Showing posts with label Leonardo da Vinci. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Leonardo da Vinci. Show all posts

February 10, 2015

"Portrait of Isabella d'Este" attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci siezed in Lugano, Switzerland.

By Lynda Albertson and Stefano Alessandrini

A painting, the ”Portrait of Isabella d'Este, attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci, has been recovered in Lugano, Switzerland as the result of a complex joint-operation involving the Italian Public Prosecutors in Pesaro, the Guardia di Finanza of Pesaro and the Ancona squad of the Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale in cooperation with Swiss law enforcement authorities who executed a seizure request for International Judicial assistance (Letters rogatory).

The lengthy case investigation began in August 2013 when investigators in Italy identified that an attorney in Pesaro had been contracted to quietly sell the painting, purportedly held in a Swiss bank vault,  on behalf of an Italian family for no less than 95 million euro.

The portrait had created an international stir earlier when Professor Carlo Pedretti, Armand Hammer chair of Leonardo Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) attributed the artwork to Leonardo Da Vinci.  Dr. Pedretti had matched the painting to an acknowledged sketch drawn by Da Vinci in 1499 or 1450 which depicts Isabella d'Este, Marchioness of Mantua.  This chalk on paper portrait hangs on view at the Louvre Museum in Paris and was likely sketched by Da Vinci when he was on his way to Venice from Mantova.  There is also a similar one in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, which are the only two confirmed likenesses of her by the artist.

A second world acknowledged expert on Renaissance man and Leonardo, Dr. Martin Kemp, professor emeritus of the history of art at Trinity College, Oxford, doubted the likelihood that this painting was an actual work of art by da Vinci stating that “canvas was not used by Leonardo or anyone in his production line."

If the authentication of the painting is correct, it will be a historic discovery.  Of the generally-accepted twenty-three major extant artworks attributed to Da Vinci the medium of choice has always been wooden boards, frequently of poplar or paper.  But regardless of the disputed attribution, it  appears that the painting was illegally exported from Italy without benefit of a  proper export license and while it is not clear yet if the family moved the painting to Switzerland for fear of theft or for fear of taxes, its removal severely violates Italian law.
Italy's strict rules requires that any work of art that is more than 50 years old and made by an artist who has died requires a license if it is to be exported.  This holds true for temporary moves as well as permanent sales which makes the lack of paperwork on this artwork noteworthy and highly suspect.  Italy's law art the movement of artworks was passed in 1939 specifically to prevent the country's masterpieces of ancient and Renaissance art from leaving its borders.

Back in Italy, it is expected that the oil of canvas painting will undergo further evaluation to determine if the work should be confirmed conclusively as being attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci or "in the style of".  The painting, measuring 61x46.5 cm assuredly matches the chalk on paper sketch of the Marchioness of Mantua in the Louvre and she is known to have written two letters to Da Vinci, though both were requesting artworks depicting a young Christ.

Isabella d'Este, was a collector of antiquities, a patron of art, and one of the most fashionable and powerful women of the Italian Renaissance.  A patron to other important painters including Giovanni Bellini, Raphael, and Titian, so it would not be unlikely that a request for a portrait might also have made during their acquaintance.  One potential clue in the paintings favor occurred in 1517.  While in France, Da Vinci showed a series of paintings to Cardinal Luigi d'Aragona. On October 11th, at Blois Castle, de Beatis commented on two portraits, one referencing “a certain lady of Lombardy” which could be d'Este along with a passing reference to a certain Signora Gualanda.

The spell of Leonardo and his mysterious women continues.

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.
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 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.

January 19, 2014

Mark Durney's "Reevaluating Art Crime's Famous Figures" published in the International Journal of Cultural Property

The International Journal of Cultural Property published "Reevaluating Art Crime's Famous Figures" by Mark Durney in its May 2013 issue.

