NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A 17th-century painting The Education of the Virgin in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery was recently identified as the work of Spanish artist Diego Velázquez, considered the greatest painter of the Spanish baroque period.
The painting, which previously had been considered to be by an unknown artist from Seville, Spain, is now believed to be one of Velázquez’ earliest works. It was reattributed after a study by curators who were completing a thorough and extensive review of the collections in conjunction with the gallery’s renovation and expansion project that is now underway. Working closely with conservation staff, curators have been studying works both with the naked eye and with conservation techniques that make visible the underlayers of objects.
Based on the research of John Marciari, formerly the Nina and Lee Griggs Associate Curator of Early European Art at the Yale University Art Gallery and now curator of European art and head of provenance research at the San Diego Museum of Art, “The Education of the Virgin” is believed to have been painted by Velázquez in Seville around 1617. It was reattributed to the Spanish artist after six years of research and analysis, and is the subject of an article by Marciari for the July-September 2010 issue of Ars magazine. Marciari holds a Ph.D. in the history of art from Yale.
“It is exciting, of course, to find here at Yale a previously unknown work by one of the greatest painters of all time, and it is a privilege to be responsible for caring for it on behalf of scholars, students and the public everywhere,” says Laurence Kanter, the Lionel Goldfrank III Curator of European Art, who has overseen the department since 2002.
The Education of the Virgin was donated to the Yale University Art Gallery in 1925 by two brothers from New Haven, Henry Hotchkiss Townshend (B.A. 1897, LL.B. 1901) and Dr. Raynham Townshend (B.S. 1900S). It is thought to have been in the Townshend family for at least 40 years and was in poor condition when it arrived at the gallery. The painting is currently being studied in advance of conservation treatment and is not on view.
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