By Karrie Gillett
TWO paintings thought to be copies of original Italian art are taking centre stage in a new exhibition after they were found to be the real thing.
The works by Italian master artist Caravaggio date back to 1571 and are finally being shown in Scotland after they were cleaned and restored to their full glory.
The discovery was made after a detailed removal of dirt from the masterpiece The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew – which depicts the scene when Jesus said: “I will make you fishers of men”.
Lucy Whitaker, curator of paintings at The Royal Collection, said the rare paintings were an extremely important find.
She said: “Carravagio is probably the most influential painter of the early seventeenth century and the painting of Christ may be his earliest surviving painting.
“ Carravagio as he didn’t live to old age and he didn’t paint that many works in his exciting, short life.
“So it is incredibly significant to have two works by him to go on display.”
The other painting being shown at The Queen’s Gallery at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh is called Boy Peeling Fruit dating from circa 1592.
The exhibition’s curator said: “The cleaning process started in 2001, and one of the senior conservators called me up after he had cleaned part of the robe of Christ and unveiled a deep red.
“We called in some Carravagio specialists and some thought there was absolutely no doubt it was a true original.
“And once we put it through x-ray we discovered Carravagio had incised with a sharp instrument into the canvas and we found several of these marks round the head of Christ.
“This was significant because Carravagio seems to be the only seventeenth century artist to have worked in this manner. None of his followers, and there were many, painted in this way.”
But Ms Whitaker accepted that some experts might doubt the claims that the works are originals.
She said: “There are some respected scholars who don’t believe. In a way that’s not so worrying because Carravagio scholarship is controversial.
“I think it’s interesting that we have to present it and people have to come along and look and decide for themselves.
“I think it’s exciting that we can have this debate.”
The pictures are among 31 paintings and 43 drawings selected for the The Art of Italy in the Royal Collection: The Baroque, running from 13 November to 8 March