French basilica displays rediscovered Raphael painting


The small portrait of Marie Madeleine, painted by Italian painter Raphael, exposed for the first time at the Basilica of Saint-Maximin, in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Visitors queued up at a southern French basilica on Sunday to see a rediscovered painting by Italian renaissance painter Raphael.

The small portrait of Mary Magdalene is being displayed for a month in the Sainte-Marie-Madeleine basilica, which houses relics of Mary Magdalene - making it Christianity's third most important tomb.

Around 50 visitors queued on Sunday afternoon to admire this forgotten painting by Raphael, known for painting Three Graces and The School Of Athens.

The painting is thought to date back to a meeting between the painter and Leonardo da Vinci in 1505.

Visitors were required to pay three euros (RM15.25) to see the work, which will be used to support the restoration of the basilica.

A French collector bought the portrait from a London gallery's website for £30,000 (RM177,000).

He then called a Unesco expert in Italy, who authenticated the work in September.

After countless analyses - including infrared light to reveal the layers of carbon hidden by the paint pigments - they were able to attribute the painting to Raphael (1483-1520).

Mary Magdalene, the first witness to the resurrection of Jesus, is an important figure in the Gospels.

Often presented as a repentant sinner, she is said to have spent the last 30 years of her life in a cave in the Sainte-Baume massif, some 20km (12 miles) from the basilica, which has become a major Christian pilgrimage site. - AFP

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