Art gives me great pleasure. Especially when I have the context that leads to fuller appreciation. My travels are geared to what art is where. In this blog I share art-related items that intrigue me. Perhaps they will intrigue you, too!
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
Previously Unknown Caravaggio Discovered
What other art wonders are just waiting to be found?
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
But is it art?
The skull is made of platinum, encrusted with 8,601 diamonds. It cost $20 million to make the skull (diamonds and fabrication).
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Speaking of Record Prices at Auction ...
Saint Rufina was one of only a handful of works by the artist ever to have come to auction. A work of particular intimacy and simplicity, Saint Rufina may even have reflected the likeness of one of the artist’s own daughters, Francisca or Ignacia, who were aged around twelve and fourteen years old when the painting was executed in the early 1630s.
Following the sale, Anabel Morillo León, the Managing Director of the foundation said “We are absolutely delighted to have had the opportunity to bring the painting back to Seville, and to its people, who have shown such interest in this image of the city’s patron saint. The success of this joint effort between the Town Hall and the Focus Abengoa Foundation is a model of cooperation that will benefit the city of Seville.” “The Town Hall and the Focus-Abengoa Foundation have reached an understanding to work together to promote Velázquez’s oeuvre for 75 years. This agreement will encompass the creation of a centre to house the work by the artist, including Santa Rufina and La imposición de la Casulla a San Ildefonso, as well as a library and documentation centre on the life of this painter who is so important to the people of Seville.”
While Saint Rufina was the highlight of Sotheby’s evening sale of Old Master Paintings, the auction began with the sale of Turner watercolours from the collection of Guy and Myriam Ullens. Spanning 44 years of Turner’s career, the 14 works offered represented the finest group of watercolours by the artist to have come to the market since the 1920s.
After the sale, Baron Guy Ullens said: “The decision to part with the Turner watercolours was a difficult one. My wife Myriam and I have enjoyed the privilege of living surrounded by Turner’s genius for many years, and their absence now will be acute. But parting with these wonderful works has been made easier because of the knowledge that they will now be enjoyed by other collectors. The success of this evening’s sale means that we now have the additional resources we need to pursue a dream that Myriam and I both treasure: the building of a museum for Contemporary Art in Beijing.”
Aside from the record price for the Velázquez, eight further auction records were achieved,. Among the most notable new records was that for a work by Jan Brueghel the Elder, whose harrowing depiction of hell (Aeneas and the Sybil in the Underworld) realised £1,924,000 (17,003,348 ). Unrecorded until its rediscovery in 2001, the work was the only known example of the artist’s famous hell scenes remaining in private hands.
Raphael Portrait Goes to Private Collection
The remarkable painting sold at Christies in London yesterday after a ten minute bidding battle. It went to an anonymous private collector bidding over the telephone .
It sold for £18,500,000 ($37,277,500). This is a world record price for the artist at auction and a world record price for an Italian Old Master picture. Yes, indeed, there are some rather wealthy people in the world!
The Raphael was the highlight of the auction, but plenty of other magnificent works were snapped up. Said a Christies spokesperson, "This evening’s sale attracted clients from around the world, including a significant number who were new to the category, and particularly competitive bidding was seen for the best works on offer.
Portrait of a Lady by Lucas Cranach II (1515-1586), far exceeded its pre-sale estimate of £500,000-700,000, eventually selling to an anonymous bidder in the room for £1,812,000 ($3,651,180), setting a world record price for the artist at auction.
Friday, June 08, 2007
'Clueless' thieves sell £1million painting for £350
A £1 million painting stolen by a gang of 'clueless' thieves was discovered on sale at a flea market for 500 Euro. Giandomenico Tiepolo's Scenes from a Venetian Carnival was stolen last year from a private collector.
It was recovered from Pordenone, near Venice, along with more than a dozen other works of art worth more than £2.5million, following raids on a number of markets across Italy.
Tiepolo, whose works are characterised by vivid colour and movement, was born in Venice in 1727.
A spokesman said yesterday: "This gang was peddling works of art worth millions for just a few hundred euros. They were completely clueless and had no idea of the real value. "In fact to call them clueless would be a compliment." Who says the carabinieri are humorless?
I think from now on I'll spend more time at flea markets when I'm in Italy!
Monday, May 28, 2007
Speaking of Raphael
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
3-Month Long, 40-Mile Long Art Exhibition
For three months this summer, running for 40 miles along the river will be more than 40 installations created by an international cadre of artists. Visit http://www.estuaire.info/.
