3 December 1981

The collector, George Lester Winward (b.1933-d.1997), acquires the Tondo from the Executors of Mrs Violet Hope Fairbairn Wynne-Eyton at a country house sale at Leeswood Hall, Mold, Flintshire, North Wales, conducted by fine art Auctioneers, Henry Spencer & Sons of Retford, Nottingham. Lot 249 "After Raphael. TheMadonna and Child. Tondo. Oil on canvas. 95 cm diameter".


Publication of the important and seminal book Raphael by Roger Jones and Nicholas Penny, Yale University Press. Page 128, describing the Sistine Madonna, contains the following statement:
"….and it is significant that a circle drawn around the Madonna's veil and the Christ-child would enclose an admirably designed tondo…". It is this published reference, predictive to the collector and his advisers, which is the foundation for inspiring the ensuing 25 years’ academic research of the Tondo.


Four years of full-time research of the Tondo is undertaken by art correspondent (ex The Guardian) Murdoch Lothian, as a case study for a PhD, awarded by Liverpool University in 1992. Thesis is entitled: 'The Methods Employed to Provenance and to Attribute Putative works by Raphael'. The conclusion of his case study is that "....The Tondo pre-dates The Sistine Madonna. It is, as yet, not possible to state definitively that Raphael, or his studio, or some unrecognised hand, painted The Tondo but it seems likely, on the evidence of the painting as artefact, that The Tondo and The Sistine Madonna were painted by the same person(s), and that The Tondo was the exemplar". Read Complete Summary of Case Study

February 1997

Following the death of the collector, the de Brécy Trust, set up by the collector under charitable directives, continues the research of the Tondo.

January to May 2000

The Tondo receives conservation (some paint consolidation and cleaning) at the National Conservation Centre (part of National Museums Liverpool) from leading UK conservator Harriet Owen Hughes, who describes the Tondo as a "possible Raphael"

August to October 2000

A facsimile of the Tondo is on permanent exhibition at the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

May to September 2001

The facsimile is on permanent exhibition at the central London Churches of St Mary Moorfields, St Giles Cripplegate and St James's Piccadilly.

1 November 2002

A study session of leading art historians takes place in the presence of the painting at the Society of Antiquaries of London, Burlington House, under the aegis of Mrs MaryAnne Stevens, former Collections Secretary and Senior Curator now Director of Academic Affairs at the Royal Academy of Arts and Professor Francis Ames-Lewis, Raphael scholar and former Professor of Renaissance Art at Birkbeck College, University of London. The study session is convened to consider the likely age of the Tondo. A recommendation is made for further technical research.

February 2003

The identification in the painting of the medieval blue dye Turnsole (folium), or similar indicator dye, by Mr Henry Bland B.Sc., C.Chem., FRSC, Consulting Forensic Scientist and honorary adviser to the de Brécy Trust, is confirmed from the Laboratory for Materials and Techniques, the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage, Brussels. It is the first record of the dye's use in a painting, as distinct from manuscript illumination

September 2004

Laser Raman spectroscopic analysis of paint samples from the Tondo is undertaken by Professor Howell Edwards, professor of Molecular Spectrocopy at the University of Bradford, UK. Professor Edwards is an international expert in the identification of materials in art and archaeology by Raman spectroscopy (820 papers published in the scientific literature as at November 2007). The analysis establishes that the yellow (lead) pigment massicot has been used in the painting, a pigment not used after c.1700 when Naples Yellow superseded it in the palette. The analysis also identifies a starch-based glue as the probable medium, typical of Renaissance practice.

October 2004 to January 2005

Exhibition 'Raphael: From Urbino to Rome' is held at the National Gallery, London. As a supplement to the exhibition and catalogue, the National Gallery publishes Technical Bulletin [Volume 25, 2004], giving the results of technical investigation of 7 of the Gallery's early works by Raphael. Three key characteristics are:

  1. "The foregrounds, backgrounds and sky paints were laid in with broadly horizontal strokes, often leaving a brushmarked, slightly textured surface" (p.10)
  2. "translucency does appear to be a feature of Raphael's paint" (p.13)
  3. "alabaster appearance of the flesh tones" (p.13)
All three features are characteristic of the Tondo.

3 November 2004

Letter from the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, confirming Christ Church Picture Gallery's Raphael/ Italian Renaissance experts' opinion of the Tondo, having reviewed the research: "We appreciate that there is a possibility of the tondo being the work of Raphael…".

1-30 June 2005

Tondo is on permanent display at the Society of Antiquaries of London, Burlington House, to invited national and international Raphael and Italian Renaissance scholars, alongside a full-scale colour photograph of the equivalent detail of the Sistine Madonna for comparison. Discussion is launched among art historians as to the true relationship of the Tondo to the Sistine Madonna.

December 2005 to January 2006

The de Brécy Trust writes to the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, seeking temporary placement of the Tondo alongside the Sistine Madonna for comparison, as recommended by certain leading Raphael scholars in the UK. Surprisingly, despite the Gemäldegalerie having been kept informed of the main research developments since the commencement of the PhD research in 1987, no response is received to the Trust's letters to the Gallery's curator.

5 February 2007

Publication of the findings of Professor Howell Edwards' Raman spectroscopy analysis and his conclusion that the painting is from the Renaissance period in an original paper in the international scientific Journal Analytical & Bioanalytical Chemistry. The resultant interest in the Tondo is global, with articles published in papers and journals in numerous countries, particularly Germany and the USA.

30 August 2007

Correspondence with the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council confirmsthat for exhibition of the Tondo to take place in Manhattan, NY, a temporary export licencewould be required, should the Trust decide to accept such an invitation in due course.

5 March 2008

Professor Howell Edwards and Timothy Benoy BA (Oxon), honorary secretary and trustee of the de Brécy Trust, are invited to give a joint presentation about the history of the research of the painting and the Raman spectroscopy analysis establishing its Renaissance date, at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, with the painting being on view to the audience.

April 2008

Stan Parchin, Renaissance expert and senior New York art correspondent, delivers a lecture in Manhattan entitled From Mesopotamia to Mona Lisa, on the subject of science in the service of art history, using the Tondo research as illustration.

May 2008

Professor Howell Edwards is invited to lecture in Sydney, Aus., to Museum and Art professionals on the subject of Raman spectroscopy. He is specifically requested by the Australian conveners of the conference to refer to his analysis work on the Tondo.

1 November 2010

Professor Emeritus Howell Edwards, M.A., D.Phil., B.Sc., C.Chem., FRSC, of the University of Bradford, joins Professor Emeritus Merilyn Smith, D.A., FRSA, as an honorary adviser to the de Brécy Trust. Professor Emeritus Merilyn Smith is honorary fine art adviser to the Trust and Professor Emeritus Howell Edwards is the Trust's honorary scientific adviser in succession to Henry Bland, B.Sc., C.Chem., FRSC, who has retired after 15 years' invaluable service. The Trust records with deep regret that Professor Emeritus Merilyn Smith died on 7 August 2019, following many years of indispensable advice to the Trust as honorary fine art adviser.

6 January 2011

Raphael scholar at the forefront of Raphael research, Professor Dr Jürg Meyer zur Capellen of the University of Münster, head of the Raphael Project in association with the University of Würzburg, writes to the de Brécy Trust: "On Monday, 22nd January 2010 I was given the chance to study the De Brécy Tondo in London in the HSBC Bank, Holborn. I had been given the written information on the tondo and I think that the historical investigations done by Dr Murdoch Lothian are very interesting and as a whole convincing. So I believe it very likely that the tondo had once been in the collection or possession of Sir Richard Wynn of Gwydir coming from Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I. The painting might have had a certain significance in the catholic aims of Henrietta Maria, fostered by the Holy See. So it is possible that the painting was done in Rome for this purpose. More

28 June 2011

The Tondo is viewed in private by Dr Erin Griffey, Deputy Head of the Department of Art History at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and editor of the internationally-acclaimed book Henrietta Maria: Piety, Politics and Patronage (Ashgate Publishing, 2008). In support of Professor Dr Jürg Meyer zur Capellen's opinion of the Tondo, Dr Griffey considers the painting would have been of deep interest and attraction to Henrietta Maria, in her devotion to the Virgin Mary as her patron saint – and thus fully germane to the theme of chapter 5 of her book entitled 'The Three Marys: The Virgin; Marie de Médicis; and Henrietta Maria'. The picture is also in keeping with Henrietta Maria's taste, as evidenced by her inventory at Colombes (1669), the subject of a recent article co-written by Dr Griffey and Professor Caroline Hibbard in the Journal of the History of Collections.

6-31 May 2012

By kind permission of Westminster Cathedral's Administrators, an exhibition was held from 6 to 31 May 2012 in St Patrick's Chapel, Westminster Cathedral, London SW1, of the Trust's full-size, digital replica of the de Brécy Tondo, production house-commissioned and framed at the National Conservation Centre, Liverpool. The replica was displayed alongside a full-size colour photograph – sourced from a Bridgeman Art Library transparency – of the equivalent detail of the Sistine Madonna. The commencement of the exhibition coincided with the historic concert at the Cathedral given by the Sistine Chapel Choir, the Cappella Musicale Pontificia, being the first ever performance by the Pope's personal choir in Britain. The exhibition generated much interest from Westminster Cathedral's many UK and international visitors.

6 April 2020

Following his review of further research, Professor Dr Jürg Meyer zur Capellen amended his Opinion, in accepting that the Tondo is not a copy and supporting public Museum display of the Tondo to assist the assessment as to whether it is by a precursor of Raphael, his studio, or by Raphael himself.

3 December 2022

The paper entitled ‘Deep Facial Features for Analysing Artistic Depictions – A Case Study in Evaluating 16th and 17th Century Old Master Portraits’ by Professor Hassan Ugail, Director of the Centre of Visual Computing at the University of Bradford, co-authored by Howell Edwards, Emeritus Professor of Molecular Spectroscopy at the University of Bradford, Professor Christopher Brooke FSA, expert historian of ecclesiastical art and remote sensing techniques, of the University of Nottingham, and Timothy Benoy BA (Oxon) of the de Brécy Trust, was presented to the IEEE Conference SKIMA 2022 at the Cambodia University of Technology and Science, Phnom Penh.

July 2023

The de Brécy Tondo is displayed at the Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford, following publication by Professor Hassan Ugail, Director of the Centre of Visual computing at the University of Bradford, of research on facial recognition using artificial intelligence (AI) to show that the de Brécy tondo of the Madonna and Child is by Raphael.

  • Analysis by Professor Hassan Ugail, Director of the Centre of Visual computing at the University of Bradford
  • Subsiquent reporting by Colin Gleadell for the Daily Telegraph
  • Picture of the event with Timothy Benoy (left), secretary of the de Brécy Trust, Prof Howell Edwards (centre), honorary adviser to the de Brécy Trust and Professor Hassan Ugail (right), Director of the Centre of Visual computing at the University of Bradford

The Guardian
YouTube film made by the University of Bradford