Mark Durney, the creator of the ARCA Blog and of Art Theft Central, studied history (undergraduate) at Trinity College in Hartford, CT, and archaeology (masters) at the University College of London. Noah Charney interviewed him in 2011. Mark spoke about the importance of "Collection Inventories" at ARCA's International Art Crime Conference that same year. Mark previously served as ARCA's Business and Admission's Director.

Here's the abstract:
This article seeks to demonstrate that the figures used to describe the size and scope of cultural property crimes—that it is a $6 billion illicit industry and that it ranks among the third or fourth largest criminal enterprise annually—are without statistical merit. It underscores the ambiguities inherent in the figures and uses the 2003 theft of the Duke of Buccleuch’s painting by Leonardo da Vinci, Madonna of the Yarnwinder, to illustrate the difficulties related to establishing monetary estimates for cultural property crimes. It calls for a more empirical approach to measuring the magnitude of the problem on the part of cultural property crime experts. Finally, it examines the reporting methods of the world’s largest cultural property crimes law enforcement agency, the Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale, in order to provide a model for others to follow in the effort to communicate the severity of the problem and to increase its financial, social, and political support.
The article discusses cultural property crime data, the "multibillion dollar industry", and the value of Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna of the Yarnwinder stolen in Scotland in 2003 and recovered four years later:
The example of Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna of the Yarnwinder, which was stolen in a daytime raid from Drumlanrig Castle, Scotland, in 2003 and recovered in 2007 underscores the difficulty with estimating an object’s value in order to account for its contribution to the annual illicit cultural property trade figure. For tax reasons, the Duke of Buccleuch insured the painting for only a quarter of its 1996 valuation—£15 million.27 Other estimates for the painting’s value published by the media ranged from £20 to £50 million.28 Immediately after the theft, the Buccleuch’s insurer offered a £200,000 reward, which was later increased to £1 million. In 2007, Robert Graham and John Doyle, private investigators who operated a stolen property recovery website called Stolen Stuff Reunited, were contacted by mysterious intermediaries known only as J and K, who had access to the stolen da Vinci. According to court records, the painting had been used as collateral for a £700,000 property deal and the individuals, who accepted the painting as security sought to recoup their money. Graham and Doyle contacted their solicitor Mar- shall Ronald. Ronald involved Glasgow solicitors Calum Jones and David Boyce in order to ensure the recovery dealings were legal under Scottish law. Ronald, on behalf of his clients, negotiated with the intermediaries to return the painting for £350,000. During the recovery process he notified the Buccleuch’s insurance loss adjustor, Mark Dalrymple, in order to return the painting through an informal mediation process.29 In negotiations between Dalrymple and John Craig, who was an undercover police officer posing as the Buccleuch’s representative, Ronald requested a total of £4.25 million as a reward and to cover his and his clients’ expenses.30 However, before negotiations evolved any further, police arrested Ronald, Graham, Doyle, Jones, and Boyce and charged the group with conspiring to extort £4.25 million from the Buccleuch family for the painting’s return.31 After an eight- week trial at the High Court in Edinburgh, a not-proven verdict was returned on Ronald, Graham, and Doyle. Both Jones and Boyce were found not guilty of the same charge. It was later revealed by the Scottish Legal Aid Board that £984,636 was paid to cover legal expenses of all the accused, which was a loss incurred by the Scottish taxpayer.32 

