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Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 16:10 GMT
Renaissance masterpiece recovered
Botti Madonna
Andrea del Sarto: Son of a tailor
A masterwork by Renaissance artist Andrea del Sarto has been rediscovered 350 years after it disappeared.

The picture - Madonna and Child - is to go on display in London having not been seen in public since the execution of King Charles I in 1649.

It was recently bought from an American owner who thought it was a copy, at the end of what the current owners' lawyer Andy Kerman called a "romantic" journey.

"When it was offered to my clients they were told it was a copy of the picture by Andrea del Sarto," he said.

"But it had a magic for them that was not consistent with it being a copy. They hardly dared hope it was the real thing."


The painting has now been authenticated by Professor John Shearman of Harvard University as the long lost Botti Madonna, named after its earliest known owner - the Marchese Botti.

Botti was a wealthy Florentine who was a high-ranking member of the 16th Century Medici court.

The Botti Madonna was a gift from either the Medici or the Vatican to Queen Henrietta Maria, the Catholic wife of King Charles I.

Somerset House
Somerset House: Once a royal palace
The Queen had a palace at Somerset House, which is why the current owners, a group of European collectors, have decided to exhibit the work there.

Somerset House is now the home of the Courtauld Institute of Art.

The Courtauld's director, Professor Eric Fernie, has described the piece as "a work of great quality and impact".

It is not known where the work has been since it disappeared in 1649, but it resurfaced in the estate of Laurence W Boothe, who inherited it from his parents and thought it was a copy.

Kerman refused to say how much was paid for the painting, saying he could only disclose that it was "consistent with it being a copy".

Andrea del Sarto is considered to be one of the greatest artists of the Florentine Renaissance.

He is thought to have painted The Madonna and Child in Italy shortly before his death in 1530.

The Botti Madonna will be on display at the Courtauld Institute Gallery, Somerset House in central London from 13 November to 5 April 2002.

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