May 24, 2014

Martin Kemp on "The Theft, Recovery and Forensic Investigation of Leonardo da Vinci's "Madonna of the Yarnwinder" in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of ARCA's Journal of Art Crime

Oxford's Martin Kemp publishes "The Theft, Recovery and Forensic Investigation of Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna and the Yarnwinder" in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of ARCA's Journal of Art Crime.

Martin Kemp is Emeritus Research Professor in the History of Art at Oxford University. He has written and broadcast extensively on imagery in art and science from the Renaissance to the present day. He speaks on issues of visualization and lateral thinking to a wide range of audiences. Leonardo da Vinci has been the subject of books written by him, including Leonardo (Oxford University Press 2004). He has published on imagery in the sciences of anatomy, natural history and optics, including The Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat (Yale University Press). He was trained in Natural Sciences and Art History at Cambridge University and the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. He was British Academy Wolfson Research Professor (1993-98). For more than 25 years he was based in Scotland (University of Glasgow and University of St Andrews). He has held visiting posts in Princeton, New York, North Carolina, Los Angeles and Montreal. He has curated a series of exhibitions on Leonardo and other themes, including “Spectacular Bodies” at the Hayward Gallery in London, “Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment, Design” at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2006 and “Seduced: Sex and Art from Antiquity to Now,” Barbican Art Gallery, London, 2007. He was also guest curator for “Circa 1492” at the National Gallery of Art in Washington in 1992.
Abstract 
In 2003, Leonardo’s Madonna of the Yarnwinder was stolen from Drumlanrig Castle in Scotland. Several years later it was recovered at a Glasgow law firm, and it then underwent forensic analysis. This essay, part academic article and part personal memoir by the world’s leading Leonardo scholar, art historian Martin Kemp, provides a more personal look at the crime and the painting.
On 27 August 2003, I am sitting under an umbrella on the terrace of the Villa Vignamaggio above Greve in Chianti, a villa once owned by the Gherardini family and haunted by the shade of a famous daughter known as Mona Lisa, when Thereza Wells, my former research student and co-author, calls to report the theft of the Duke of Bucceluch’s treasured Leonardo painting, the Madonna of the Yarnwinder, from Drumlanrig Castle in the Scottish borders. The news is as yet hazy. It seems that some men driving a VW Golf GTI had abruptly removed it shortly before the rooms were to close to the public that day. They had overpowered the female custodian and threatened her with a knife. I receive the call when I am in the process of writing a new book on Leonardo for Oxford University Press, which involves, of course, a discussion of the Madonna of the Yarnwinder. A coincidence of the worst kind.
You can finish reading this article in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue (#11) of The Journal of Art Crime edited by ARCA founder Noah Charney. The Journal of Art Crime may be accessed through subscription or in paperback from Amazon.com. The Table of Contents is listed on ARCA's website here. The Associate Editors are Marc Balcells (John Jay College of Law) and Christos Tsirogiannis (University of Cambridge). Design and layout (including the front cover illustration) are produced by Urška Charney.

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