As illustrated by the case of the Madonna of the Yarnwinder, illicit art’s monetary value can be based on its insurance claim, its value as collateral in illicit transactions, or the cost of its recovery. Also, its value can be based on its estimated value. In this example, the painting’s estimated value would be difficult to determine due to the fact that it is a rare work by one of history’s most famous artists and has not been on the market since the eighteenth century when it was first acquired by the Buccleuch family. 
In the section, "New Methods of Measuring the Problem", Mr. Durney discusses Italy's Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale:
Italy’s Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale, which is the largest cultural property law enforcement unit in the world and has been very successful at policing such crimes since 1969, maintains a vast stolen cultural property database called Leonardo.45 The Carabinieri publish an annual report titled Attivita’ Operativa, which provides theft and recovery data as well as con- tributes insights into its cultural property protection efforts over the past year.46 The Carabinieri’s success at recording, publishing, and analyzing crime data is likely due to the fact that it has a uniform reporting system in place across its 14 regional units. In order to measure the unit’s performance, it compares the latest data with that from the previous year. While the annual report includes a mon- etary estimate of the total value of cultural objects recovered or seized, it supplements the data with more significant figures including those related to cultural objects recovered or seized by the Carabinieri.47 Also, the Carabinieri’s annual report incorporates the number of individuals referred to the judicial system from its actions; a detailed account of its preventive activities carried out, such as the review of businesses, markets, and fairs, as well as the inspection of the safety and security measures at museums, libraries, state archives, and archaeological sites; and a summary of its training activities with domestic and foreign law enforcement organizations.48

In addition to providing in-depth recovery data that is even segmented by re- gion, the Carabinieri’s report includes annual theft data. For example, there were 817 cultural property thefts reported in 2010 to the Carabinieri.49 The juxtaposition of the reported thefts against the number of objects recovered or seized pro- vides statistical evidence that leads one to conclude that a substantial number of thefts are underreported or unnoticed. This method of reporting better conveys the severity and scope of the illicit cultural property trade than any dollar amount could achieve.

March 6, 2013

Do art forgers prey on our treasure hunt instinct?

Here are two videos published in the last week that can be tied together to explain the art market's vulnerability to forgeries:

From Ljublijana, Slovenia, ARCA founder Noah Charney discusses "Leonardo da Vinci and the Treasure Hunt Instinct" where he discusses how art satisfies our desire to find what is hidden, to solve puzzles, riddles and mysteries (toward the end of his lecture he mentions that 2/3 of known art produced by old master painters is considered lost).

On CBS Sunday Morning News, Ken Perenyi confessed that he brought newly created paintings aged to fool art experts with the intent of obtaining a more lucrative attribution on more than 1,000 art pieces -- his contribution to the art market. Note that the FBI has never filed charges against Perenyi (according to CBS) and that the 'statue of limitation on his misdeeds as run out' despite Perenyi's admission that he 'lied to the agents' because in Perenyi's world 'it's survival, part of the game'. In this video, appraiser Brenda Simonson-Mohle calls Perenyi a "thief on the loose" and calls forgery "pretty much bank robbery with paintbrush."

Ken Perenyi, in the tradition of art forgers Elmyr de Hory (Clifford Irving wrote Fake! The Story of Elmyr De Hory, the Greatest Art Forger of Our Time in 1969) and Eric Hebborn (Drawn to Trouble in 1991), has written the confessional Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of An American Art Forger (reviewed last summer by Jonathan Lopez in the Wall Street Journal last summer).

January 12, 2013

Smithsonian Channel re-airing "The Da Vinci Detective", a documentary on Maurizo Seracini's decades long search for the artist's lost mural at Florence's town hall

The Smithsonian Channel is re-airing "The Da Vinci Detective", the story of Maurizio Seracini's controversial search for Leonardo Da Vinci's 1505 The Battle of Anghiari mural underneath a Giorgio Vasari fresco at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. (This 2006 documentary is also available on DVD.) Here in Britian's The Guardian, art blogger Jonathan Jones asked last March "Did Vasari save a Da Vinci for us?", describing Vasari's redecoration of Florence's town hall for the Medici family as a coverup to erase its republican past. However, in September, Priscilla Frank for The Huffington Post (one of many journalists that did cover the story) reported that Seracini's search for The Battle of Anghiari has been suspended.  You can read why here.

