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Paintings in depth: Verrocchio unveiled

Early work

As if working on one painting by Verrocchio wasn’t enough, restorer Jill Dunkerton has also just finished the cleaning and restoration of another Virgin and Child with Two Angels – one which provides even more evidence of Verrocchio’s career as a painter.

This is a picture of great ambition, full of changes of mind, and with passages of great beauty, such as the dressing-up-cupboard wing of the angel, the lovely cast shadows and the ambitious foreshortening of the Christ Child’s head.

Unresolved attribution

Scholars at the National Gallery have always realised that the picture was painted in Florence in the mid-15th century. However, until now no-one has known who painted it. Previous researchers were put off by the picture’s undeniable awkward moments, like the insertion of the staring angel in the centre of the scene; its rather hard-edged style; and by its dirty and degraded varnish. It has not been hung in the main galleries for many decades.

New discoveries

However, as the picture was cleaned – and by comparing it to his early drawings and bronze sculptures – Luke Syson and Jill Dunkerton came to realise that this work too was painted by Andrea del Verrocchio. It is an early work, executed shortly after he took up painting (about 10 years before the later Virgin and Child with Two Angels).

Both pictures now hang in Room 57 of the Sainsbury Wing alongside the Gallery's other Workshop of Verrocchio painting, Tobias and the AngelVerrocchio the painter is finally revealed as very much more than just Leonardo’s master.