Washington: Reports indicate that art experts have found what they believe is the earliest signature of the master renaissance artist Raphael, hidden within a painting’s arabesque decorations.
According to a report in Discovery News, featuring the words “RAPHAEL SANT”, the signature has been detected in an obscure painting that has been kept in private collections for the past three centuries.
The 51.2 x 37.7 cm (20.1 x 14.8 inch) oil painting, called “The Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine” or “The Betrothal of St. Catherine to the Infant Jesus,” dates around 1499, when Raffaello Sanzio, known as Raphael, was a 16-year-old boy.
“The signature is really important. It actually makes this painting Raphael’s earliest known work,” leading UCLA art historian Carlo Pedretti, told Discovery News.
Showing Mary who sits enthroned, the infant Jesus, Catherine of Alexandria, St Jerome and a donor, the work has been kept in private hands for centuries, with the earliest reference dating to an eighteenth century collection in France.
“The painting bring us to the most obscure years of Raphael,” Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the Museo Ideale Leonardo Da Vinci and artistic director of the Swedish exhibition, told Discovery News.
“It is not the case of the St. Catherine painting. Laboratory investigations have confirmed that the letters of the signature in the lower part of the mantle are original and contemporary to the painting,” Pedretti said.
According to Vezzosi, the unique signature calls for further research.
“Indeed, this is a fascinating findings. Much more has to be discovered about this painting and its provenance,” Vezzosi said.
Born in Urbino, 70 miles east of Florence, where the arts flourished under the patronage of the dukes of Montefeltro, Raphael learned the artistic rudiments by his father, the painter Giovanni Santi.
"The fact that Raphael painted ‘The Mystical Marriage of St Catherine’ at 16 should not come as a surprise. It is an unripe painting, interesting as it shows the kind of training Raphael received as an apprentice,” Vezzosi said.
First Published: Monday, March 22, 2010, 09:03