The de Brécy Tondo and it's relationship with Raphael's Sistine Madonna
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THE DE BRÉCY TONDO EXPERTISE

"On Monday, 22nd of January 2010 I was given the chance to study the De Brécy Tondo in London in the HSBC Bank, Holborn. I had been given the written information on the tondo and I think that the histoical investigations done by Dr. Murdoch Lothian are very interesting and as a whole convincing. So I believe it very likely that the tondo had once been in the collection or possession of Sir Richard Wynn of Gwydir coming from the Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I. The painting might have had a certain significance in the catholic aims of Henrietta Maria, fostered by the Holy See. So it is possible that the painting was done in Rome for this purpose".

"On the other hand, I do not think that the painting is directly going back to Raphael or his school. The manner of painting, i.e the handling of the paint is not comparable with Raphael's original works as for example the Dresden Sistine Madonna itself. Both pictures are painted on canvas and the fine modelling of the Sistine Madonna shows clearly the structure of the underlying canvas, as do other paintings on canvas as well, as the Madonna Velata(Palatine Gallery, Florence) and the Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione (Louvre). These are two of the few examples for the use of canvas as picture carriers in the Raphael's oeuvre. In comparison with these examples the paint layer of the de Brécy Tondo is absolutely tight and does not allow any conclusion on the picture carrier. Obviously imprimitura and paint produce a rather hard layer covering the underlying canvas. A result is the craquelé in the tondo's surface, which is absolutely alien to any of Raphael's own paintings. Beside this the x-ray photograph shows a handling of the colour not found in autograph paintings of the artist. - The fact, that there were not identified pigments used later that the seventeenth century is only an argument which excludes the possibility that the painting was done in a later time. Any copy of the late fifteenth and the early sixteenth would show a comparable result".

"On the photographs available to me, I cannot see any relevant pentimenti. The piece of cloth at the left seems to me a later addition, maybe to harmonise the composition, which is rather "empty" at the left hand side. Pounce marks in the area of the Madonna's right hand, I cannot see on the photograph though they might be there. In this context it is interesting to note, that the old infrared photographs of the Sistine Madonna show some pounce marks (in the tiara of the pope). As I recently was told by the Dresden curator, Dr. Andreas Henning, for a special exhibition in 2012 the museum will order new infrared photographs with a new technique, which might give more information. Generally one cannot exclude the idea that there were done copies in the early seventeenth century of the Sistine Madonna on the base of the original, at the moment still hypothetical, but possibly then still existing cartoon".

"Basically an attribution to a specific painter has to be done on stylistic analysis. So a comparison of the tondo and the Dresden Sistine Madonna shows that the latter offers more differentiations of details, as for example the hair, the limbs and the rendering of the clothes etc. The modelling of the body of Christ Child is very soft and shows fine nuances from light to shade, a quality which is not achieved in the tondo. The latter's colour scheme is characterised by a slight greenish tone, which contrasts the warm colours of the Dresden Sistine Madonna. Many other differences could be found".

"From these points of view Raphael or his school in my opinion cannot be the author of the tondo. It does not mean that the tondo has not a good quality as a painting, but it was done by another author and in another time".

 

(Prof. Dr.Jürg Meyer zur Capellen)

6 January 2011

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