Artists including Anish Kapoor and Daniel Buren will install what we’re told will be a “lively, fun and unusual” variety of works in the cities and ports, on the riverbanks, on the water -- and even in the water -- to build a geographic and symbolic link between Nantes ando St Nazaire, two cities which share a common history of shipbuilding.
The works include “an 80 foot duck, astonishing feats of architecture, dramatic fountains and a floating house,” all of which can be viewed free of charge.
One way to see the river’s landscapes, its cultural and historic heritage, and the installations themselves will be to take a three-hour river cruise on a specially-built mirrored boat, while listening to the audio-guided tour designed by the artists (available in English and French).
Alternatively, the area is wonderful to explore on foot or by bicycle.
Not going to the Loire Valley this summer? Not to worry … you can start planning now to see the repeat of The Loire Estuary Project in 2009 and 2011!
Saturday, May 05, 2007
"Those 'cool-seekers', as Madrid guidebooks have it, who are hoping for an all-singing, all-dancing extension to the Prado may well be disappointed by Moneo's quietly heroic work. Here, an architect of the first order has chosen to let the art that will be on display steal the show. What he has created over long years is a building of immense skill, craft, solidity and intelligence, which redefines a part of Madrid's city centre and makes the Prado itself a far more immediate gallery than it has been for some while."
The expansion was sorely needed. A few years ago I had the unpleasant experience of waiting in a v-e-r-y slow-moving line for upwards of an hour, outside -- in the pouring rain -- while their seriously inadequate and decidedly officious post-9/11 security efforts were exerted -- one visitor at a time – in a tiny log-jam of a foyer. Once inside, the experience was absolutely worth that discomfort, but how lovely I imagine it will be now that the space -- and undoubtedly the security process – have been enhanced. I so enjoy the sense of luxury about Madrid and about the Prado -- that dreary cattle-call entry was disappointingly unwelcoming and incompatible with that sense of elegance.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
More On Conservation Controversies
In light of my posting last week about the controversy among art historians and conservators about restoration techniques and their results, I was intrigued by a 4-year-old item I found on the ArtWatch International website, which I have copied in below.
I am in the process of creating a webpage presenting the newest Jane’s Smart Art Guides audio tour of Raphael’s Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican, and I came across the ArtWatch article while searching Google Images for a complete view of Raphael’s panoramic Dispute Over the Sacrament (La Disputa).
It was no surprise, actually, that this article was illustrated with an image from the Stanza della Segnatura, given that the President of ArtWatch International is none other than James Beck, Professor of Art History at Columbia University. Professor Beck authored the book in The Great Fresco Cycles of the Renaissance series, on which the Jane’s Smart Art Guides audio tour, Raphael’s Stanza della Segnatura, is based.
Vatican Wins an Award for Restoration! 12/11/2003
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Dog Drool on a DaVinci
Background: By the 1620s, the Gonzaga dynasty in Mantua had declined from five consecutive generations of extremely refined art connoisseurship, combined with great wealth, to a series of disinterested Dukes who had no real interest in art and a desperate need for cash. The Spanish and French monarchs also coveted the Gonzaga collection, but it was the English King, Charles I, whose emissary carried away the hugely valuable art collection -- hundreds of antiquities, decorative artifacts and Renaissance paintings.
It was the celebrated collection of which Rubens had been curator for eight years, and it included, besides Caravaggio’s Death of the Virgin which is now in the Louvre, a Raphael Holy Family, Titian’s Entombment, and several dozen other paintings by the likes of Mantegna, Correggio, Giulio Romano and Leonardo da Vinci.
Having concluded the arduous, clandestine negotiations on behalf of his King, Nicholas Lanier packed the art works for transport to London. Knowing that the watercolors would not fare well on a sea voyage, he carried those with him on his overland journey. The rest was crated up and stowed aboard the Margaret –carefully segregated on one side of the hold, away from the sacks of grapes and barrels of mercury.
But Lanier hadn’t considered “the effects of heat and condensation on the sugar and the mercury in the hold.” Uncrating the artworks in England, Lanier discovered that the evaporating mercury had left a sticky layer of ink-colored quicksilver on the canvases, and had saturated the drawings.
A frenzied restoration effort ensued. Although Lanier was by now being castigated by the French and the Spanish (and by the Mantuan people who knew what they had lost) for having “stolen” the collection – having paid far below its market value – nonetheless a large hole had been made in the English Treasury to acquire these works. The King would not be pleased.
