Likely Botticelli fresco found in Hungarian chapel

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ESZTERGOM, Hungary (Reuters) - A fresco in a Hungarian chapel is believed to be by Italian renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli, the head of the local museum said on Friday.

The fresco, part of a four-piece mural in the ruined castle of Esztergom, northern Hungary, had been known but experts only discovered during recent renovation works that it bore the hallmarks of the 15th century Florentine painter’s style.

“It’s not as if we had suddenly happened on a Botticelli,” said Bela Horvath, director of the Esztergom Castle Museum.

“Restoration has been going on since 2000 with the most modern methods and the art historian and the head of the restoration have identified, based on the style, that it could be a Botticelli,” Horvath said.

The images depicting the four medieval virtues were made after the archbishop of Esztergom at the time, Janos Vitez, asked the school of Filippo Lippi, who had been training Botticelli in Florence, to decorate the chapel, Horvath said.

Of the panel of four figures, measuring 4 metres by 5 metres together, Botticelli painted the one representing temperance.

“Research at the archives in Florence showed that there is a period missing from Botticelli’s life which he did not spend in Italy,” Horvath said.

Botticelli, popular for his graceful Madonnas, alterpieces and life-size mythological paintings, pioneered new types of portraiture and worked for the Medici family in Florence and on the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

The mural in Hungary will be open to the public within a year, Horvath said.