Friday, January 29, 2010

Nude, Mona Lisa-like painting surfaces

Documents suggest work at least based on similar work by da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci, in a Renaissance version of Mad Magazine, may have painted his famous Mona Lisa in a number of ways, including nude. Now, a painting has surfaced that looks much like the original, sparking debate over just how far the master took his iconic painting.
The newly revealed painting, hidden for almost a century within the wood wall of a private library, shows a portrait of a half-naked woman with clear links to the famous (and clothed) Mona Lisa.
The work, which documents suggest was at least based on never-seen similar work by da Vinci, is now on exhibit at the Museo Ideale in the Tuscan town of Vinci, where da Vinci was born in 1452.
The lady in the portrait does not exactly resemble the original Mona Lisa, but there is little doubt it has parallels with the painting hanging at the Louvre museum in Paris.
"The frontal look, the position of the hands, the spatial conception of the landscape, with columns at the sides, show a clear link with the Mona Lisa's iconographic theme," Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the museum, told Discovery News.
The naked portrait once belonged to Napoleon's uncle, Cardinal Joseph Fesch (1763-1839) and was ensconced within the wood walls of Fesch's private library for nearly a century, before trading more hands within the Napoleon family.
An art lover, the Cardinal owned an impressive collection of artworks, including da Vinci's "St. Jerome" (now in the Vatican gallery), which he discovered in pieces in the Roman shops of a second-hand dealer.
A note dating to 1845 records that the Cardinal bought "the portrait of the Mona Lisa, mistress of Francis I, by Leonardo da Vinci," from the Rospigliosis, a rich aristocratic Roman family.
After changing hands at the death of the Cardinal, the portrait was possibly bought by Napoleon III, and finally landed in the private collection of Count Giuseppe Primoli, a descendant of Luciano Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother.
The documentation from the painting's original purchase is not enough to verify the work is by da Vinci, himself. The nude portrait will now undergo scientific and artistic investigations in an attempt to date the work and determine its author. Even if it is not by da Vinci (and it likely isn't, experts say), it may be based on a lost original by the artist himself.
"I think it is very likely that Leonardo da Vinci conceived a naked Mona Lisa," leading da Vinci scholar Carlo Pedretti, director of the Armand Hammer Center for Leonardo Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, told Discovery News.
Indeed, several other claims of unclothed Mona Lisa's have been made over the years, pointing to the theory that da Vinci might have had fun with the famous image he had created around 1503-1506.
"There are at least six nude versions which are very close to da Vinci's hand. All are attributed to the da Vinci school. The most likely scenario is that his followers got inspired by a now-lost original," Vezzosi said.
According to Vezzosi, the original naked Mona might have been part of a series of erotic portraits by da Vinci and his pupils, which were never really shown because they were considered inappropriate.
Article Link

My thoughts :

Interesting article. And interesting painting. While I can appreciate the work, I don't particularly like the painting. It is clearly in the mood of the Mona Lisa - style, color, background, the folded hands, the smile. But I don't believe it could have been painted by Da Vinci.
My first thought when I saw it was that she has very unflattering scraggly looking hair (maybe I need to see a larger version). Number two, it was highly unusual during the time of Da Vinci for a nude to be looking at the viewer. I think it was unusual to paint a full frontal facial portrait too. That right there pretty much automatically says that this was a private erotic painting. Like it says at the end of the article, this type of painting wasn't meant for public viewing because it was considered inappropriate and erotic. In formal portraits the head is almost always slightly turned to the side or tilted. She is uncomfortably situated on the canvas, directly in the center, her body turned to the side but her head facing forward. It is uncomfortable to look at. The breasts look too firm and unnatural and the arms look too masculine and out of proportion with the stomach. A woman with large arms would have a larger stomach.
Da Vinci was too meticulous to have painted it that way. I can appreciate the skill it took to paint it. But to me it is clear that it wasn't painted by Da Vinci.

Will DNA Prove If Da Vinci Painted Himself As Mona Lisa?

