State Digest


May 12, 2006

Second image seen under old painting

Hagerstown -- X-ray technicians performing a checkup on a 16th-century Italian painting depicting the preparation of Jesus' body after the crucifixion got a bonus: They discovered the image of a Renaissance man hidden underneath.

The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, which owns the painting, asked Washington County Hospital to X-ray the artwork to determine its condition. The X-rays showed a detailed image of a man dressed in late Renaissance clothing with his hands clasped at his waist.

Museum Curator Mary L. Pixley called the finding a "jackpot." Pixley said she had been hoping to find another painting but wasn't sure what would turn up.

It wasn't unusual for artists to paint over earlier works rather than waste canvas, Pixley said.

The painting by Gerolomo Bassano, The Sepulchre, depicts the preparation of Jesus Christ's body to be placed in the tomb. Joseph of Arimathea is at the head of Jesus, Nicodemus is at his feet, and the Virgin Mary is in front.

"I am just in an utter state of happiness right now," said Pixley, who plans to research the Bassano family in hopes of identifying the man in the painting.

Bassano lived from 1566 to 1621 and belonged to a well-known family of artists from the small town of Bassano and from Venice.

The painting is based on a larger altarpiece painted in 1574 by Bassano's father, Jacopo Bassano, and Franceso Bassano, which hangs in the Church of Santa Maria in Vanzo, Padua, Pixley said.

Museum Director Joseph Ruzicka said Gerolomo Bassano's piece would have been made for a Catholic home to use as a private devotion. The painting's nocturnal setting adds dramatic effect, showing how Jesus, who was crucified on a Friday, was buried before sunset, the start of the Jewish sabbath.


Chesapeake Bay

Rockfish disease more common

A wasting disease that attacks rockfish is becoming more common in the Chesapeake Bay, but scientists aren't sure why or what to do about it.

At a three-day summit on the disease, mycobacteriosis, scientists from two federal agencies and several states shared what they know about the disease, also called fish handlers' disease. By the end of the summit yesterday, they announced that they don't know much.

Scientists aren't sure how the rockfish catch mycobacteriosis, often called myco. They don't know whether it kills the rockfish, also called striped bass, or whether environmental factors are making the disease more common.

But they do know more fish are getting it, at least in Maryland waters. About 25 percent of rockfish in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay had mycobacteriosis in 1998, and by 2005 about 62 percent had it, said Larry Pieper, a biologist for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The wasting disease is generally harmless to humans if the fish are handled properly, but news of the bacteria's spread has alarmed some anglers. The Maryland DNR has reported that charter boat captains are seeing fewer fishermen who want to fish for rockfish, a popular sporting fish in the state.

State health and environmental officials have stressed that rockfish from the Chesapeake remain safe to eat when thoroughly cooked and pose no significant health risks to the public. They have reminded anglers to wash their hands after touching fish and said no one should handle fish that have open lesions.


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