Parish church discovers its painting of Last Supper bears touch of Titian
View of the Last Supper painting in St Michael and All Angels Church in the Herefordshire market town of Ledbury - John Lawrence
A huge painting of the Last Supper, which has hung in a Herefordshire parish church since the turn of the century, is seen in a new light after the discovery of crucial evidence linking it to the workshop of Titian, one of the 16th. the greatest masters of the century.
A 12.5-foot-long painting in St. Michael and All Angels Church in Ledbury has long been accepted as a much later specimen. Hanging high on a wall, in a dark and filthy state, its potential had been missed.
Ronald Moore, a restorer and art historian, removed centuries of discolored paint and was amazed to discover Titian's inscribed name, a bold signature that Titian himself was worthy of, and an apostle who must be a portrait of him as the facial features are accurate too fit yourself portrait.
In a three-year study, he linked it to a letter from 1775 in which its former owner, John Skippe, an Oxford-trained artist and well-known collector, wrote about the purchase of a "financially strongest and best-preserved picture of Titian" from a rich Venetian Family, adding that it was commissioned by a Venetian monastery. It was donated to Ledbury Church in 1909 by a descendant of Skippe.
"It's so big and no one has noticed it in 110 years," said Moore. "Everything that comes out of Titian's workshop is very important indeed."
19th century altar and reredos of the Last Supper, St. Michaels & All Saints Church, Ledbury, Herefordshire - Martin Fowler
He was asked to examine it in the church and to restore a copy of the Last Supper by Leonardo from the 19th century: "A lot of pictures in churches look like old masters, but they are actually much later. They undoubtedly all have presented via the picture of the Tizian workshop ...
"I could see it was special, but I didn't know how special. It's about ten feet off the ground so you can only see it when you're on a ladder."
Microscopic examination of the picture under ultraviolet light revealed the name inscribed on a jug on the floor, like at another Titian's supper. Although damaged, many of the letters TITIANVS were visible.
"That was the absolutely crucial discovery," said Moore. "I can't say that Titian definitely signed it, but it's horrible like him. Very few people would have so boldly drawn a picture on this scale ...
“It is very significant that there is no evidence of a Spolvero - or a trace - to be found. There are many pentiments in the painting - changes made as the work was done - indicating that this was an ongoing creative process. Such changes could only be made under the guidance of a master painter. "
The signature found on the huge Last Supper painting that has hung in a Herefordshire parish church since the turn of the century
Mr. Moore, advisor to auction houses and private collectors, has come to the conclusion that the painting was created over 20 years by various painters in the Tizian workshop who were able to simulate his style very well.
Titian's workshop was incredibly busy, although little was written about it, Mr. Moore said, "He had so many assignments that he just couldn't keep up ... Some were from people like Philip II of Spain. His [assignments] were important and that of a monastery ... probably not at all. So I think this picture was left behind. "
The evidence has led him to conclude that the painting was completed around 1580 after the death of Titian in August 1576 and a month later his son Orazio, who are among the family members who may be depicted as apostles.
He has no doubt that the first apostle to wear a gold robe was Titian as a young man. Computer facial recognition software and overlaid images confirmed that the features match those of a self-portrait and a drawing: "Profiles, ears, eyes, noses match."
The most likely painter of this figure would be Orazio Vecellio, Titian's son, who painted in early 1576. The painting also bears a monogram indicating Titian's longtime collaborator Girolamo Dente and Titian's death date above his portrait the master, ”said Mr Moore. Among other things, he discovers the hand of Palma il Giovane, who completed Titian's Pietà and remained unfinished when he died.
St Michael and All Angels Church in the old market town of Ledbury, Herefordshire - Sue Martin
He added: “The [Ledbury] painting has suffered damage over the years and what we see now is not what it once appeared. Many glazes had been removed in old restorations. Much detail and tone have been lost. The blues changed dramatically as Smalt turns gray. Glazes have changed their colors. "
While the church donation deed refers to "a last supper after Titian", Mr. Moore found references to visitors who saw "the Titian" at Skippe's home.
When asked whether the picture was now too valuable for the church, he said: "That is difficult. It was donated on the assumption that it always stays in the church."
His early history in a Venetian monastery was discovered with the help of Count Francesco da Mosto of Venice - the historian who presented a popular BBC television series about Italy - as his own family had known Titian. Mr. Moore was further assisted by researcher Patricia Kenny and Professor Alessandra Zamperini from the University of Verona.
Keith Hilton-Turvey, the Rector of the Church, said enthusiastically: "We really appreciated all the work he did and what he discovered."
Mr. Moore's research will appear in his upcoming book, Titian's Last Supper: A New Workshop Discovery, to be published March 26th by Unicorn Publishing.
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