Met says its Velazquez is the real thing, not a workshop product

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Thanks to a skillful cleaning and removal of clumsy retouching, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a “new” Velázquez. The museum announced Wednesday that a technical examination of an unfinished portrait formerly attributed to “the workshop of Velázquez” is actually an autograph work of the 17th century Spanish master.

The re-attribution is the result of a collaborative project by Keith Christiansen, the Met’s chief curator of European paintings, and Michael Gallagher, head of paintings conservation. A test cleaning suggested that yellowed varnish had obscured an artwork executed more delicately and in a lighter palette. When the varnish was removed, the artist’s signature brushstrokes were revealed.


The bust-length painting of a man in his mid-30s, dressed in black with a white collar and posed in a three-quarter view, was thought to be a self-portrait of the artist when the Met acquired it in 1949, from the bequest of Jules Bache. But in 1979, after scholars had frowned on the attribution, the museum demoted the painting.

The identity of the subject is a matter of debate, according to the museum, but the painting’s rehabilitation has been accepted by Jonathan Brown, a Velázquez scholar and professor at the Institute of Fine Arts in New York, who plans to write an article about it.

-- Suzanne Muchnic