The painting Titian’s Mistress, thought to have been created by a Titian imitator has been revealed to be a genuine work by the European master. The painting was believed to have been created long after Titian’s death in 1576, but when conservator Alice Tate-Harte removed several layers of overpainting, she unearthed a rather familiar signature that reads “TITIANUS.”
“The name [Titian’s Mistress] was very often given by dealers to works in Titian’s style to bump up their selling appeal,” Tate-Harte told the Guardian. “It was a once-in-a-career moment, and there was nobody else in the conservation studio to share it—I had to ring my husband to have somebody to tell,” she concluded.
The overpainting had existed to mask damage that was done to the work in the 18th century, when its rectangular canvas was forced into an oval frame. This was later exacerbated when it was put back into a rectangular frame. With restoration in mind, the painting was sent to the English Heritage conservation studio several years ago, was considered a relatively unimportant picture and was therefore shelved in place of what was considered far more important works.
The painting now joins other works that have recently joined the oeuvre of renowned artists, including a Monet, a Rembrandt, and a pair of Rubens canvases. Titian’s Mistress will go on display for the first time as a genuine Old Master at the Apsley House, this summer. Which was the London home of the Duke of Wellington, who came to own the painting after defeating the army of Napoleon’s brother Joseph at Vitoria in 1813.
“I’ve done as much for her as I can, enough, I hope, so that people can now see her real quality. And after some debate we’re calling her Titian’s Mistress again—we have no idea whether she actually was his mistress, but that’s how Wellington would have known the picture, so it seems fitting.” Tate-Harte said of the work that still, despite valiant efforts, still diplays signs of its historical damage.