Thursday, July 29, 2010
The picture, titled Let the Children Come To Me, is valued at $2M to $3M -- or perhaps more now, given its newfound notoriety.
The thieves were caught and the painting retrieved. It has undergone restoration and is now back safely in a church in Larvik, 105km southwest of Oslo. Church security has been improved.
Church officials are eager to capitalize on what is known in Norway as the “Munch effect”— referring to the increased interest in works by Edvard Munch after The Scream was stolen, for the second time, in 2004.
Charged with developing a strategy to ensure that the region can profit from the publicity of the robbery, a tourism manager in Larvik said, “I imagine that an additional 10,000 people may come to see the work annually, if we market it right.”
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I've just discovered that Borromini reprised the Pantheon's ancient stepped-ring dome in his c.1650 charming Baroque design of St. Ivo.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Yesterday, Antonio Paolucci, the head of the Vatican Museums and a former Italian Culture Minister, took back the claim -- announced just 8 days earlier-- that the Jesuit-owned Martyrdom of St. Lawrence might be the work of Caravaggio.
In a front-page article in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, Paolucci wrote, "The quality isn't there, whereas in a Caravaggio [the quality is] always high, even when ... he uses maximum carelessness and a minimum of his expressive resources."
In the article, entitled "A New Caravaggio? Not Really," Paolucci wrote that the work was not up to Caravaggio's standard, citing “inadequacy” of technique, and stylistic shortcomings. He called it a "modest" effort at best, and suggested that it was most likely (a student?) copy of an original painted by a Caravaggio-influenced artist.
Their hopes dashed, I imagine the Jesuits who own it are rather disappointed.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
At first blush it appears to have many of Caravaggio’s stylistic hallmarks, but it has not yet been authenticated as his work.
"Certainly it's a stylistically impeccable, beautiful painting," the newspaper said in its Sunday edition, hedging its bets as it cautioned that further analyses, in-depth documentation, and stylistic examination are required before it can be attributed for certain to the Italian master.
The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence displays features typical of Caravaggio's style, including dramatic chiaroscuro and the unique perspective from which the subject is seen. Other similarities are seen in the saint's hand, the active pose of the body, virtuoso foreshortening and the emotive facial expression.
Maurizio Marini, a Caravaggio scholar, points out that St. Lawrence - a martyr burned to death during Roman persecutions in 258AD - is not known to have been a Caravaggio subject. Marini said the stylistic similarities are inconclusive and he expressed skepticism, saying that claims of new Caravaggios often surface but seldom hold up.
However, the author of the article, an art historian named Salviucci Insolera, cites the fact that Caravaggio’s circle of patrons included the powerful ... Jesuit ... Crescenzi family. But, hedging her bets, she added, "That the painting is at the very least a Caravaggio-esque work of the highest order is quite obvious."
Although it’s hard to tell by simply looking at a web-sourced image of a newspaper picture of the real thing, I question attribution to Caravaggio … based primarily on two things:
- Caravaggio is known to have used the same sitters repeatedly, and this model appears to be one we’ve never seen before.
- The facial expression seems to lack the vigor I expect of Caravaggio. He produced a series of what amounted to studies of extreme emotion – and if being cooked alive doesn’t engender extreme emotion, I don’t know what would – and this Lawrence simply doesn’t convince me that he’s feeling the heat.
That having been said, (I say, hedging my bets) could it be an early work, painted soon after his arrival in Rome, when he was still developing his skills and used any model who would sit for him for no pay? But then, at that point he didn’t yet have a connection to the Jesuits through the Crescenzi family. And he hadn't yet arrived at this degree of foreshortening or compositional complexity.
Così complicato! It’ll be a while before the experts pronounce, but I’ll let you know when I hear more.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Just imagine John Marciari’s excitement --- as a junior curator at the Yale University Art Gallery -- when it dawned on him that the unidentified painting languishing in storage looked suspiciously like it might be an early masterpiece by Diego Velazquez!
Marciari claims that the technical evidence of pigments, ground, and canvas are consistent with artistic practice in Seville in the early 17th century. He writes, “Further examination – of style and technique, of the painterly conceits, the manner of quotation, and other factors – leads to a unique origin: Diego Velázquez, born in Seville in 1599 and active there only until 1623, but even from the first moments of his career responsible for the revolutionary change in Spanish painting represented by the altarpiece.”
Marciari points to similarities between The Education of the Virgin and another early Velazquez work, The Luncheon (kept in Saint Petersburg Hermitage) “from the way that the figures emerge from the darkness, to the inconsistently cast shadows that set off brilliantly depicted still-life elements, to the long thick strokes of paint.” He cites comparable elements, such as St. Anne's ochre-colored draperies, in accepted Velázquez works.
The still-life at the left side of the canvas is similar to pottery bowls, plates and baskets present in other Velázquez’s paintings, as are the treatment of “deep, animated folds” in the garments of Saint Anne and the young virgin.
Friday, July 09, 2010
But the excitement was about more than just the price.
According to Sotheby's David Moore-Gwyn, Senior Specialist in Early British Paintings, "This is Turner at his absolute best. One of the most evocative pictures of Rome ever painted, this picture has everything: a colourful, relaxed beauty, exquisite detail, flawless condition and superlative provenance and exhibition history. One of the last great Turner masterpieces to have remained in private hands, its sale at auction represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for collectors and one of the landmark moments of my 35-year career at Sotheby's."
That’s something worth twittering about!
By “superlative provenance,” he means that the painting has only appeared on the open market once in the 171 years since it was painted. It was originally bought by Hugh Munro, a friend and patron of Turner. Almost 40 years later, while honeymooning in Italy in 1878, the 5th Earl of Rosebery and his new wife, Hannah Rothschild, acquired it. For the next 100 years, it hung in the family's country home or in their London residences, until, in 1978, it was loaned to the National Gallery of Scotland.
The painting is further distinguished by its immaculate condition.