Painting Restoration Reveals a Ring

Did Italian Renaissance master Raphael propose to his lover, but never live to marry her? New restoration unveiled Monday of Raphael's ''The Baker Girl'' reveals a ring on the wedding finger of the voluptuous baker's daughter believed to have stolen the heart of the master artist. A layer of paint, removed in the restoration, had covered the ring - a patch of paint that experts believe was put there by Raphael himself. He died before the portrait was finished. ''It's as if he had given her a ring but then took it away,'' said Giovanna Martellotti, one of the painting's restorers, discussing the work at the National Gallery of Antique Art at Rome's Palazzo Barberini. The portrait shows Margherita Luti, daughter of a Roman baker. Art historians say Raphael became enamored of Margherita and used her as his model while he was in Rome completing the frescoes at the Villa Farnesina in 1518. Raphael died at 37 in 1520, leaving the portrait incomplete. Margherita Luti checked herself into the Convent of Sant'Apollonia immediately after his death. Raphael, a young contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelango, was summoned to Rome while still in his 20s to decorate the papal rooms at the Vatican and later was appointed architect of St. Peter's. His ''Sistine Madonna'' is considered one of the master portraits of Western art. ''The Baker's Girl'' will be on display at Palazzo Barberini until Feb. 28, AP reports.

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