July 27, 2012

"Leonardo's Lost Princess" by Peter Silverman and Catherine Whitney reviewed in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

John Kleberg reviews "Leonardo's Lost Princess" (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey, 2012) by Peter Silverman with Catherine Whitney in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.
This book is a fascinating, fast-moving and educational account of the authentication of a previously unknown work by Leonardo da Vinci. Detail about the drawing is first reported in the Antiques Trade Gazette, 12 October 2009, which includes a detailed description of the process of technology applied to authentication. The book covers in depth the suspicions of the owner regarding the drawing to which he was attracted after several years of having not purchased the work when first admired and for sale. A second lucky but unexpected opportunity is presented to purchase the work some years later.
John Kleberg is a retired Assistant Vice President at The Ohio State University where he was instrumental in organizing the program described as well as having administrative responsibility for security, police, and other business and finance operations. He also has been a law enforcement administrator, trainer, and educator in Ohio and Illinois. His undergraduate degree is from Michigan State University, graduate degree from the University of Illinois, and he has done post-graduate work at The Ohio State University and Kent State University. He is the author of numerous articles on campus safety and security issues and is a consultant on campus security issues, including campus museums, libraries, and galleries.

February 22, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: Hasan Niyazi on "The Art of Seeing - A Leonardo Case Study"

In the current issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011, Hasan Niyazi writes on "The Art of Seeing - A Leonardo Case Study":
ABSTRACT: An exploration of the scientific and stylistic processes employed to determine the date and authorship of an ink on vellum drawing of a young girl. Sold by Christie's as a pastiche by a German 19th century artist, the results of the investigation nominated Leonardo da Vinci as the probable author of the drawing. An examination of critical response and possible implications of the phenomenon known as 'CSI effect is also considered.
Hasan Nayazi is an independent arts writer based in Melbourne, Australia. With a background in clinical sciences, he seeks to apply the logical processes inherent in clinical decision making into his researches on the mode of reporting in the authentication of artworks. He maintains a weblog dedicated to these efforts at and tweets as @3pipenet.

You may obtain a copy of this issue of the Journal of Art Crime or past volumes through subscription at the ARCA website here.

November 9, 2011

The Collecting History of Stolen Art: Da Vinci's "Lady with an Ermine"

Da Vinci's "Lady
 with an Ermine"
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA blog editor-in-chief

Leonardo Da Vinci's "Lady with an Ermine created a sensation with the public in Berlin for the past few months during it's first trip out of Poland since the masterpiece was recovered from the Nazis after the end of World War II.

Today it opened at the National Gallery in London as part of the exhibition, "Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan". Conservationists have insisted that once the painting returns from London in February 2012 that it will remain in Krawków for at least ten years (The

In 1489, just some 20 years after artists began using oil paints, 37-year-old Da Vinci used oils when his employer, Lodovico "Il Moro" Sforza, the Duke of Milan, commission the Renaissance master to paint his 15-year-old mistress, Cecilia Gallerani, on a 21 by 15 inch walnut wood panel. When "Il Moro" married someone else, Cecilia had to leave the palace but took the portrait with her. "Il Moro gave her a dowry and a castle outside Milan where she spent the rest of her life with her husband Count Pergamino," according to the Czartoryski Museum.

Princess Isabela Czartorska founded the Czartoryski Museum in 1796. Two years later, her son, Prince Adam Jerzy, traveled to Italy and purchased Da Vinci's "The Lady with an Ermine" (and the still missing painting by Raphael "Portrait of a Young Man"). Condemned to death by the Russians after the 1830 November Uprising of the Russian-Polish war, Prince Jerzy fled to Paris, bought The Hotel Lambert, and set up the Living Museum of Poland (displaying all the objects from the first museum).

"Lady with an Ermine", which has only traveled cautiously since its return to Poland after World War II, traveled extensively in escaping to safety throughout various wars.

In 1871, after the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, Prince Jerzy's son packed or hid all of the museum's objects and fled. In 1874, the city of Krakow offered him a building and four years later the current museum opened.

To protect the works from war in 1914, the most important objects were taken to Dresden by the Czartorska family which continued to manage the museum. The collection was finally restored to the museum in Krakow in 1920.

