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Emilios Velimezis, a Greek businessman and an amateur collector, died 60 years ago,without being able to convince scholars that the painting he possessed was in fact a 1566 painting by El Greco. But he has been vindicated today, as Velimezis, who bought a lot of 15th and 16th century art pieces, has been proved right.
This news has created a lot of excitement amongst experts as the painting is a rare and significant find. Titled “The Passion of Christ – Pieta with Angels”, it was painted by the Master in 1566. Said to be the prophet of Modern Art, the painting will be unveiled at the British Library, as a part of an important exhibition. The authenticity of the painting was confirmed by the discovery of a fading photograph of the painting, where the artist’s signature, under his real name, Domenikos Theotokoloulos, is clearly visible under Christ’s feet. The photograph was taken sometime in 1938.
The photograph had been taken before an overzealous restorer removed the signature, along with the old varnish. The painting measures to 27 inches by 18 inches. The sale of this painting is believed to have brought enough money, so that El Greco shifted base from his native Crete.
El Greco was known for his original creations and mostly dealt with very expressive and religious paintings of a visionary nature. His work has inspired many masters such as Gauguin, Van Gogh and even Picasso as they immediately liked his elongated figures, free brushwork and the exemplary use of light.
Curator of the British Library and also a Professor of Byzantine Art and Archaeology at the University of Ioannina, Nano Chatzidakis was the one who discovered the restorer’s photograph. “I could not believe it, I started screaming. It was one of the most important moments in my life, after the birth of my children”, she remarked.
Estimated at around £750,000, the painting is said to be a landmark in the Cretan master’s artistic journey as it combines a Western character, with the gold ground technique of Cretan icons. Dismissed as a fake in the 1940s, scholars were unaware that El Greco painted icons. Though today, the figures and the treatment of the body of Christ, in the painting has been linked his other works as well.
“There are two new paintings by El Greco, which show much more information about early El Greco”, said Robin Cormack, Professor of the History of Art at the Courtauld Institute in Londin. He linked the painting to another rediscovered masterpiece by the artist, The Baptism. It was sold in an auction at Christie’s 18 months ago. Much of the collection is now with Benaki Museum, which lends its works to the British Library as well. The exhibition will stay on till the 21st of September, and owes its significance largely due to the Hellenic Foundation for Culture.