Australian gallery uncovers mystery Borgia portrait

Mon Nov 24, 2008 9:57pm EST
 
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CANBERRA (Reuters) - A rare portrait of Italian Renaissance noblewoman Lucrezia Borgia has been uncovered in an Australian gallery, art conservators said Tuesday, ending a 43-year mystery over the painting.

The finding comes after several years of detective work by National Gallery of Victoria conservator Carl Villis, who identified the subject and artist behind the work, titled Portrait of a Youth, and painted around 1520.

Villis said the painting, bought by the gallery in 1965, was by Renaissance artist Dosso Dossi and was a portrait of Lucrezia Borgia, overturning a century of opinion that the painting was of a young man because the subject was holding a dagger.

"What was previously a portrait of an unknown sitter by an unidentified artist, now seems likely to be one of the most significant portraits surviving from the Renaissance," gallery director Gerard Vaughan said Tuesday.

Technical analysis found the style and oval shape of the portrait matched the work of Dossi, who worked for the ruling family of Ferrara, where Borgia was Duchess from 1502 to 1519, he said.

Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of Rodrigo Borgia who later ruled as Pope Alexander VI, is one of the most famous women of Italian history.

Born into wealth and power in 1480, her name was linked to the murderous scheming and womanizing of her father and brother. She died in 1519.

Lucrezia Borgia has been the subject of a 1833 play by Victor Hugo and a Donizetti opera.

(Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

 
<p>A painting of Lucrezia Borgia by famed Renaissance artist Dosso Dossi is shown in this handout picture made available on November 25, 2008. A rare portrait of Italian Renaissance noblewoman Lucrezia Borgia has been uncovered in an Australian gallery, art conservators said on Tuesday, ending a 43-year mystery over the painting. The finding comes after several years of detective work by National Gallery of Victoria conservator Carl Villis, who identified the subject and artist behind the work, titled Portrait of a Youth, and painted around 1520. REUTERS/National Gallery of Victoria/Handout</p>