Uncovering the truth behind the myth

Issued: Tue, 24 May 2005 00:00:00 BST

It may be one of the University of Glasgow's earliest purchased paintings, but its exact identity remains ambiguous. Experts at the Hunterian Art Gallery and the University's History of Art Department will discuss the origins of the Glasgow copy of Raphael's 'Entombment' during a seminar to be held on Wednesday 25 May.

During the seminar the speakers will present evidence that the painting may in fact be the missing - and original - commissioned copy by Giovanni Lanfranco (1582-1647), a painter who studied in Parma and moved to Rome in the early 1600s.

The seminar will examine the question of whether the painting, which was in the University by 1753, is an 18th century Scottish work or a documented painting by Giovanni Lanfranco from 1608. Peter Black, curator at the Hunterian Art Gallery, Dr Erma Hermens, an Honorary Research Fellow from the Department of History of Art, and Dr Helen Howard, a Conservation Scientist from the Courtauld Institute, University of London, will present the interim findings of the British Academy funded research into the Hunterian copy of Raphael's Entombment painting.

Relying on the collaboration of freelancers and the laboratory of the National Gallery in London, where the samples have been analysed, the research team have been able to make conclusions about the painting's geographical origin, in order to establish its authorship.

Peter Black, curator at the Hunterian Art Gallery explains: "The history of any painting is important and this painting is reputed, in a letter written in 1766, to come from a major French collection, that of the Cardinal de Richelieu. Although definitive evidence has yet to be found, it remains entirely possible that this is its source.

"Raphael's original Entombment panel was stolen from Perugia in 1607, and in investigating the circumstances of the theft we found that the copy of painting in 1608 by Giovanni Lanfranco is generally assumed to be missing. However there are about a dozen known copies, including one assumed to have been sent to Perugia as a substitute in 1608.

With the evidence at this stage we would not wish to say 'we have found the Lanfranco' but what we have found has inspired us to do more research. It is clear that the painting is early 17th century, probably Italian, and of very high quality. To arrive at firm conclusions we will need more information about other copies, especially the one in Perugia. In the meantime also we will be looking further into inventories, looking for possible references to the Glasgow painting."

The seminar will begin in front of the painting itself in the Hunterian Art Gallery at 1.45 pm, then will move to the Ground Floor Classroom (room 101) in the History of Art Department at around 2.30 pm for presentations of the scientific data. This will be followed by a discussion of the interpretation of the data produced by recent paint sampling.

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