Letter: The making of a Madonna

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The Independent Online
Sir: The account of my reasons for not accepting the attribution of the painting now in Vicenza as a work by Raphael (Section II; 'The Madonna and the bank manager', 24 February) has been slightly garbled.

It has been suggested that the painting corresponds with one mentioned by Vasari in his life of Ridolfo Ghirlandaio as having been left unfinished in Florence by Raphael when he went to Rome.

According to Vasari, the blue drapery in particular was unfinished because the artist was waiting for the rare and precious pigment ultramarine (made from lapis lazuli). Presumably, therefore, when Ridolfo Ghirlandaio finished Raphael's painting he used ultramarine, yet it seems that another, cheaper blue has been used in this painting.

As mentioned in the article, the X-radiographs and infra-red reflectograms were examined here in the National Gallery but this technical evidence, as is so often the case, was inconclusive.

It is more important to observe that there is nothing in the handling of the paint that strikes me as certainly by Raphael.

On the other hand, the picture is not in good condition and so is hard to judge.

Yours sincerely,

NICHOLAS PENNY

Clore Curator of

Renaissance Art

and Acting Chief Curator

The National Gallery

London, WC2

28 February

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