(Nivå) Now only centimeters separate them: Divided for two centuries following a cutting, a family featured on a 17th-century canvas has been reunited by a Danish museum, with the missing mother found after a thorough investigation.

Everything in the Portrait of a Father and his Son by the Flemish painter Cornelis de Vos (1584-1651), exhibited for more than a century in the collections of Nivaagaard north of Copenhagen, suggested that a female presence had disappeared. of the Board.

On its right side, an unknown shape suggested that a piece of the “puzzle” was missing.

“It’s a dress and a knee under it, as well as part of a chair,” museum director Andrea Rygg Karberg told AFP.

After a meticulous investigation, the researchers found the missing woman, dressed in rich black clothes, her neck surrounded by an imposing strawberry, like her husband.

It was Portrait of a Lady, another work by Cornelius de Vos also dated 1626.

The work of this close friend of Peter Paul Rubens had been acquired at auction in 2014 by a Dutch gallery owner, Salomon Lilian, who had undertaken restoration work which brought to light a rural background.

A Danish researcher, Jørgen Wadum, found in an article a photo of this work after cleaning and suddenly realized that it was the missing mother.

“Finding the missing woman from a family portrait is extraordinary, it happens once in a lifetime,” says Ms. Rygg Karberg.

“As in a puzzle, it fits perfectly with our work on the poplars and the sky in the background”, enthuses the art historian

Thanks to a grant from the New Carlsberg Foundation, his museum acquired the missing piece, which he now exhibits with his family.

“It gives a good idea of ​​what it looked like initially […] I wonder why it was cut from the large painting. So what could she have done? laughs an 80-year-old visitor, Ole Juul.

For the director of the collection, the explanation is certainly very prosaic, the work of art was undoubtedly cut because of a damage on the canvas.

“In my opinion, the lower corner of the painting has been damaged. Then it was cut into two works that function separately.”

The work of the researchers made it possible to determine that the painting was complete until 1830.

The first mention of the only Portrait of a Father and his Son comes in 1859, which suggests that it was cut in this interval.