“But sponges soaked in milk or dog’s slaver – the customary methods – had not completely erased the ghastly overlay.” The most famous chemists in the realm suggested countless ineffective solutions. He swabbed the canvases with brandy. He dripped droplets of alcohol distilled from wine. Still a film remained. “Finally, he washed the finest canvases with plenty of water. Determination, luck and a mastery of the techniques of painting enabled him to restore some of the masterpieces. He enjoyed His Majesty’s favor more than ever.”
Imagine calling Fido over to drool on a DaVinci!
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Color Controversy in Art History
For example, after the Ottomans gained control of and limited access to traditional sources of alum, the Papacy took aggressive steps to control new-found alum sources in Italy. One of the important uses for alum was as a color fixative in dyes and paints, the light-colored alumen being useful in brilliant colors, the dark-colored black or very dark colors.
Certain paint colors were extremely expensive. This added value – both monetary and symbolic – to any work in which they were used. For example, in the more than 50 frescoes he painted at the San Marco priory in Florence, with Cosimo dei Medici financing the work, Fra Angelico -- true to his monastic principles -- used just a single passage of pure ultramarine blue. He used it only in the most prominent fresco, to highlight the importance of the subject: coloring the Virgin Mary’s cloak the unique clear blue that only ultramarine could produce.
Ultramarine is the oldest and most technically specific device whereby a painter and his patron could honor a distinguished personage. That is because ultramarine was by far the most precious of all the painter’s materials. It's beautiful, it’s extremely resistant to the damaging effects of light, and it’s very rare. Consequently, painters’ contracts of the period frequently specified the exact quantity of ultramarine that the patron authorized the master to use. At San Marco, whose frescoes are distinctive for technical as well as aesthetic reasons, the message is clear: in the spirit of humility, the opulent blue pigment appears at San Marco only on the Virgin Mary and only in the Chapter Room.
Referring to the importance of identifying historically-true colors in art restoration, Stephanie Reitz, in an article in the ArtInfo newsletter says, “The implications go beyond aesthetics to cold cash. For example, the use of pure Prussian blue—the first synthetic color of the Industrial Revolution—can cause a painting's value to skyrocket.” So what’s changed?
Theoretical and practical approaches to art restoration change over time, influenced largely by available technologies, and also by cultural trends.
Until a quite recently, restoration and preservation was a “best guess” proposition, with the restorer -- typically an artist by training -- making assumptions about what paints, varnishes and other materials were originally used. Results varied from good to disastrous. Restorers today often find themselves having to undo ill-advised past restoration efforts.
In much the same way as a good historian pursues the truth about what happened at a distant past point in time, a good art restorer seeks to know the facts related to the creation of a particular artwork.
Today chemists are involved in restoration, using invisible-to-the-naked-eye samples of paint taken from the piece. Henry DePhillips. a Trinity College chemistry professor says, ''The whole goal of art conservation is to preserve the original vision of the artist, not my vision of what it could or should be,'' alluding to the guesswork in outdated theories of restoration.
Using cutting-edge science chemists can identify the mix of ingredients – like iron oxide, mercury, titanium dioxide, lapis lazuli -- that constitute various colors. For example, titanium dioxide is what made white, white.
“If you're going to restore a piece of art to the way it was on the day it was finished, you need to know exactly what materials they used. Our job has been done correctly if you, a viewer of the piece, cannot tell that anything has been done,'' DePhillips said. ''That is meeting our responsibility to history.''
Monday, March 26, 2007
Rare exhibition of 2000 yr old frescoes
In the first centuries BC and AD, the sumptuous villas dotted all around the Bay of Naples served as summer residences for leisure and political entertaining . In the hot months Rome was empty of the rich and powerful, and the area surrounding the Bay of Naples became the virtual capital of the Empire.
The villas were designed to provide fabulous views of the Bay and also contained serene garden courtyards. According to ArtDaily.org , the exhibition features twenty-six remarkably well-preserved fresco wall paintings and eleven wall reliefs made of stucco among the more than seventy works of art and artifacts recovered from five partially-excavated ancient Roman villas located in Stabiae.
The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 a.d. destroyed a wide swath of populated territory, bringing an end to the area's era of affluence. But the thick layer of ash and pumice functioned exceptionally well as a preservative, and the Restoring Ancient Stabiae Foundation has as its mission the excavation and conservation of at least two of the enormous villas and the transformation of the site into one of the largest archaeological parks in modern Europe. The site of Stabiae (Castellammare di Stabia) is 2.5 miles from Pompeii and is currently open to the public.
