Secretive MIA shocks crowd by revealing on-loan $50M Raphael masterpiece

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Another week, another surprise from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to celebrate its centennial – but this one's a big one. Like, $50 million big.

Making a surprise appearance Friday morning at the south Minneapolis museum was "Madonna of the Pinks" – a $50 million masterpiece by the Italian icon Raphael.

The painting is on loan from the world-renowned National Gallery in London, and depicts the Virgin Mary with a young Jesus in a dark bedchamber, exchanging a sprig of pink carnations, the MIA says on its website.

It is the second of three pieces that are being lent to the MIA by European museums this year as part of the MIA's "Masterpiece in Focus" program to celebrate its 100th birthday.

It revealed a rare painting by the Dutch master Vermeer in January, on loan from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, with the third and final on-loan masterpiece being revealed later this year.

The Star Tribune reports Friday's surprise was such a closely guarded secret than not even the husband of director Kaywin Feldman knew what it was, and the revelation of the 500-year-old painting was said to have drawn "gasps" among onlookers.

Standing at a mere 8 inches wide and 11 inches tall, the painting will be on display near the museum's entrance at 2400 3rd Ave. S.

Raphael is considered one of the "holy trinity of great masters" from the Renaissance period, alongside fellow Italians Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

The painting had been hanging in a corridor of Alnwick Castle, England, when it was almost sold to an art museum in Los Angeles in 2002.

However, a fundraising campaign was launched to keep the painting in the UK, with the National Gallery completing a $50 million purchase in 2004, according to Art Daily.

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