Showing posts with label Martin Kemp. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Martin Kemp. Show all posts

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.

May 8, 2014

Authenticity in Art Congress 2014: Retired FBI Agent Virginia Curry reports from The Hague

Martin Kemp presented "It Doesn't Look Like Leonardo"
on the first day of the Authenticity in Art Congress
by Virginia M. Curry

THE HAGUE -- The Authenticity in Art Congress opened Wednesday here at the Louwman [Automobile] Museum in The Hague to discuss how the seemingly opposed spheres of  science and art history connoisseurship  might be aligned  to synthesize a protocol for establishing authenticity of art, specifically paintings.

Jugen W. Wittmann, the Senior Manager of the Mercedes Benz archives and Collection Brand Communications, presented the protocols utilized by Mercedes Benz to preserve the integrity of their vehicles against forgery.  Documents in their archives record each car manufactured and the “as delivered” condition of the vehicle to the original owner, with the serial numbers recorded on the vehicle. Wittman noted that such transparency is important since although there were only 33 of the Mercedes SSK ever built, there are more than 100 hundred registered as SSKs with the international Vintage Collectors Group.

Keynote Speaker Javier Lumbreras, the CEO of Artemundi Global Fund, discussed the collection of art and the frustrations of the purchaser who is burdened with the proof of due diligence.  He concluded by saying that inasmuch as science cannot provide a “bulletproof” decision which can stand up as evidence in court, litigation, in his experience, is not worth the effort.  Lumbreras drew an analogy similar to that of Jugen Wittmann of Mercedes Benz by noting that of the fourteen Rembrandt works in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art only seven of them have an agreed authenticity.

Professor Martin Kemp, FBA, Emeritus Professor in the History of Art, Trinity College Oxford, (and an acknowledged Leonardo scholar) initiated the section on the Historical Developments in Painting Authentication and spoke about professional opinion in his paper, “It Doesn’t Look Like Leonardo”. Professor Kemp argued the construction of evidence of authenticity as “The judgment by eye in science and art and the tendency for the eye to see what it expects to see.”  He illustrated his point by comparing the points of view of a traffic accident, such as the point of view of the insurance adjuster, driver, weatherman, etc. noting that each one’s interpretation of what they see is relative to their interest. Professor Kemp concluded that the observable consequences of the visual techniques of historical and scientific that are the most specific in identification are the most malleable.  Above all, he cautioned, “We should be more cautious and prudent in our personal investments in our malleable acts and seeing.”

Marker for Vermeer in The Hague
Dr. Margaret Dalivalle presented a paper, “Picturarum vere Originalium: Inventing originality in early Modern London", which explored the question of originality of paintings and the invention of the idea of artistic originality in the eighteenth century.

Professor Frank James, Professor of the History of Science, Head of Collections and Heritage of the Royal Institution, London, spoke about the work of Humphrey Davy and Michael Faraday who developed chemical techniques in the late 18th, early 19th century to understand, conserve and record archeological and artistic objects, such as the wall painting and vase painting from Pompeii; the Lewis chess pieces; the unfurling and attempts to read the Herculaneum Papyri; and their comparisons with the pigments found on the Elgin marbles.

Dr. Lynn Catterson, an Art Historian from Columbia University, presented an extraordinary paper and cautionary tale about Stefano Bardini and his Art of Crafting Authenticity.  Dr. Catterson's research led into the archives of Stefano Bardini whose expertize involved the forgery of “originals” and falsification of context and provenance.  Dr. Catterson’s research  in the Bardini archive challenges the accepted comparanda and consequently, perceived authenticity and attributions in major museums.

Dr. John Brewer, Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences, CalTech, discussed the Duveen Trial of 1929,  the hazards of presenting scientific evidence of authenticity in court, and the subsequent rejection of conflicting  connoisseurship in court.

Evan Hepler-Smith, a Historian of modern science and doctoral candidate at Princeton University, discussed the early utilization of x-ray to fit the material, intellectual and social contours of authentication and  connoisseurship.

Ms. Curry is a retired FBI agent, a licensed private investigator, and an art historian.

October 5, 2012

Intriguing Headlines Tout Second Mona Lisa But What Do the Experts Opine?

Isleworth Mona Lisa (Wiki)
'La Joconde' (1503-1506) has mostly hung in the Louvre (INV. 779) since Francois I acquired it in 1518.  Last week The Mona Lisa Foundation reintroduced the 'Isleworth Mona Lisa' which had not been seen in public for more than 40 years and declared that it was an earlier unfinished portrait of Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo by da Vinci.

Jamie Keaton for the Associated Press (published online here in Business Week) reported on the unveiling of the Isleworth Mona Lisa in Geneva on September 28.  Keaton points out the Alessandro Vezzosi (see below) 'declined to line up behind the foundation's claim that it was truly a "Mona Lisa" predecessor painted by da Vinci.  Here, on the Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci's website, Professor Vezzosi clarifies that research on  the "Isleworth Mona Lisa" will continue.

