The discovery of a Raphael painting valued at $26 million has the art world buzzing. An artwork sitting for 117 years on an estate in Scotland was recently seen by experts, who confirmed that it is an authentic masterpiece by the iconic Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino.
The painting features a haloed Madonna in a pink wrap dress looking down with her hands crossed on her chest. The portrait was purchased by the 4th Earl of Aberdeen George and Hamilton-Gordon, a former British Prime Minister in the 19th century for $25.
Since then it has been hanging at the Haddo House, the National Trust’s 18th-century stately home in Aberdeenshire. The painting was titled The Virgin by Innocenzo Francucci da Imola.
Innocenzo da Imola was an Italian painter and draftsman, who put together in the 1500s a series of religious frescoes and altarpieces. Innocenzo da Imola’s work mirrored Raphael’s.
Bendor Grosvenor, an art historian and the host of the BBC’s Britain’s Lost Masterpieces series, was filming a segment at the Haddo House when he made the discovery. Grosvenor said that as soon as he saw the painting he immediately noticed Raphael’s style.
Grosvenor and a team of experts believe that the painting was done by Raphael between 1505 and 1510. With the authorization of the Estate, Grosvenor had the painting professionally cleaned, conserved and investigated and was appraised at $26 million. Grosvenor said in a statement:
“The light was poor and its details were difficult to discern. Yet, I thought, crikey, it looks like a Raphael … It was very dirty under old varnish, which goes yellow … Being an anorak, I go round houses like this with binoculars and torches. If I hadn’t done that, I’d probably have walked past it.”
“Finding a possible Raphael is about as exciting as it get. This is a beautiful picture that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. I hope ‘the Haddo Madonna,’ which would be Scotland’s only publicly-owned Raphael, brings many people to this part of Aberdeenshire.”
Jennifer Melville, NTS’ head of collections archives and libraries, said:
“The National Trust for Scotland holds so many treasures all over the country. We always knew that the collection at Haddo was very special, and the discovery of these wonderful pieces confirms its importance in the Scottish art world.”
“It is rare for visitors to see works of this quality outwith a gallery, so it is a real treat to come to Haddo House and enjoy them in this wonderful setting. This is particularly exciting for the piece which looks likely to be by Raphael. There are not many places where you can experience the work of one of the Renaissance’s giants in a dining room. It is this intimacy which makes exploring our collections quite so special.”
In the 19th century, it was believed that the painting was a real Raphael, but it was quickly downgraded by experts.