uggs on saleThe piece was thick with overpaints, meaning artists had added paint to the existing image over the years as a means of either modernizing or improving it, likely to cover up chipped areas in the original.
Dianne Dwyer Modestini, a professor of paintings conservation at New York University, set about carefully restoring the portrait — which was still believed to be a copy — in 2007. She started chipping away at the varnish and overpaint obscuring the original, the beginning of a process that would take six years.
A strange feeling overtook her as she removed the first layer. For one thing, Jesus’ curly hair looked strikingly familiar.
“I was looking at the curls and St. John the Baptist at the Louvre, who has this huge head of massive ringlets and they are exactly the same,” Modestini told CNN.
It began dawning on her. The last da Vinci painting discovered and verified was “Benois Madonna” or “Madonna and Child with Flowers” in 1909.
“My hands were shaking,” Modestini told Christie’s. “I went home and didn’t know if I was crazy.”
A series of tests proved she wasn’t.
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One of the key pieces of evidence was found via X-ray, which revealed what’s called a pentimento, a trace of an earlier painting beneath the visible one. It showed that Jesus’ right thumb was originally positioned slightly differently. But while working on the piece, da Vinci must have changed his mind and painted over it — the thumb was moved to the position in which it appears today.
“If you’re making a copy of a picture, there’s no way you’d do that,” British art critic Alastair Sooke said in a video for Christie’s. “It wouldn’t make any sense.”
That’s especially true when considering that “in all the copies of the painting, [the finger] follows the finished position,” as Simon told National Geographic.
There were other clues as well, History.com reported. It was painted on walnut in “many very thin layers of almost translucent paint,” like other da Vinci pieces from the era. Infrared light showed that the painter pressed his palm into the wet paint above Jesus’ left eye to smudge the colors, a technique da Vinci favored called sfumato blurring.
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