Queen Vic­to­ria’s ‘fake’ Cranach paint­ing turns out to be gen­uine

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Mark Brown Arts cor­re­spon­dent

For more than a cen­tury art his­tory ex­perts have la­belled a paint­ing Queen Vic­to­ria bought as a Christ­mas present for Prince Al­bert as a 19th-cen­tury fake.

But a new gen­er­a­tion of art his­to­ri­ans has dis­cov­ered they were wrong. Vic­to­ria and her ad­vis­ers were cor­rect when they bought the paint­ing in 1840. It is a gen­uine work by the Ger­man master Lu­cas Cranach the El­der and his work­shop.

On Tues­day, the glo­ri­ously re­stored work, pic­tured, went on pub­lic dis­play at Wind­sor Cas­tle, tak­ing pride of place in the king’s dress­ing room along­side other works by Cranach.

Ni­cola Christie, the head of paint­ings con­ser­va­tion at the Royal Col­lec­tion Trust, wel­comed the dis­cov­ery. “It is an ab­so­lute thrill. It doesn’t hap­pen very of­ten and it is such a plea­sure to know that it has been reat­tributed.”

The paint­ing, Por­trait of a Lady and Her Son (c 1510-1540), shows an uniden­ti­fied con­sort of a prince-elec­tor of the Holy Ro­man Em­pire and her son, hand in hand.

Vic­to­ria and Al­bert of­ten gave each other paint­ings and Al­bert, who had a keen in­ter­est in early Ger­man and Nether­lan­dish art, is likely to have been thrilled to get a gen­uine Cranach.

At some point in the early 20th cen­tury doubt was cast on its prove­nance and it was reat­tributed to Franz Wolf­gang Rohrich, an early 19th-cen­tury artist and keen Cranach im­i­ta­tor.

About a year ago the Cranach ex­pert Prof Gun­nar Hey­den­re­ich, who had seen the paint­ing be­fore and had a hunch about it, vis­ited the Royal Col­lec­tion. It was x-rayed and ex­am­ined us­ing in­frared re­flec­tog­ra­phy, re­veal­ing two con­clu­sive pieces of ev­i­dence that the paint­ing could not be by Rohrich and must be the work of Cranach and his work­shop.

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