Previous Posts: March 2012

Mona Lisa copy - it was painted by Leonardo's lover??

March 1 2012

Image of Mona Lisa copy - it was painted by Leonardo's lover??

Picture: Prado

The speculation on this is just going to run and run. Here's the latest headline from The Art Newspaper:

"Leonardo’s lover probably painted the Prado’s Mona Lisa"

How do we get to this news-tastic conclusion on the basis of hard-to-interpret infra-red imagery - and no other evidence whatsoever

Here's the reasoning:

In attempting to identify the copyist, curators at the Prado began by eliminating pupils and associates such as Boltraffio, Marco d’Oggiono and Ambrogio de Predis—since they each have their own individual styles. They also eliminated two Spanish followers of Leonardo, Fernando Yáñez and Fernando de Llanos, whose work is distinctively Valencian.

Miguel Falomir, the head of Italian paintings at the Prado, now believes that the copy of the Mona Lisa “can be stylistically located in a Milanese context close to Salaì or possibly Francesco Melzi”. Melzi was an assistant who joined Leonardo’s studio in around 1507, but the Prado’s copy may well have been started earlier. Of the two, Salaì now seems the most likely.

So it's by a process of elimination. Boltraffio, d'Oggiono and da Predis must be ruled out because they are far superior painters than the hand responsible for the Prado's copy. Presumably the same goes for Yáñez and Llanos. Melzi only joins Leonardo after he began the Mona Lisa, so that's him out. And we're left with Salai, for whom, perhaps conveniently, we have very few firmly attributable works for comparison. I'm not sure about this...

Titian - now that we've bought it...

March 1 2012

Image of Titian - now that we've bought it...

Picture: National Gallery

...please can we restore it? Like many Titians, Diana and Callisto has suffered over the centuries, and is in less than ideal condition. For me, the most jarring passage is seen in Diana's head, above. All sense of definition around her profile has disappeared, and, through a combination of abrasion and transparency, her face dissolves into the background. Surely Titian never intended the star of his picture to be so obscure and hard to see. Judicious intervention through minor retouching would easily remedy the situation, and make the picture's sense of narrative work once more. 

You can zoom in on the painting here

Titian - the ingrates have a field day

March 1 2012

Image of Titian - the ingrates have a field day

Picture: NG & NGS

The comments section of the Guardian is always a good place to go for sound thinking on the arts. Here's a few snippets in reaction to the Titian purchase:

It's a crap painting, idiotic titillation as artful as page 3, and the money spent on this rubbish is disgraceful while real artists scrape a living.

I love the idea of Titian not being 'a real artist'.

It's a terrible waste of funds spent on a novelty which only 12 people will ever see.

I would love to have seen the Duke of Sutherland donate these for free. Given that this was never going to happen (which is a damning indictment of the man), this is definitely the second best course of action.

More public money to money-grubbing aristocrats. Time for change.

The wealth of his family was made from the robbery of many. And the descendents of thieves and gangsters that are today's royals and old aristocratic families have the nerve to look down on 'new money'.

This presumably refers to the Highland Clearances, carried out by the Sutherlands. But for what it's worth the present Duke of Sutherland's picture collection comes from Bridgewater money (digging canals), not Sutherland money. 

Finally, the 'schools 'n hospitals' brigade:

If you spent 50,000 on educating 900 people, that is £45m.

And so it goes on.

2nd Titian - where the money came from

March 1 2012

Image of 2nd Titian - where the money came from

Picture: Guardian/Dan Kitwood/Getty

From The Guardian:

On Thursday it was announced that £45m had been raised and the Duke of Sutherland had reduced the asking price by £5m. A total of £25m came from the National Gallery reserves, mainly money that has been left in wills to the gallery. Then £3m came from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £2m came from the Art Fund and £15m came from various donations and grants, some from individual donors and some from trusts including the Monument Trust and the Rothschild Foundation.

This is some effort; congratulations to all involved at both galleries. It's great to see that the Duke reduced the price in the end, not least because the total asking price for both pictures, £100m, was some way below their true market value.

I'm staggered that the Heritage Lottery Fund, which is awash with more money than it has ever had, only coughed up a measly £3m. That's about the same as the HLF spent on accomodation, postage and office equipment last year. And about the same as they awarded to the 'People's Memorial & Heritage Learning Centre at Newbridge Memo Caerphilly' (which I don't doubt is a thoroughly deserving cause). But the Titian was a picture that the National Gallery described as its 'most important acquisition ever'. And what is supposed to be the UK's main funder for heritage saw fit to contribute just over 5% of the total. Why does the HLF take such a dim view of acquisitions?

2nd £50m Titian bought

March 1 2012

Image of 2nd £50m Titian bought

Picture: NG/NGS

The National Gallery, London and the National Gallery of Scotland have just announced that the second Sutherland Titian, Diana and Callisto, has been acquired. Amazing. More later, but here's the statement from the galleries:

The National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) and the National Gallery in London are delighted to announce that Titian’s great masterpiece Diana and Callisto has been acquired for the public. 

 This acquisition - along with the purchase of its companion painting Diana and Actaeon in 2009 - ensures that these two superlative works by Titian will remain together on public display in either London or Edinburgh. This also means that the Bridgewater Collection - the greatest private collection of Old Master Paintings in the world – will remain intact on long-term loan at the NGS. 

 Both institutions were acutely aware of the challenges of launching a public campaign during such difficult economic times and therefore decided to approach individual donors and grant-making trusts in the first instance. Our initial discussions led to a number of significant pledges of support, with exceptional charitable grants being offered by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the Art Fund and The Monument Trust. We are immensely grateful to all the individuals and trusts whose generous charitable support has made this acquisition possible.

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