fame finally comes to little-known Renaissance master Piero di Cosimo

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Piero di Cosimo’s “Liberation of Andromeda,” c. 1510-1513, oil on panel (Alinari / Art Resource, NY / National Gallery of Art)

When American millionaires bought paintings by Piero di Cosimo in the late 19th century, almost all the works were attributed to other Italian Renaissance artists. Piero, a painter of Florence during its golden age, was simply regarded as too obscure to produce such masterful works.

It took many decades for Piero to emerge even partly from such shadows. Not until 1938 did the private Schaeffer Galleries in New York mount a small show of seven paintings all correctly attributed to him. But there was no other Piero exhibition anywhere in the world in the 20th century.

Art historians, however, continued to study the fascinating case of Piero, discovering more of his works, many of the highest quality. The evidence mounted that the city of Florence, which could boast of Leonardo, Botticelli, Filippino Lippi and others during the Renaissance, also had another — though unheralded — master.

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