The Mona Lisa Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Zurich, has on its website a 22-minute video that walks the viewer through its claim, using historical documentation (including writings of 16th century art historian Giorgio Vasari), connoisseurship, critical comparisons and physical and scientific examinations.  Participants in the video include Professor Alessandro Vezzosi, Director of the Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci; Professor John F. Asmus, Research Physicist at the University of California in San Diego; Stanley B. Feldman, and art historian and principal author of "Mona Lisa - Leonardo's Earlier Version".  The video asks if it is possible that there was another Mona Lisa and if so, what could have happened to it? It is claimed that Giorgio Vasari and Agostino Vespucci mention a painting left unfinished.  In the early 20th century, Hugh Blaker, curator of The Holburne Museum  in Bath, believed in the two Mona Lisa painting theory and spent a decade looking for the unfinished version until he found it "in the Somerset home of an English nobleman" "who's family had owned the painting for nearly 150 years."  Blaker brought it to his London studio in Isleworth, then shipped it to the United States where it hung in the private offices of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, according to the video.  Then in 1922, Blaker sent the Isleworth Mona Lisa to Italy for the opinion of experts there.  In 1926, Baker's stepfather, John Eyre, published "The Two Mona Lisas."  Henry F. Pulitzer, over a period of 26 years, liquidated his Kensington estate and part of his art collection to purchase the Isleworth Mona Lisa.  In 1979, after Pulitzer's death, the painting was locked up in a Swiss Bank vault "where it would remain for more than four decades."  "Can science at least succeed where connoisseurship has failed [in establishing the painting's authenticity]?" In 2004, the Isleworth Mona Lisa was removed from its security vault and "entrusted to world renowned art auctioneer David Feldman" (Vice President of the Mona Lisa Foundation).  "Over the next 12 years, the painting went through every test" including examination by Professor Asmus who has also examined the Louvre Mona Lisa who saying "Leonardo's hand" is evident in some aspects of the Isleworth Mona Lisa.

In ABC New's "Second Mona Lisa Unveiled for First Time in 40 Years", Mathew Rosenbaum quotes Martin Kemp, Oxford University professor and da Vinci expert, as proclaiming the Isleworth Mona Lisa a "well-made early copy".  [Professor Kemp outlines his opinion in more detail on his blog here where he refutes the 'evidence' of a second Mona Lisa and identifies the poor qualities of the painting: "Everything points to the Isleworth painting being a copy.  There is a comparable copy -- island and all -- in the National Museum in Oslo."]

On ABC's Good Morning America and World News segment, Alexander Nagel, Professor of Fine Arts for NYU, says that the Isleworth Mona Lisa is "suspect" as it is painted on canvas and Leonardo painted on wood.

"A Second Mona Lisa? We've known about it for 100 Years" is the headline for the blog post by Joe Medeiros, director of the documentary, "The Missing Piece: Vincenzo Peruggia and the Unthinkable Theft of the Mona Lisa".  This painting is nothing new, according to Medeiros and reprints the article from The New York Times on February 5, 1914: Another Mona Lisa Found in London? Expert Accepts It as a Version Painted by Leonardo "In No Sense A Copy".  According to this article, a version of the Mona Lisa painting turned up in the possession of a Mr. Eyre, an author and novelist living in Isleworth.  P. G. Konody, a Special Correspondence for The New York Times, writes that the Isleworth Mona Lisa is 'of such superb quality that it more than holds its own when compared to the much restored and repainted Louvre masterpiece':
But there are more potent reasons to attach the greatest importance to the new discovery.  There is, in the collection of old master drawings at the Louvre an original pen drawing by Raphael, which is reproduced in Muntz's great work on Leonardo, and which is generally admitted to be a memory sketch by Raphael of Leonardo's "Mona Lisa."  Now this memory sketch is framed at both sides by two columns of which no trace is to be found in the Paris "Mona Lisa." These columns appear in the identical place in the Isleworth picture and are of immense value to the harmonious balance of the composition. 
In the notice sent out to the press it is stated that these columns are mentioned by Vasari, which is as little in accordance with facts as most of the other statements made.  Thus, one of the points quoted in favor of the authenticity of the picture is one of Leonardo's letters to Marshal de Chaumont.  In this letter occurs the passage: "E portar con mecho due quadri di due Notro Donne di varie grandezze le qual son fatte pel cristianissimo notro re."  While most art historians have misread this to mean that Leonardo took with him "two pictures of Our Lady, of different sizes," the writer of the widely circulated notice says that the existence of two versions of the "Mona Lisa" is proved by Leonardo himself referring to two portraits.  A literal translation of the quoted passage would however run as follows: "And take with me two portraits of two of our ladies, of different sizes, which have been painted for our most Christian King", the letter thus reflecting clearly to two different ladies and not to two versions of the same. 
However, no specious arguments are needed for the Isleworth picture, the quality of which may speak for itself.  And a close investigation of the picture leaves the firm conviction that, though not altogether from the hand of Leonardo da Vinci himself, it emanates most certainly from his studio and was very largely worked up by the master himself.  The hands, with their careful and somewhat hard drawing and terra cotta coloring, suggest at once the name of Leonardo's pupil, Marco d'Oggionno, whereas the inimitably soft and lovely painting of the head and bust, the exquisite subtlety of the expression, the golden glow of the general coloring, can be due only to Leonardo.  The face shows none of the defects of the Louvre picture, which are probably due to clumsy repainting. 
The present owner of the picture acquired his treasure only about a year ago.  He found it hidden in a Somerset mansion where it had been for a century and a half, and whither it had been brought from Italy.
It's an intriguing subject involving a genius and a famous painting that grabbed headlines a century ago and continues to this day.

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

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.