Pennsylvania church unveils restored 500-year-old painting attributed to ‘minor master’

By David Paulsen
Posted Feb 11, 2020

[Episcopal News Service] An Episcopal congregation in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has unveiled a restored 500-year-old painting of Mary and Jesus, which had been in the parish’s possession for more than a century but only recently was revealed to be a rare work by an Italian artist from the Renaissance period.

Christopher Daly, an art historian from Baltimore, Maryland, had been researching “minor masters” and came across a photo of “Madonna and Child,” a painting said to belong to St. James Episcopal Church in Lancaster, according to a Lancaster Online story. He called the church in January 2018 and visited later that year to view the painting up close.

Daly told Lancaster Online that his analysis of the painting indicated it was produced by Giovanni Graffione, who lived from 1455 to 1527 and who, according to Daly, is remembered for only one other documented painting – “Virgin Adoring the Child,” at a church in Italy.

The painting owned by St. James was a gift in 1908 from the family of one of the congregation’s former priests, who had purchased it decades earlier while serving at an Episcopal church in Rome, Italy. Daly’s inquiry sparked renewed interest in the painting and prompted St. James officials to restore it, with help from a grant.

The restored painting was unveiled Feb. 10 as part of a church history lecture at the Lancaster History museum celebrating St. James’ 275th anniversary. It will remain on display at the museum through March as part of a St. James history exhibit.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at