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Rossetti off the hook as Botticelli is restored

It appears that the woman depicted in a portrait by the Florentine master Sandro Botticelli, now in the collection of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), was a fiery redhead after all. For years, the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who once owned Portrait of a Lady Known as Smeralda Bandinelli (around 1470-75), was believed to have been responsible for the sitter’s vibrant red hair colour. The Victorian artist confessed to restoring the headdress in a letter to his secretary in 1867, but recent pigment analysis and the removal of discoloured varnish have confirmed that the colour is original and that the paint layers are less altered than previously thought. The analysis also revealed that Rossetti’s restoration consisted of retouching the sitter’s face and cap. In March 2016, the V&A will mount a major exhibition on Botticelli’s rediscovery by the Pre-Raphaelites.