Previous Posts: August 2018

'A History of Art in Four Colours'

August 7 2018

Image of 'A History of Art in Four Colours'

Picture: Ilex Press

Here's a new art history book you might like; 'A History of Art in Four Colours'. It does what it says on the tin, and is written by Ben Street, who has also been featuring in AHN of late as one of the 'National Gallery 27

Salvator Mundi - not Leonardo, but Luini?

August 7 2018

Image of Salvator Mundi - not Leonardo, but Luini?

Picture: Christie's

An Oxford academic, Matthew Landrus, has declared that the Salvator Mundi sold last year for $450m is not by Leonardo da Vinci, but Benardino Luini. From The Guardian:

“This is a Luini painting,” Landrus said. “By looking at the various versions of Leonardo’s students’ works, one can see that Luini paints just like that work you see in the Salvator Mundi.”

He said between 5% and 20% of the painting was by Leonardo, and that Luini was the “primary painter”. [...]

Landrus said: “I can prove that Luini painted most of that painting. A comparison of Luini’s paintings with the Salvator Mundi will be sufficient evidence.”

Describing Luini as one of Leonardo’s two most talented studio assistants (the other was Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio), he has compared Luini’s Christ among the Doctors in the National Gallery with the Salvator Mundi.

The evidence has led him to conclude that Luini was “the only reasonable candidate for much of the authorship”. He added: “By traditional standards, we can call it ‘a Leonardo studio’ painting.”

Landus highlighted stylistic similarities, including the depiction of the gold bands and the fabric on the robes, saying: “One sees a similar construction on both of those gold bands and on the way the drapery is done. Luini did other paintings that had very good gold tracery in them. Also Christ’s face in both paintings has very similar modelling and, while the hairstyles are slightly different, the approaches are quite similar. Also, the shoulders on Christ are very similar.”

Pointing to a photograph of the Salvator Mundi before its extensive restoration, he said: “There’s a lot of missing paint in certain sections. So it really does add to the discussion about how overpainted it is.”

Landus believes that, if Leonardo’s hand is there, it is in the sophistication of the “sfumato technique, the subtle gradations of shading that avoid perceptible contours or dramatic shifts in tonal values”.

The key painting for Landrus that links the Salvator Mundi to Luini is the National Gallery's Christ Among the Doctors. The construction of important areas such as the face and hands seems to me to be rather different; but this is not at all my area. Either way, on a purely empirical level, I don't agree that simply comparing the Salvator Mundi with known works by Luini is 'sufficient evidence' to prove Luini's authorship, when so many other respected scholars say otherwise.

The new book will be out in September.

Sir Charles Saumarez Smith

August 3 2018

Image of Sir Charles Saumarez Smith

Picture: RA

I'm late to the news that Charles Saumarez Smith, the Secretary of the Royal Academy and former director of the National Gallery, has been given a knighthood. This news was announced on 10th June, only 5 days after AHN had called for him to receive such an honour, so we can conclude that HMQ is, indeed, a reader. Bravo Sir Charles; the award is thoroughly deserved, not least for helping transform the RA into the lithe and emphatic institution it is today.

And last week, Charles announced he would soon leave the RA to become a director at Blain Southern, contemporary art dealers in London. If he carries on matching his ties to the artwork with such flair, as above, I have no doubt he will be a success; as a former art dealer, I know these things. More here.

Finally, I was glad to see on his blog this reflection on current British politics, written during a visit to the Venice Biennale:

I now feel a slight sense of embarrassment as I approach the British pavilion in the Venice Biennale.   The Biennale started in 1895, the British pavilion was designed by Edwin Alfred Rickards, the architect of Methodist Central Hall, and opened in 1909.   We were given a central place in the Celesteville view of national competition in culture.   I no longer feel we deserve this with our insular retreat in Little Englandism and xenophobia and our determination to renounce our historic links and collaboration with neighbouring countries in Europe;  and I am glad to be able to say this when freedom of speech has been so stifled amongst all those in any way on the payroll of the state.

Trump art (ctd.)

August 1 2018

Video: Jon McNaughton

I think it's time for a new category in art history; Trump realism. Unlike some socialist realist artists, however, this fellow can't paint. More here

Brexit art (ctd.)

August 1 2018

Image of Brexit art (ctd.)

Picture: RA

This portrait of a lying spiv former UKIP leader Nigel Farage is currently on show at the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition. The price, if you're interested, is £25,000. I think this is what they mean by 'Brexit dividend'.

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