Art: Raphael Revealed

Up on the easel at Sotheby's in London, one day in 1938, was a filthy, yellowed, unframed Italian madonna. John Paul Getty gazed at it. "It looks like a Raphael," the richest man in the world recalls muttering to himself. "I liked it." He bid and got it for a paltry $112.

Getty kept the painting, uncleaned, in storage for a quarter-century until a year ago, when a restorer at London's Thomas Agnew & Sons began to remove the scummy varnish. Was it Raphael's famous Madonna di Loreto of around 1510, known through more than 30 existing copies and through art-history references?...

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