Image of Saint found beneath Murillo painting of Virgin Mary

Image of Saint found beneath Murillo painting of Virgin Mary
CREDIT: Barberini Corsini Gallery website

AN image believed to be Saint Francis in prayer has been discovered under the painting ‘La Virgen de la Leche’ by Sevilla artist Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1618-1682).

The image was found during restoration work on the painting which was being carried out by experts from the National Gallery of Antique Art of Rome.


Although the painting, which represents the Virgin Mary breastfeeding has been restored on several previous occasions, this time it was subjected to several procedures and diagnostic investigations which allowed the discovery, the Gallery said in a statement.

The painting, also known as the ‘Gypsy Virgin’ or Madonna Zingara in Italian guide books, was painted in 1675 and is in the Galeria Corsini.

The work carried out by Alessandra Percoco, from the Gallery’s restoration laboratory, showed the face of the figure of a saint, almost certainly Saint Francis in a moment of prayer which was at “an advanced stage of completion.”

According to Alessandro Cosma, the curator at the Gallery, “it was normal for painters to reuse canvases to repaint and there would be remains of the original work, but here the exception lies in the use of parts belonging to a previous figure reused as a basis for the new painting, like the folds of the saint’s habit that form the draping of the Virgin’s leg.”

Restoration work and research will continue in hopes of finding more surprises within the painting and discover more about its history.

The find has been possible thanks to the museum’s funds and a contribution from the Civita Association. The findings will be revealed in April at the Palazzo Barberini.

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