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For the first time in nearly 500 years, a pair of portraits of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, will be hung together. Officials from the National Portrait Gallery in London spotted the rare, early portrait of Catherine while on a research visit to Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

While the sitter in the Palace’s portrait was originally believed to be Henry VIII’s last wife, Catherine Parr, the National Portrait Gallery’s conservation and curatorial experts noticed that the facial features, costume, and the painting’s frame suggested that the portrait was actually of Catherine of Aragon. Lambeth Palace officials agreed to loan the painting of Catherine of Aragon to the National Portrait Gallery where it has been researched extensively and has undergone conservation treatment before being displayed starting today, January 25, 2013. Technical analysis of the painting and frame, which included x-ray and raking light, revealed links between the Lambeth portrait and the Gallery’s portrait of Henry VIII from around 1520, supporting the belief that the sitter was in fact Catherine of Aragon.

Dr. Charlotte Bolland, Project Curator at the National Portrait Gallery, said, “It is wonderful to have the opportunity to display this important early portrait of Catherine of Aragon at the Gallery. Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon were married for nearly 24 years and during that time their portrait would have been displayed together in this fashion, as king and queen of England.”

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Wednesday, 24 October 2012 12:20

Two Picassos in One

Picasso Black and White opened earlier this month at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The first major exhibition to focus on the artist’s lifelong exploration of a black and white palette features 118 painting, sculptures, and works on paper spanning from 1904 to 1971. Five of the works have never been exhibited or published and another thirty-eight works have never been on view in the U.S.

The Guggenheim exhibition has received plenty of praise since its opening but there is one painting in the show that is unlike the others. Woman Ironing (La Repasseuse) is a quintessential image of the disenfranchised people Picasso focused on during his Blue Period (1901–1904). Painted at the tail end of the period, the white and gray palette creates a tired, bleak atmosphere for the frail woman who stands hunched over her iron. But there is something beyond this gloomy woman.

Picasso painted Woman Ironing while he was a struggling artist in his 20s. For economy’s sake he reused an old canvas that he had already used for the beginnings of a portrait of man with a mustache, which he later abandoned. In 1989 an infrared camera detected the presence of the man underneath Woman Ironing. Advances in x-ray and infrared technology have allowed a clearer image of the mysterious mustachioed man and scholars, curators, and conservators have various theories as to who he is. Suggestions include Richard Canals, a rival artist and friend of Picasso, Mateu de Soto, a sculptor with whom Picasso shared apartments and studios with, and Benet Soler, a tailor who was one of Picasso’s oldest friends. Some theories suggest the man with the mustache was one of Picasso’s early self-portraits.

Black and White and Woman Ironing will be on view at the Guggenheim through January 23, 2013.

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“Diego Velazquez: The Early Court Portraits” opened at Dallas’ Meadows Museum this past Sunday and in preparing for the exhibition, researchers may have uncovered the artist’s first portrait of his life-long subject, King Philip IV of Spain. Named the king’s court painting in 1623 at the age of 24, Velazquez upheld this position until his death in 1660, forming one of the most significant relationships in art history.

In order to make the Velazquez exhibition possible, the Meadows Museum teamed up with Spain’s national art museum, Museo del Prado. The show includes a portrait of the poet Gongora y Argote from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, a portrait of a court jester painted in the early 1630s that is on loan from the Cleveland Museum of Art, and a never-before-seen portrait of Philip IV from a private Spanish collection.

The Meadows Museum is proud to bring together two of Velazquez’s early portraits of the king for the first time in four centuries. One is the Prado’s full-length portrait painted in the 1620s of the king dressed entirely in black and the other is the Meadows’ own bust-length portrait. Before the show opened, both portraits underwent analysis at the Prado and X-rays revealed hesitant brush strokes on the Meadows portrait indicating that this was Velazquez’s first attempt at drawing the king.

“The Early Court Portraits” will be on view through January 13, 2013.

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