College art professor helps identify missing painting of Holy Family and St. John the Baptist.
Hiding in plain sight. That’s what a 17th-century Italian masterpiece painting was doing in a church in suburban New York.
For years, worshipers at Holy Family parish in New Rochelle, New York, passed underneath an oil painting of the Holy Family and St. John the Baptist as they entered and exited the church. Then, one day last year, when an art professor at nearby Iona College stopped in, he took notice.
“I realized immediately it was an Italian Baroque painting. And I sort of did a double take, why is it here?” Prof. Thomas Ruggio told ABC Channel 7 in New York.
He took some photos with his cell phone and sent them to an expert at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a colleague in Italy. They identified it as one in a series of paintings by Cesare Dandini (1596-1657), a member of a Florentine arts family.
The 46×57-inch painting is called “Holy Family with the Infant St. John.”
Msgr. Dennis Keane, pastor of Holy Family, told ABC that a former pastor, Msgr. Charles E. Fitzgerald wanted to have paintings hang above the entrances to the church and purchased two in Europe.
Msgr. Fitzgerald had also served for many years as spiritual director of the North American College in Rome.
Westchester magazine said that the painting “all but vanished from the international art community after that.”
Ruggio it was considered missing because “it was referred to in documentation in the Metropolitan Museum’s archives.”
The Met owns a painting, “Charity,” that is very similar to Holy Family’s.
The parish agreed to loan the masterpiece to Iona College, where it will hang in Ryan Library in a three-month exhibit curated by Ruggio, “Cesare Dandini’s Holy Family with the Infant St. John: A Rediscovered Florentine Baroque Masterpiece.”