The four-year tour of this exhibition represents the first long-term loan of major cultural treasures from Italy to the U.S. After Madison, it will travel to the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX (July 8 – October 7) and then to the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville, FL (November 7- Feb 3, 2007/08).
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Celebrating Easter on the Wrong Date?
The Pope endorses his scientific advisors’
Detail from Gregory XIII tomb
by Camillo Rusconi, St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome
Why does Easter fall on different dates in the Latin Church and the Greek Orthodox Church? And which one’s the “right” one? Until the latter part of the 16th century, all Christians celebrated Easter on the same date. So what happened? The answer is found in a fascinating little slice of history.
Ancient calendars were based on the lunar cycle until around 45 BC, when Julius Caesar decided that his vast Roman Empire should adopt a new calendar, one based upon the earth's revolution around the sun. By giving up a link with the moon, the Julian calendar – so-called in honor of Caesar -- gained about three days every 400 years. By the 16th century, this error had accumulated to 10 days, and the discrepancy between the calendar dates of the solstices and the actual occurrence of the solstices had become a real concern to the Roman Church.
The long-standing formula for dating Easter depended upon the lunar cycle and the vernal equinox. Easter was being celebrated on the wrong date!
A solution challenged astronomers and mathematicians until 1582. Pope Gregory XIII endorsed their recommendations to modify the calendar and the new Gregorian Calendar changed leap-year rules to synchronize with the solar year -- to an accuracy of about 1 day in 2500 years!
To adjust for the discrepancy that had accumulated since 45 BC, the year 1582 was shortened by 10 days. The days between October 4th and 15th were abolished. So that the last day of the Julian calendar, October 4, 1582, was followed by the first day of the Gregorian calendar, October 15! Roman Catholics and Protestants use the Gregorian calendar, while Greek Orthodox Christians base their liturgical dates on a much older calendar.
The 16th Century was the era of the Protestant Reformation, and papal decrees carried little weight with non-Catholic Christians, so Gregory’s calendar reform was not soon adopted in Protestant countries. By the time Britain adopted it in 1752, an eleventh day had to be dropped. Russia didn’t adopt it until the 20th C. That’s why the October Revolution of 1917 actually occurred in November!
The Greek Orthodox Church has never endorsed the Gregorian Reform of the Calendar, so Orthodox Easter (and Christmas) falls some days later than the same celebrations in the Latin Church.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Seeing ancient structures as they were
"The aqueducts had to drop the width of a finger every 100 yards -- any more and the flow would rupture the walls; any less and the water would lie stagnant ...
Their greatest glories, such as the triple-tiered bridge in southern Gaul, the highest in the world, that carried the aqueduct of Nemausus, were frequently far from human view. Sometimes it was only the eagles, soaring in the hot air above some lonely mountainscape, who could appreciate the true majesty of what men had wrought. " Pompeii, by Robert Harris
Saturday, January 20, 2007
But Is It Art?
I've just finished reading an engaging little book by Cynthia Freeland, called But Is It Art?.
The day before I started to read it someone was telling me about how he sees art in everything, so it seemed a nice coincidence that, only two pages into her book, Freeland writes that many people "would not distinguish art from artefact or ritual. Medieval European Christians did not make art as such, but tried to emulate and celebrate God's beauty. In classical Japanese aesthetics, art might include things unexpected to modern Westerners, like a garden, sword, calligraphy scroll, or tea ceremony.”
This resonated for me because I consider virtually anything made by human hands to be art ... not always necessarily good art, but art nonetheless! I also see art and architecture in nature. It's all there: form, color, line, pattern, compositional balance ...
I take particular pleasure in architectural detail. But I've observed that relatively few people seem to notice it. In Italy there are exquisite floors everywhere you look, painstakingly laid centuries ago by amazingly skilled craftsmen; but most people don't seem to notice what's under foot.
I feel fortunate to have "seeing eyes", and part of my purpose in creating Jane's Smart Art audio guides is to help others see in art and architecture what I see, and then to explore the historical context that provides meaning. I love the exploration process!
If you’ve ever wanted to learn a bit about art theory, but have been put off by arcane and pompous grandstanding, then I recommend Freeland’s lively little book, But Is It Art?: An Introduction to Art Theory. It’s very readable and – although not an in-depth review of aesthetic theory – enlightening: “eye-opening” in the sense of enlarging one’s ability to thoughtfully see “art” where previously one might have reacted with disinterest, perplexity, amusement or disapproval. Freeland is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Houston, and an active member of the American Society for Aesthetics, so she knows whereof she speaks!