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Lifestyle & Human Interest

Hiding in Plain Sight: 'Lost' 17th-Century Masterpiece Uncovered in New York After Years of Searching

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Iona College art history professor Tom Ruggio likes to visit churches from time to time.

“I’m used to wandering into churches, and I find it very peaceful,” he told Westchester magazine.

But on one particular visit, when he darkened the door of the Church of the Holy Family in New Rochelle, New York, he was struck by something he hadn’t fully noticed before.

“I was there at least three times before I noticed the painting one day when the lights were on brightly,” he said.

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“I knew it was a 17th-century painting. It’s something you expect to find in Italy, but it was really out of place in a church in New York.”

Intensely curious, Ruggio started researching the piece he had spotted at the Catholic church, and what he found was revelatory.

The painting was indeed a masterpiece by the Italian artist Cesare Dandini from the 1630s, showing the holy family and a young John the Baptist, believed to have been lost for decades.

For 50 years, art historians have been looking for it, and on that fateful day when Ruggio visited the church, he found it.

There are competing stories as to how the piece crossed the pond and made its inconspicuous way to the church. One story is that a local family donated it to the church; another is that a former paster purchased it and brought it stateside.

“The former pastor Monsignor Fitzgerald went over to I believe London and was going through different galleries because he wanted to get paintings for over the door here and on the other side of the church,” Monsignor Dennis Keane of the Church of the Holy Family told WABC-TV.

“He purchased two of these paintings in a gallery, but we don’t know the name of the gallery.”

What is certain is that the painting is a lovely find, especially when historians thought it had been lost.

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“This painting was thought to be lost for decades, so it was hiding in plain sight essentially in New Rochelle,” Ruggio said, according to News 12 The Bronx.

The church has loaned the painting to Iona College for three months, and it will be displayed in the Ryan Library before being returned to the church.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking