15th Century And Earlier
Exclusive - Leonardo's 'Salvator Mundi' sold
May 13 2013
Picture: Robert Simon Fine Art/Tim Nighswander
I can't tell you for how much or to whom, but a deal has been done, and the greatest discovery of the age is 'no longer on the market'.
If you're in Tuscany...
April 25 2013
Picture: Palazzo Strozzi
...then Andrew Johnson of Renaissance in Tuscany says a new exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi on 'sculpture and the arts in Florence 1400-1460' is well worth a visit.
New Leonardo anatomy exhibition in Edinburgh
March 12 2013
Video: Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
This summer, the Royal Collection will mount a new exhibition at Holyroodhouse on Leonardo's anatomy drawings, called 'The Mechanics of Man'. 3D animations (above) and imagery will be used to fully explore Leonardo's drawings. From the RC press release:
An exhibition that sheds new light on Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical work opens at The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, in August. Long renowned as one of the finest artists of the Renaissance, Leonardo was also one of the greatest anatomists the world has ever seen. Almost 500 years after his death, Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Man, part of the Edinburgh International Festival, uses 21st-century technology to explore the modern relevance of Leonardo’s anatomical research. Thirty sheets of his groundbreaking investigations into the workings of the human body will go on display alongside images prepared using the latest medical technology. The juxtaposition shows how far-sighted Leonardo’s work was, and how relevant he remains for anatomists today.
More details and images here.
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart returns looted Madonna
March 5 2013
Picture: Bloomberg/Concordia University
The Max Stern Restitution Project has achieved the return of another picture looted by the Nazis, this time a Virgin and Child attributed to the Master of Flemalle. More details over on Bloomberg.
Rare 15th Century wall paintings in Wales
March 4 2013
Picture: St Cadoc's Church/Jane Rutherfoord
I learn via the Society of Antiquaries of a project in Wales to uncover a rare series of 15th Century wall paintings from the Church of St Cadoc's, Llancarfan. More details here.
'Sacred Geometry' in action
February 18 2013
Picture: Alfonso Rubino/MLF
The 'Iselworth Mona Lisa' proponents have published a photo of their 'sacred geometry' proof that their painting is by Mona Lisa. All it prooves, alas, is that copies tend to follow originals quite closely. Probably we knew that already...
They've also apparently developed a fool-proof way to attributing paintings:
Previously, four tests undertaken by Prof. John Asmus, nuclear physicist, who digitised the brushtrokes of both paintings, established scientifically that both the 'Earlier Version' [ie, the Isleworth picture] and the 'Mona Lisa' in the Louvre would have been executed by the same artist. This brushstroke analysis identifies conclusively an artist in the same way that DNA or fingerprints identify criminals'.
More details at the Mona Lisa Foundation here.
February 14 2013
Picture: Monda Lisa Foundation
The folks behind the so-called 'Isleworthless Mona Lisa', who claim their picture to be 'the first version' by Leonardo, have come out with yet more 'evidence' behind their claim. From The Independent:
New tests on a painting billed as the original version of the Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci's 15th century portrait, have produced fresh proof that it is the work of the Italian master, a Swiss-based art foundation claims.
The tests, one by a specialist in "sacred geometry" and the other by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, were carried out in the wake of the Geneva unveiling of the painting, the Isleworth Mona Lisa, last September.
"When we add these new findings to the wealth of scientific and physical studies we already had, I believe anyone will find the evidence of a Leonardo attribution overwhelming," said David Feldman vice-president of the foundation said.
Not me, alas. 'Sacred geometry' or not, it's just a (not very good) later copy. But don't take my word for it; read Leonardo scholar Professor Martin Kemp's view here.
Leonardo note-books in high-res
February 13 2013
Picture: British Library
The British Library has published Leonardo's 'Codex Arundel' online, in ultra-high resolution. You still need a mirror to read the text though.
Update - Three Pipe Problem tweets:
Surprised that @britishlibrary Leonardo manuscript viewer did not embed "horizontal flip" functionality to make text more accessible.
