not to have been signed. However, if no signature is found, this simply proves EVEN Greater Antiquity, when Art Student’s tutors were demanding beyond belief, prior to allowing the signing of a particular copy of an existing work.