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Faked, Forgotten, Found: An Altered Renaissance Painting Revealed Through Forensics

The Carnegie Museum of Art's current exhibition of Renaissance paintings that underwent serious forensic investigation is called Faked, Forgotten, Found.

Lulu Lippincott, the institution's Curator of Fine Arts looks at the science of art preservation and restoration, as well as the winding paths that these works have followed to Pittsburgh.

Lippincott says the museum was skeptical when they “rediscovered” a painting of Isabella de Medici while Lippincott was cleaning up the museum’s collection of art. So skeptical, in fact, they took it to be X-rayed.

What they found was outstanding. She says the X-ray revealed that the painting had been “painted over” in the Victorian era. People in that era had the wrong idea of Isabella de Medici for years.

As seen in the X-rays, Lippincott says it’s almost as though the painting was airbrushed to make de Medici look better.

“It’s the same reason people have facelifts today. Especially with portraits, standards of personal beauty change over time and over history. The ideal Renaissance woman was a very sort of robust personality and her physical appearance and standards of beauty reflect that. For example, it was very fashionable to pluck your forehead, so that you would have a high hairline and a high brow. This would make your appearance intellectual.”

Lippincott says these kinds of changes are not uncommon in “painted over” paintings, as artists have always tried to make their subjects appear more attractive. “Faked, Forgotten, Found” is presented by the Carnegie Museum of Art. The exhibit runs from June 28 to September 15, 2014 in the Heinz Gallery C.

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