Prado discovers rare early 15thC panel
February 12 2013
Video: Museo Prado
The Prado has restored a newly discovered early 15thC panel showing Louis I d'Orleans. From the Prado website:
Shown to the public for the first time, the Museo del Prado is presenting The Agony in the Garden with the Donor Louis I d’Orléans (1405-1407/1408), a previously unpublished work acquired by the Museum in 2012. Following a lengthy process of restoration it will now be placed on display in the permanent galleries and represents a major contribution to the field of Early French Painting. The aesthetic and pictorial merit of the painting, recently restored with the sponsorship of Fundación Iberdrola, combined with the rarity of works from this school, make this panel a unique example of enormous historical importance given that it is the only known panel painting to depict Louis d’Orléans. With a possible attribution to Colart de Laon, Louis’ painter and valet de chambre, the panel will be presented in a special display until 28 April in Room 51A, alongside X-radiograph and Infra-red reflectograph images of it and a video that shows the different stages of its restoration.
Richard III? (ctd.)
February 6 2013
Video: Press Association
I'm afraid I just don't trust these facial reconstructions from skulls. According to the video above, 70% of the facial recreation from a skull is highly accurate. But then we all have two eyes, a nose and a mouth - that is, our faces all have a great deal in common. It's the tiny details that set us a part. I don't believe we can get details such as the precise length or shape of noses, eyes, eyebrows, lips or ears, even hair colour - all the things which make our faces so distinctive - from a skull. So please treat the face in the above video with some caution. In this other video at The Guardian, the lady behind the recreation says that the face is derived 'only from science', but then immediately contradicts herself by saying she used multiple contemporary references. This exercise would only have been valid had the recreators been given the skull, and not told who it was meant to be.
Update - here's an interesting article in Acta Biomedica in 2009 on the history of facial reconstruction by Laura Verze from the Department of Anatomy, Pharmacology and Legal Medicine at the University of Turin, Italy. She concludes:
In conclusion, over the centuries faces have been reconstructed from skulls for different reasons: religion, teaching, and more recently forensics, anthropology and archaeology of ancient or more or less famous people. The techniques are changing, and new more reliable methods are being studied. Nevertheless, it is clear that facial reconstruction methods and their traditional guidelines present some inaccuracies, and the challenge will be to increase the degree of accuracy of facial reconstruction.
Giotto, or Grotto?
November 7 2012
Restoration work at the Chapel of St Nicholas in the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, which was damaged in an earthquake in 1997, has revealed evidence to suggest the frescoes may be the work of Giotto. More here.
Update - a reader writes:
If Ghiberti thought he was at Assisi it's good enough for me. If you look at his evolution between the Arena Chapel in 1305 and the Bardi Chapel in 1325, the St Francis cycle could be the same painter in the 1290s. The secondary figures in the Arena Chapel are like figures from Assisi. Giotto is the moment painting starts walking on two legs. I don't think he ditched the icon style overnight.
Waldemar on Leonardo the Anatomist
May 10 2012
Picture: Royal Collection
So accomplished is the presentation here of our inner biology, it’s easy to overlook the fact that Leonardo isn’t just progressing anatomical understanding. He is also inventing biological drawing. Today, we live in a world of plentiful biological illustration, and all these methods of explaining the inner body are familiar to us: the section, the inner close-up, the view across the cut, the map of the arteries, the exploded joint. In Leonardo’s time, they all needed to be invented. Here he is, turning abstract knowledge into a tangible and understandable visual coding.
The final room is dizzyingly impressive. It records his most sustained effort to turn his anatomical knowledge into a published treatise. Somehow, he gets to know the professor of anatomy at the university in Pavia, and the two of them embark on a thorough investigation of the skeleton and its muscles. A few of the sheets of intense, insightful drawings that result — a set of views of the inner workings of the human hand; a series of cross sections of the human shoulder in motion; the first accurate drawing of the human spine — are downright miraculous.
