Biblical Archaeology Review 32:6, November/December 2006

Strata: Authenticity of Met Painting Questioned

Israel isn’t the only place where questions of authenticity are being raised. In Israel, it’s the authenticity of numerous allegedly ancient inscriptions—from the James ossuary inscriptionb to the ivory pomegranate inscription.c In the United States, a Columbia University art historian has recently questioned the authenticity of a Renaissance masterpiece, Madonna and Child.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased the painting by the 13th–14th-century master Duccio di Buoninsegna in 2004 for an estimated $45 million. Museum director Philippe de Montebello called the painting one of the museum’s “greatest single acquisitions of the last half century,” according to The New York Times.
But art historian James Beck disagrees. “If I were them, I’d get my money back,” he said. “It’s such a poor painting.” He claims that the parapet in the foreground reflects a style that didn’t appear until the 15th century, thus indicating that Duccio could not have painted it. Replied de Montebello: “The Met has no reason to doubt that this is a masterpiece of the late 13th or early 14th century.” Several scholars have defended the painting’s authenticity by noting a stylistic similarity to late-13th-century paintings by Giotto.

No Duccio scholar has stepped up to support Beck.

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