Yale University recently discovered that, unexpectedly, it owned a rare painting by celebrated Spanish artist Diego Velazquez. This is the sort of random discovery that only a university with a vast art collection can make. According to an article by Jori Finkel in the Los Angeles Times:

John Marciari [is] making the case that a painting he found in storage in 2004 at the Yale University Art Gallery… is actually an altarpiece by the celebrated Spanish painter Diego Velázquez.

“The Education of the Virgin,” missing paint in spots and trimmed at the top, looked “pretty beat up,” when he first saw it as a junior curator at the Yale gallery, Marciari says. “It was dirty, with a bit of tissue paper stuck on the canvas to hold the paint in place.” It wasn’t until a few months later that it hit him: “This is an early Velazquez.”

Since 2004 Marciari’s been gathering evidence that the painting (circa 1617) is a Velazquez. He’s published the proof in an article in ARS magazine.

John Marciari found the painting in the basement of the Yale University Art Gallery. Marciari, who holds a PhD in the history of art from the university, is now the curator of European art at the San Diego Museum of Art.

According to a Yale press release, the painting “has been reattributed to Diego Velazquez. [It] is currently being studied in advance of conservation treatment and is not on view.”

Observe “The Education of the Virgin” here.[Image (of artist) via]

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer