Infrared images of Botticelli's $40 million painting Man of Sorrows revealed that underneath its layers there is a different image entirely—an abandoned composition of a type of Greek icon called the "Madonna of tenderness" cradling the Christ Child.
Chris Apostle, senior vice president of Sotheby's in New York, discerned an upside-down drawing of Madonna and Child with some white underpainting. Such under-drawings were not unusual, as panels could be quite costly in the Renaissance. It was possible that Botticelli recycled the panel to paint the extraordinary Man of Sorrows.
The 16th century Man of Sorrows is unusual; Christ is off-center with his head tilted slightly, projecting not an iconic rigidness, but a profound emotional charge. Perhaps this will make it stand out when it is due to be sold at Sotheby's later this month.
An example of the Greek icon "Madonna of Tenderness" as painted by Angelos Akotantos in 1420 (Image: Cleveland Museum of Art/Wikimedia Commons)