Century-Old Painting Discovered on Ceiling of Newport Mansion

Feb 21, 2014

A huge, century-old painted canvas was discovered in Newport, hidden under two layers of paint on the ceiling of a Salve Regina University building. Visiting conservators were scraping off a layer of ceiling paint when they accidentally exposed the work of art underneath.

Salve Regina professor and chair of university’s cultural and historic preservation program Robert Russell described the moment of discovery:

They started to take off the latex paint and then after they’d been working for a couple of hours, a piece of the grey green sky came off and underneath it there was an eyeball. The people on the scaffolding started squealing.

The eyeball turned out to be part of a cherub, which floats in front of a cloud near the ceiling’s edge.

The painting is thought be original to the building, which was designed in the 1890s by the leading American architect of the time, as a summer home for a wealthy New York family. Russell says the giant canvas was probably painted in France in the 1890s, commissioned specifically for the site.

The ceiling’s future hasn’t yet been decided, but Russell hopes that funds will be found to reveal and restore the whole painting.