The Miraculous Tale of Titian’s Lost Masterpiece


Discover the astonishing story of a lost Titian masterpiece. Started in the mid-16th century, ‘Portrait of a Lady and her Daughter’ was unfinished when Titian died in 1576. According to several art historians, it may have been overpainted by one of his pupils because the original work was a portrait of Titian’s mistress and illicit daughter.

After remaining in Venice until 1850, where it would likely have been seen by Rubens and Van Dyck, the painting was acquired by Tsar Nicolas I of Russia. In 1920, it was acquired by Parisian art dealer René Gimpel, who sent his collection to safety in London when WW2 broke out and he joined the French Resistance. Gimpel’s son tracked his father’s collection down to a garage in Bayswater in 1946. Several adjacent buildings had been completely destroyed by bombs in the Blitz but, miraculously, Gimpel’s paintings survived. The Titian was subsequently acquired by Alec Cobbe as ‘Tobias and the Angel’ in the 1980s. Cobbe started the restoration of the painting in consultation with art historians and scientists in 1983. The process lasted about 20 years before the magnificent result was fully revealed.

Now, this unfinished window into the mind of a master will return to its home in Venice after almost 500 years. On loan from current owner and renowned collectorMarnix Neerman, the Titian masterpiece will be a highlight of a new exhibition opening in September 2019. From 5 September 2019 until 1 March 2020, the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia (MUVE), in conjunction with the Rubenshuis in Antwerp, presents From Titian to Rubens Masterpieces from Flemish Collections at Palazzo Ducale, Venice. The magnificent Doge’s private apartments will be transformed into veritable constkamers, rooms filled with around 80 paintings, drawings, engravings and examples of Venetian and Antwerp glass and instruments, on loan from the Antwerp City Museums, the KMSKA, MUVE, and the museums of Ghent, Bruges, Leuven and the MNHA Luxembourg. The exhibition will also present several important paintings and oil sketches by Rubens, and the moving Lamentation over the Dead Christ by Van Dyck. Sotheby's is a proud sponsor of this exhibition.

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