Art: The Oldest Madonna

WHAT may be the West's oldest painting of the Madonna has been rediscovered in Rome's Church of Santa Francesca Romana. An expert restorer named Pico Cellini found the panel (right) under a 13th century Tuscan canvas of the same subject, which he had been commissioned to clean.

Until the last few decades, "restorers" hid more pictures, under new and falsely prettifying layers of paint and varnish, than they cleaned. Modern practitioners take the bolder course of removing past additions in order to restore pictures to something approximating their original state. Sometimes they scrub with too much enthusiasm, destroying the translucent glazes of...

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