Artwork found under unpublished still life by Luis Meléndez

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A big screen spanish painter from the 18th century hides a great mystery. the work of Meléndez It was purchased at an antique dealer in the Bixiga neighborhood of São Paulo more than 50 years ago.

The value did not exceed 20 thousand reais at the time, but experts believe that, now, the price of the piece should reach R$ 500 million.

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Three x-rays revealed a painting beneath the still life: a male figure holding a child in his arms.

According to records of Luis Meléndez’s life, the artist had painted over three works. The other two are missing.

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The painter was born in Italy in 1715, but spent most of his life in Spain. He specialized in the genre of still life, which consists of painting compositions with inanimate objects. He came to work for King Charles IV of Spain, but died in poverty.

The process until the discovery of the underlying work was a long one, starting in 2020.

First, the expertise was done. As soon as the painting arrived at Douglas Quintale’s office, the expert wanted to guarantee the legality of the work.

“I value my client, but I value the artwork first,” he says. “We turned to more than 50 institutions to ensure the canvas wasn’t stolen or trafficked: FBI, American Museums, works lost during the Holocaust, it’s endless.”

work of art melendez

With the conclusion that it was within the legal framework, the work began to be studied.

Physical, chemical and aesthetic analyzes were performed. The team of experts found contemporary inscriptions, dating from the 19th century, on the chassis of the canvas that referred to Luis Meléndez.

As for the appearance of the frame, some specificities were observed.

“The painting has a very firm technique, it is very similar to the Spanish master in some points, such as the fruits and the baskets”, says Douglas. “In other points it is completely innovative, we have the hanging rod, for example.”

Recognized its importance, the work was restored. As it was a work done more than 200 years ago, signs of aging were clear, but they were not out of the ordinary.

According to restorer Raul Carvalho, several touches had already been made to the work before it was acquired 50 years ago. One of them was crudely made, and in the process of pulling it out, it was possible to glimpse the hidden work.

“In one of the parts of the vase, a shape was identified that was not part of the composition of the still-life painting”, says Raul. “This element reminds us of an arm that, in this case, belongs to the male figure. It is rare to see an underlying work so well finished in this way.”

According to Raul, there are techniques that could separate the two paintings, but the risk of degradation is great, given the advanced age of both works.

melendez hidden work

However, one question remains: why did Meléndez paint over the portrait?

Both experts have their theories: reuse of material, an order that went wrong, hiding a painting that the artist displeased…

The authorship of the underlying work is not known, perhaps it is by Meléndez himself, perhaps not. Only deeper tests in the work will tell.

The company that owns the work chose to stop the analysis on the screen and has not yet decided on the commercialization of the work.

For now, the art world is content with a beautiful still life canvas by one of the greatest Spanish painters of the 18th century, an X-ray and a great mystery, the main engine of all artistic discovery.

Source: CNN Brasil

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