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Cross was the clue to reuniting a Mantegna masterpiece

01 June 2018


The Resurrection of Christ, by Andrea Mantegna

The Resurrection of Christ, by Andrea Mantegna

A FORGOTTEN painting of Christ that was stacked in the storeroom of an Italian museum has been identified as a valuable work of art by the Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna.

The painting, The Resurrection of Christ, was thought to be a copy of a lost work by Mantegna from the late-15th century, until the curator of the Accademia Carrara, in Bergamo, Giovanni Valagussa, looked more closely. “I was cataloguing the works in the store room, and made the discovery of a lifetime.”

It is thought to be the top half of a larger painting, possibly intended as an altarpiece. The bottom half, Descent into Limbo, sold at Sotheby’s in New York for $28.5 million in 2003. A small cross at the bottom of The Resurrection matches up with the top of Christ’s banner in Descent. Mr Valagussa said: “The cross was like a clue in a thriller.”

The world’s foremost Mantegna expert, Keith Christiansen, of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, told the specialist website artnetnews: “We put the two images together, and bingo! The rocks all match up; the little banner comes together; mystery solved.”

It was a common practice during the 15th century to cut up works of art to sell more, and therefore increase the price.

“Sotheby’s will not tell us who bought Descent into Limbo, but I think they have contacted the owner with the news, and it would be wonderful to see the paintings reunited for an exhibition,” Mr Valagussa said.

COURTESY OF SOTHEBY’SDescent into Limbo, by Andrea Mantegna

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