These sensitively shadowed drawings of body parts achieve so much more than is demanded of them. There’s a sense of movement, a thoroughly convincing corporeality and, above all, that uniquely Leonardoesque sense that you are somehow able to look through the human skin to a precisely observed inner reality: not an abstracted diagram of the stuff of life, but the stuff itself.
The unobservable is being observed here. And this utterly convincing sense of reality is Leonardo the artist’s greatest gift to Leonardo the scientist.
Leonardo as anatomist
May 1 2012
Excitement is building ahead of the Royal Collection exhibition of Leonardo's anatomical drawings (opens 4th May at Buckingham Palace). Will we see queues like those outside the National Gallery? Probably not, but it will be crowded.
Above is a fine video featuring the Royal Collection senior curator Martin Clayton on the drawings. You can buy the exhibition app here. And here is a piece by Channel 4 News, which is a little simplistic but features a contribution from National Gallery director Nicholas Penny.
New Raphael exhibition the Prado
April 18 2012
Picture: Louvre, Raphael's Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione
This sounds like a must-see:
This will be one of the most important exhibitions ever to be devoted to the work of Raphael (1483-1520) and his studio and the first to focus on the final phase in the artist’s career when he became the most influential painter in Western art.
Organised in collaboration with the Musée du Louvre (where the exhibition will take place following its showing at the Museo del Prado), the 40 paintings and 30 drawings that comprise this exhibition will be displayed chronologically. As such they will cover the last seven years of Raphael’s life, from the start of the pontificate of Leo X (1513) up to the artist’s death in 1520. This period includes famous works such as the Saint Cecilia Altarpiece (Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale) and the portrait of Baldassare Castiglione, from the Louvre. Space will also be given to the work of Raphael’s principal pupils and followers, Giulio Romano (c. 1449-1546) and Giovanni Francesco Penni (1488-1528), who worked under the master’s close supervision on the late commissions he received.
12th June - 16th September.
The one thing we should return?
April 10 2012
Picture: Adrian Pingstone
There was news this weekend that the Turkish government has formally requested the return of a 1st century BC stone relief, the Samsat Stele, which is held in the British Museum. The Stele thus joins the Elgin Marbles as an artefact of international dispute.
I'm generally not one for repatriating items such as the Marbles. But I've always thought that 'Cleopatra's Needle' in London probably should be returned to Egypt. Unlike objects in the British Museum, it is not preserved for study by scholars, or a destination for the world's tourists. Instead, it is largely forgotten, hidden by trees, and eaten by pollution to such an extent that its hieroglyphics have become unreadable. I doubt many would notice if it was replaced by a replica. Would you miss it?
Prado copy hits the news again
March 6 2012
A classic example of how speculation can become fact. From the Daily Telegraph:
'Mona Lisa copy may have been painted by Leonardo's lover'
Last month, a copy of Leonardo's most famous painting rocked the art world with revelations about its provenance.
Two weeks after it went on show to the public at the Prado, the museum's conservation team believe they are closing in on a conclusion about the painting's authorship.
The most likely candidate is Gian Giacomo Caprotti, the apprentice known as "Salaì" - which translates as "Little Devil" - who went to work in Leonardo's workshop when he was ten years old.
Many historians believe, though it is not proven, that Salaì was Leonardo's lover. He is presumed to be the youthful model for Leonardo's paintings 'St. John the Baptist' and 'Bacchus', as well as numerous drawings.
Things we can't know for sure in relation to this story:
- Nobody knows if Salai was Leonardo's lover, or even if Leonardo was gay.
- We can't really be certain that the Prado copy was painted simultaneously alongside the original.
- We don't know much at all about Salai's style or oeuvre, and certainly not enough to make a stylistic attribution.
Van Eyck in ultra-high resolution
February 27 2012
Picture: Universum Digitalis
A reader has alerted me to this excellent site on Van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece. You can even zoom in on the infra-red images.