The third and final entry in a series of blog posts focusing on conservation "interventions" as recorded in the holdings of the Frick Art Reference Library Photoarchive is this mysterious Madonna and Child
in the church of San Martino in Velletri
, Italy, a small town about twenty-five miles southeast of Rome. According to legend, this was one of several miraculous images executed by St. Luke
during his visions of the Virgin and Child. According to art historians, it was probably painted in the late thirteenth century by an unknown artist of the Italo-Byzantine School, although precise identification was hindered by extensive overpainting (see image below). In 1951, after extensive analysis, conservators removed three or four layers of tempera and oil-based paints, determining that only a thin layer of the original paint surface had survived. The revealed figures were more elegant, with slender hands and refined drapery.
The bare sections uncovered during the restoration process, perhaps the result of damage due to votive candles lit below the image, were painted in a neutral color to preserve as much as possible the look of the original panel. Conservators apparently felt that the original restoration went too far in attempting to conceal any damage to the painting. While the pre-restoration image conveyed a forceful vitality, the restored image is a more typical example of the thirteenth-century Italo-Byzantine School. The Photoarchive records for posterity both states of this charming devotional panel.
For additional information regarding the panel’s history, please consult the reproduction's library record.
First: Art and Fashion
Second: Lost and Found
Third: A Byzantine Madonna in Italy
Attributed to the Italo-Byzantine School (13th century), Madonna and Child, undated (after restoration). Tempera on panel, 34 5/8 x 24 in. San Martino, Velletri
Attributed to the Italo-Byzantine School (13th century), Madonna and Child, undated (before restoration). Oil and tempera on panel, 34 5/8 x 24 in. San Martino, Velletri