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In a remarkable turn of events, a portrait of Mary Magdalene, a masterpiece by the renowned Italian Renaissance painter Raphael, has been rediscovered and authenticated after being unknowingly purchased by French collectors. The painting, which had been bought for a mere 30,000 pounds (approximately 35,000 euros) from a London gallery’s website, will be exhibited to the public at the Sainte-Marie-Madeleine Basilica in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, Var, France, starting on April 20th.

The discovery of this long-lost Raphael masterpiece has sent shockwaves through the art world. The French collectors, who wish to remain anonymous, initially believed they had acquired a work from the school of Leonardo da Vinci. However, their curiosity led them to seek the expertise of Annalisa Di Maria, a member of the UNESCO group of experts in Florence, Italy. In September, Di Maria authenticated the painting as a genuine Raphael, dating back to the period when the artist met Leonardo da Vinci in 1505.

The authentication process involved extensive analysis, including the use of infrared light to visualize the hidden layers of carbon beneath the paint pigments. The findings, which are available online, were published in the specialized journal “ISTE, Open Science, Arts et Sciences,” whose editorial committee includes Philippe Walter, the director of the CNRS and former director of the Louvre Laboratory.

The portrait of Mary Magdalene holds significant religious and historical importance. In the Gospels, Mary Magdalene is portrayed as a faithful disciple of Jesus and the first witness to his resurrection. Often depicted as a repentant sinner, she is believed to have spent the last 30 years of her life in a cave in the Sainte-Baume mountains, located approximately 20 kilometers from the basilica where the painting will be displayed. The site has become a major destination for Christian pilgrimage.

The Sainte-Marie-Madeleine Basilica in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, where the painting will be exhibited, has recently undergone restoration work. The basilica holds great spiritual significance, being considered the third most important tomb in Christianity after Jerusalem and Rome, which are recognized as the burial places of Christ and Saint Peter, respectively. The mayor’s office of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume emphasized the basilica’s status to the AFP news agency.

The rediscovery of this Raphael masterpiece has generated excitement among art enthusiasts and the general public alike. The anonymous collector who purchased the painting expressed a desire to share this incredible find with the public by entrusting it to a museum. The upcoming exhibition at the Sainte-Marie-Madeleine Basilica fulfills this wish, allowing visitors to appreciate the beauty and historical significance of this long-lost treasure.

Raphael, born in 1483, is widely regarded as one of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance. His works, known for their harmonious compositions, graceful figures, and masterful use of color, have left an indelible mark on the history of art. The portrait of Mary Magdalene, created during the pivotal period of Raphael’s encounter with Leonardo da Vinci, promises to shed new light on the artist’s development and the exchange of ideas between these two giants of the Renaissance.

The exhibition of this rediscovered Raphael masterpiece at the Sainte-Marie-Madeleine Basilica in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for art lovers and the general public to witness a piece of art history that had been lost for centuries. The painting’s display in the recently restored sacristy of the basilica adds to the spiritual and cultural significance of the event, making it an unmissable experience for those who appreciate the convergence of art, history, and faith.

With AFP