(Above) Kingston Lacey's Tintoretto painting after cleaning and restoration. Courtesy National Trust
A long-hidden painting by Venetian Renaissance master Jacopo Tintoretto has gone back on public display at the National Trust's Kingston Lacy in Dorset.
After a painstaking cleaning and restoration process to remove years of darkened varnish and repaired layers of flaking paint, Apollo (or Hymen) Crowning a Poet and Giving him a Spouse has emerged from 30 years in storage and is now hanging in the Dining Room at the historic property.
The restoration, which included X-rays and infrared analysis of the brushstrokes to confirm the provenance of the painting, has also revealed some mysteries, and the Trust is asking the public to help solve them.
Trust art experts believe the painting shows Apollo bestowing a crown upon an unknown poet as the god Hercules looks on, but the identification of other figures and the meaning of some of the symbols and objects in the painting remain a mystery.
"The cleaning process has revealed the sheer quality and energy of Tintoretto and how he worked, but we're still baffled as to some of the content of the painting," said Christine Sitwell, the National Trust's Paintings Conservation Adviser. "We would love anyone out there to tell us what they think it could be."
The restoration also revealed some original underdrawings that show changes he made to faces, clothing and positioning of subjects in the final version.
"This is undoubtedly a work of great significance," said Alastair Laing, the National Trust's Curator of Pictures and Sculpture.
"Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto are the three great masters of the mid-to-late 16th century in Venice and to have a painting by Tintoretto in an English house, rather than still in its original location in Venice, or in an Italian museum, is extraordinary.
"It is all the more fascinating that we do not yet know who or where it was painted for, or what the actual subject is."
The Venetian painter, Jacopo Robusti, called Tintoretto (1518 –1594) was among the great Renaissance artists of Italy. A technical and conceptual innovator, he was adept at using dramatic perspectives, space and special lighting effects. He was termed "Il Furioso" for his phenomenal energy when painting.