Raphael’s Newly-Discovered Painting on Display in Bradford

Raphael's Portrait, Until Recently Thought Its Work of an Unknown Artist, Goes on Public Display in Bradford.

Jul 15, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Raphael's portrait
Self-portrait of Raphael, aged approximately 23. Via Wikipedia


Raphael’s newly-discovered portrait is de Brécy Tondo. Until recently, valid opinion indicated this portrait was the work of an unknown artist. Some still doubted, so this work became the subject of various researches. With the help of AI-assisted facial recognition, the conclusion is that it is Raphael, the Renaissance Italian painter. The University of Nottingham and University of Bradford brought out the evidence.


Are These Paintings Really Raphael’s?

Photograph: © University of Nottingham


The similarity between de Brécy Tondo and Raphael’s Sistine Madonna is great. That is why this topic is a frequent subject of discussions, both by researchers and artists. A team of researchers from the aforementioned faculties therefore decided to solve this dilemma once and for all. They determined the similarity between these two works of art, through the use of computer software for character recognition.


This similarity indicates the possibility where Raphael painted both of them. The two Madonnas in the artwork shared a 97% likeness, whereas the infant in the two identical artworks shared an 86% resemblance. Over 75% resemblance qualifies as equivalence. As an academic from the University of Bradford conducted a study to figure out the artwork, the Tondo will go exhibit at Bradford Council’s Cartwright Hall Art Gallery for two months starting on July 25.


The de Brécy Tondo. Photograph: © University of Nottingham


Dr Christopher Brooke, honorary research fellow at the University of Nottingham, is an expert in digital image analysis and co-authored a research paper about the find. He said: “Direct facial comparison comes out at a match of 97% – a very high statistical probability that the artworks are by identical creators”.

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Promising Future of Examining Art

Vision of the Cross, by Raphael, 1520, via WikiArt


He also added: “Further confirmation comes from analysis of the pigments employed in the Tondo, which have demonstrated that the painting’s characteristics are considered to be typical of Renaissance practice and therefore highly unlikely to be a later copy. This is an exciting piece of work that promises much for the future examination of works of art”. Hassan Ugail, professor of visual computing at the University of Bradford, developed the recognition system.


Prof Ugail said: “Looking at the faces with the human eye shows an obvious similarity, but the computer can see far more deeply than we can, in thousands of dimensions, to pixel-level. Based on the high evaluation of this analysis, together with previous research, my fellow co-authors and I have concluded identical models were used for both paintings and they are undoubtedly by the same artist.”


School of Athens, Raphael, 1509-1511, via Musei Vaticani


Timothy Benoy, honorary secretary of the de Brécy Trust, said: “The trust is absolutely delighted that this new scientific evidence confirms the Raphael attribution of the Tondo. It illustrates very forcibly the increasing value of scientific evidence in the attribution of a painting.” An academic paper on the analysis is due for publishing shortly.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.