You Won’t Believe What They Found During Restoration

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Imagine Being Hired to Freshen Up Thomas Cole’s Home Only to Discover This!

Thomas Cole Studio photo Jake Naughton New York Times

Thomas Cole, the great 19th-century American painter, died in 1848. Well, America claims him, but he was born in England.

Cole’s widow died some years later in the late 1800’s. At that point the house underwent major renovation. This included scraping and painting the interior.

While this might not be unusual, or even a problem for most homes, this was Thomas Cole’s home. And he used the walls of his home rather like studies for his later canvases.

So imagine you are hired to restore the house. You look up and spy a small piece of wallpaper peering from behind a tired old coat of red paint. Intent on cleaning it up, you get on a ladder.

That’s when you are greeted by a major surprise!

This is precisely what happened to Matthew J. Mosca in 2014. Mosca is a specialist in historic paint finishes. When he climbed the ladder he discovered not a piece of wallpaper to be removed, but an unknown mural by Thomas Cole!

Thomas Cole portion of frieze photo Mark Kauzlarich The New York Times

By scouring Cole’s old paint invoices and his letters about décor, and comparing the design work with known sketches and paintings, Ms. Dunbar and Mr. Mosca deduced that the walls had been painted by the landscape master himself, probably around 1836. Meanwhile, Mr. Mosca unearthed yet more friezes on the walls of two parlors, possibly depicting leaves and roses.

This discovery is a cause of celebration for artists and art historians. Cole was the founder of the Hudson River School. The painters of this school celebrated the American wilderness and helped make a record of what they saw, allowing those of us living today to relive their experiences.

“It gives a much more intimate documentation of his creative process, and it deepened the significance of the spot, his house,” said Linda S. Ferber, senior art historian and museum director emerita of the New-York Historical Society and author of “The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision.” “It indicates the intense self-consciousness of his mission.”

One of the theories that has emerged as a result of this find is that Thomas Cole himself may have painted over earlier masterpieces. According to Mosca it is quite likely that Cole redecorated the house to fit with the style of paintings he was currently selling.


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