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