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Two Unknown Cézanne Sketches Found on the Back of Well-Known Watercolors

Pictures from The Barnes Foundation, via The History Blog

The brown paper often found on the back of old artwork is highly acidic, and can ruin priceless paintings if that acidity seeps into the paper upon which the work is done. Naturally, conservationists work to address this. But when The Barnes Foundation of Philadelphia sent five watercolors by Paul Cézanne—as part of a group of 22 total works—to the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA), also in Philadelphia, for treatment last January, they got back more than just the original artwork.

While painstakingly removing the backing from the 1885-1886 watercolor entitled The Chaîne de l’Etoile Mountains, conservator Gwenanne Edwards noticed random watercolor brush strokes. When the entire backing was removed, a very rough and indistinguishable pencil and watercolor sketch was revealed.

Behind Cézanne's Trees, the conservators found another unknown work, this one a much more detailed graphite sketch of a house with rolling hills behind it. After studying the sketch, Denis Coutagne, president of the Société Paul Cezanne in Provence, determined it was a drawing of Pilon du Roi peak in the Massif de l’Etoile mountain range, a frequent subject for Cézanne.

Albert C. Barnes himself purchased the paintings from Leo Stein, author Gertrude Stein's brother, for the bargain price of $100 each (after informing the cash-strapped Stein that there were no other willing buyers, perhaps for his own benefit) in 1921. Since then interest in Cezanne's work—and the corresponding value—has boomed: A watercolor study for his famous work The Card Players, discovered in Dallas in 2012 after a six-decade absence from public view, sold for $19 million at auction that year.

Any new discoveries, particularly those that contribute to an understanding of the artist's process, are remarkable. "These are a perfect example of how much we still don’t know about this collection," Martha Lucy, a consulting curator at the Barnes and an expert on its Renoir and Cézanne holdings, told the New York Times. "You can see how they’re made, and for anyone who cares about Cézanne, that’s an amazing thing to get to see," she added.

The discovery was met with the appropriate enthusiasm. "There were screams of delight," said Barbara Buckley, the senior director of conservation at the Barnes.

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Museum Discovers Classic Renaissance Painting Hidden in Its Own Collection
Andrea Mantegna circa 1475
Andrea Mantegna circa 1475
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A long-lost painting by a master artist of the Renaissance was recently rediscovered in the storeroom of an Italian museum near Milan, according to The Art Newspaper and The Wall Street Journal.

The painting in question, Andrea Mantegna’s 15th century The Resurrection of Christ, was found by a curator at an art museum in the city of Bergamo. The Accademia Carrara has been in possession of the Mantegna painting since the 19th century, but long ago discounted it as a copy. While working on a catalogue for the museum in March, Accademia Carrara curator Giovanni Valagussa took note of the tempera-on-panel work and began to investigate its origins.

Count Guglielmo Lochis purchased the painting in 1846, cataloguing it as an original Mantegna; it was bequeathed to the museum as part of his collection after his death in 1859. But decades later, other experts cast doubt on the originality of the work, first re-attributing it to the artist’s son, and later suggesting that it was a copy that was not even made in his workshop. The museum removed it from display sometime before 1912, and it has been in storage for more than a century.

A painting depicting Jesus rising from the dead while soldiers look on
The Resurrection of Christ
Andrea Mantegna, Accademia Carrara

Upon inspecting the painting, Valagussa suspected it was more than just a copy. The painting features a small cross at the bottom of the image that looked disconnected from the rest, and the structure of the back of the painting made it seem like it might be part of a larger work. Valagussa tracked down another Mantegna painting, Descent Into Limbo, that seemed to fit underneath—the paintings are likely two halves of one image that was cut apart.

The Accademia Carrara also conducted an infrared survey of The Resurrection of Christ, discovering that the artist drew nude figures first, then painted over them with images of clothed soldiers, a technique that Mantegna was known for.

A world expert on Mantegna, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Keith Christiansen, did his own analysis and believes the painting in Bergamo to be an authentic, high-quality Mantegna. That means that the Accademia Carrara’s forgotten wood panel, previously insured for around $35,000, is probably worth between $25 million and $30 million.

The museum hopes to one day bring the two parts of the painting, The Resurrection of Christ and the privately owned Descent Into Limbo, together in an exhibition in the future.

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

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USPS Is Issuing Its First Scratch-and-Sniff Stamps This Summer
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Summertime smells like sunscreen, barbecues, and—starting June 20, 2018—postage stamps. That's when the United States Postal Service debuts its first line of scratch-and-sniff stamps in Austin, Texas with perfumes meant to evoke "the sweet scent of summer."

The 10 stamps in the collection feature playful watercolor illustrations of popsicles by artist Margaret Berg. If the designs alone don't immediately transport you back to hot summer days spent chasing ice cream trucks, a few scratches and a whiff of the stamp should do the trick. If you're patient, you can also refrain from scratching and use them to mail a bit of summer nostalgia to your loved ones.

Since it was invented in the 1960s, scratch-and-sniff technology has been incorporated into photographs, posters, picture books, and countless kids' stickers.

The first-class mail "forever" stamps will be available in booklets of 20 for $10. You can preorder yours online before they're unveiled at the first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony at Austin's Thinkery children's museum next month.

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