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Pier Francesco Fiorentino (1444/1445 – after 1497)
Madonna and Child
c. 1475, tempera on panel transferred to canvas, Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1939.1.214

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Before Pichetto restoration. Photograph: Vittorio Jacquier, 1930/31, carbon print

 

 

This painting was first exhibited in 1924 by the Joseph Duveen Galleries as a work by Alesso Baldovinetti. It was later discovered to be a badly damaged painting by the lesser known artist Pier Francesco Fiorentino, reportedly repainted by the forger Icilio Federico Joni.

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Alesso Baldovinetti, Madonna and Child, Musée du Louvre,. Photograph: Réunion des Musées Nationaux

 

 

This Baldovinetti Madonna and Child in the Louvre probably served as a model for Joni’s forgery. This is particularly clear in the faces of the figures and the Madonna’s veil.

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left: Before Pichetto restoration. Photograph: Vittorio Jacquier, 1930/31, carbon print
right: After Pichetto restoration. Photograph: Louis Werner, early 1940s, lantern slide

The true identity of the painting emerged gradually, as seen on the right in this lantern slide, the larger precursor to modern slides.  It shows its state after a 1937 restoration by Stephen Pichetto, after it was acquired by Samuel H. Kress. The Virgin’s face, especially around the eyes, begins to move away from the smoother, more serene Baldovinetti model.

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left: During Modestini cleaning. Photograph: Paul Kiehart?, 1954, film negative
right: Current state. Photograph: National Gallery of Art

These images show the radically different Madonna during and after cleaning by Kress Foundation restorer Mario Modestini in 1954. In 1963 Stephen Pichetto lightly retouched and varnished the painting. As a result of Modestini’s restoration, 10 years later the painting was reattributed to Pier Francesco Fiorentino.