‘Fake’ Botticelli work turns out to be from artist’s studio

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English Heritage Conservator Rachel Turnbull completes the conservation of “Madonna of the Pomegranate”, a painting revealed as a rare example by the workshop of Sandro Botticelli in Florence. (Christopher Ison/English Heritage via AP)
English Heritage Conservator Rachel Turnbull completes the conservation of “Madonna of the Pomegranate”, a painting revealed as a rare example by the workshop of Sandro Botticelli in Florence. (Christopher Ison/English Heritage via AP)

London (AP) — Art experts in Britain have discovered that a painting long thought to be a fake Sandro Botticelli in fact came from the master’s own Florence workshop.

After stripping back a century of yellowing varnish and surface dirt, conservators confirmed that “Madonna Of The Pomegranate” — a smaller version of the famous 1487 painting in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery — was “stylistically too similar to be an imitation.”

The painting had been assumed to be a later copy because it’s different to the original in detail, and the thick yellow varnish had concealed the quality of the vivid reds, blues and golds.

But Rachel Turnbull, a senior conservator at the charity English Heritage, which cares for hundreds of historic sites, said that X-ray and infrared tests showed an under-drawing and changes to the composition that’s uncommon in imitations.

“It was of the right period, it was technically correct and it was painted on poplar, a material commonly used at the time,” she said.

The circular painting, part of a collection bought by a diamond magnate, shows angels flanking Mary, who holds baby Christ and a pomegranate symbolizing his future suffering. Though small, it includes exquisite details and features gold leaf adorning Mary’s halo and the wings of the angels worshipping her.

It is currently on display in Ranger’s House, a Georgian villa in southeastern London.