In August 1939, on the eve of the invasion of Poland, cases of objects were hidden but later found by the Germans. In January 1940, 85 of the most important objects are sent back to Dresden to be part of Hitler's collection at Linz. The paintings went to Berlin then Neuhass before being claimed by the Polish representative at the Allies Commission for the Retrieval of Works of Art on behalf of the Czartoryski Museum (excluding the Raphael and 843 other artefacts).

The communist government operated the museum behind the Iron Curtain until 1991 when the museum was returned to its rightful owner, Prince Adam Karol Czartoryski, who set up a foundation to oversee the museum today.

"The Lady with an Ermine" traveled to Milwaukee Art Museum in 2002 and to Houston and San Francisco in 2003. This year the painting traveled from Madrid to Berlin. 

November 6, 2011

Noah Charney on Martin Kemp and Lost and Stolen Leonardo Da Vinci Paintings

Noah Charney, founder and president of ARCA, has recently published three articles covering the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911 (The Patriotic Thief); an Interview with Martin Kemp on How to Spot a Lost Leonardo; and on the Los Angeles Time's Op Ed Page, The 'Lost' Leonardo, about London's National Gallery's exhibition of 'Salvator Mundi' in a show of paintings by Leonardo Da Vinci.

May 20, 2011

Part Two: Alain Lacoursière, the Mercedes-Benz Commercial Video, and Madonna and the Yarnwinder

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Recently Alain Lacoursière’s favorite suspect for the unsolved 1972 theft of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts sent the retired police officer a link to a Mercedes-Benz commercial video that fictionalizes the theft of a brief case from a bank vault. At the end of a high speed chase involving a very sleek German sedan, the brief case is delivered to a third party who later open to show that the contents of the brief case is a painting. The newscaster in the video reports under the headline: “Stolen Da Vinci Re-Emerges”:
The Paris National Art Collection was handed over a long-lost masterpiece by Leonardo Da Vinci today. The Da Vinci piece was being hidden for years by backers of the mafia in a safe deposit box. The FBI estimates the value of the Madonna of the Yarnwinder at approximately 70 million euros.
“The Madonna of the Yarnwinder is the subject of several oil paintings after a lost original by Leonardo da Vinci “(

The Lansdowne Madonna
A copy of this painting, known as The Lansdowne Madonna, by the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci is in a private collection in New York. It was likely completed by another artist in da Vinci’s studio after another painting of the same subject. (Universal Leonardo)

Another version of this painting, The Madonna of the Yarnwinder (Duke of Buccleuch), and considered to have been painted under Leonardo, was stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch’s home in Scotland in 2003. Two men posing as tourists during a public tour of Drumlanrig Castle overpowered a female staff member and carried the painting out the window. The painting was valued at 30 million pounds.

Madonna with Yarnwinder
 (Duke of Buccleuch)
The painting was recovered four years later – but a month after the death of the 84-year-old Duke -- when police raided a meeting at a respectable law office in Glasgow who claimed to be an innocent third-party. The solicitors were eventually cleared of extortion. The painting is reportedly on display at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh however the website for the institution does not show the painting in either its permanent collection or as a loan.

The original is lost, but how do the experts describe these two ‘copies’? I found an interesting source here. Martin Kemp wrote about the paintings in 1992 (Leonardo da Vinci and the Mystery of the Madonna of the Yarnwinder (exhibition catalogue, Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland):
How much of the Buccleuch copy was painted by Leonardo was a matter of scholarly debate until recently. Scientific studies indicate that in addition to the work's underdrawing (with its pentimenti or small changes), the genius was most likely responsible for its overall design, the figures and the skillfully rendered rocky foreground. The landscape is uncharacteristic of Leonardo; it was probably painted a bit later by another artist, perhaps a workshop assistant. The flesh tones of Mary's face were executed using Leonardo's typical sfumato or smoky technique. A second brighter copy of The Madonna of the Yarnwinder belongs to a private collector.