By Alessandra Rizzo
updated 8:00 p.m. CT, Thurs., Jan. 28, 2010

ROME - The legend of Leonardo da Vinci is shrouded in mystery: How did he die? Are the remains buried in a French chateau really those of the Renaissance master? Was the "Mona Lisa" a self-portrait in disguise?
Italian scientists believe the key to solving those puzzles lies with the remains — and they say they are seeking permission from French authorities to dig up the body to conduct carbon and DNA testing.
If the skull is intact, the scientists can go to the heart of a question that has fascinated scholars and the public for centuries: the identity of the Mona Lisa. Re-creating a virtual and then physical reconstruction of Leonardo's face, they can compare it with the smiling face in the painting, experts involved in the project told The Associated Press.
"We don't know what we'll find if the tomb is opened, we could even just find grains and dust," says Giorgio Gruppioni, an anthropologist who is participating in the project. "But if the remains are well kept, they are a biological archive that registers events in a person's life, and sometimes in their death."
The leader of the group, Silvano Vinceti, told the AP that he plans to press his case with the French officials in charge of the purported burial site at Amboise Castle early next week.
But the Italian enthusiasm may be premature.
In France, exhumation requires a long legal procedure, and precedent suggests it's likely to take even longer when it involves a person of great note such as Leonardo.
Jean-Louis Sureau, director of the medieval-era castle located in France's Loire Valley, said that once a formal request is made, a commission of experts would be set up. Any such request would then be discussed with the French Ministry of Culture, Sureau said.
Leonardo’s final yearsLeonardo moved to France at the invitation of King Francis I, who named him "first painter to the king." He spent the last three years of his life there, and died in Cloux, near the monarch's summer retreat of Amboise, in 1519 at age 67.

The purported tomb of Leonardo da Vinci is located at Saint-Hubert Chapel at Amboise Castle in western France.
The artist's original burial place, the palace church of Saint Florentine, was destroyed during the French Revolution. Remains that are believed to be his were eventually reburied in the Saint-Hubert Chapel near the castle.
The tombstone says simply, "Leonardo da Vinci." A notice at the site informs visitors they are the presumed remains of the artist, as do guidebooks.
"The Amboise tomb is a symbolic tomb; it's a big question mark," said Alessandro Vezzosi, the director of a museum dedicated to Leonardo in his Tuscan hometown of Vinci.
Vezzosi, who is not involved in the project, said that investigating the tomb could help identify the artist's bones with certainty and solve other questions, such as the cause of his death. He said he asked to open the tomb in 2004 to study the remains, but the Amboise Castle turned him down.
As for the latest Italian proposal, Vinceti says preliminary conversations took place several years ago and he plans to follow up with a request next week to set up a meeting to explain the project in detail. This would pave the way for a formal request, he said.
Solving the Mona Lisa mysteryThe group of 100 experts involved in the project, called the National Committee for Historical and Artistic Heritage, was created in 2003 with the aim of "solving the great enigmas of the past," said Vinceti, who has written books on art and literature.
Map locates Amboise, France, the purported burial site of Leonardo Da Vinci
Arguably the world's most famous painting, the "Mona Lisa" hangs in the Louvre in Paris, where it drew some 8.5 million visitors last year. Mystery has surrounded the identity of the painting's subject for centuries, with speculation ranging from the wife of a Florentine merchant to Leonardo's own mother.
That Leonardo intended the "Mona Lisa" as a self-portrait in disguise is a possibility that has intrigued and divided scholars. Theories have abounded: Some think that Leonardo's taste for pranks and riddles might have led him to conceal his own identity behind that baffling smile; others have speculated that, given Leonardo's presumed homosexuality, the painting hid an androgynous lover.
Some have used digital analysis to superimpose Leonardo's bearded self-portrait over the "Mona Lisa" to show how the facial features perfectly aligned.
If granted access to the grave site, the Italian experts plan to use a miniature camera and ground-penetrating radar — which produces images of an underground space using radar waves— to confirm the presence of bones. The scientists would then exhume the remains and attempt to date the bones with carbon testing.
DNA tests plannedAt the heart of the proposed study is the effort to ascertain whether the remains are actually Leonardo's, including with DNA testing.
Vezzosi questions the feasibility of a DNA comparison, saying he is unaware of any direct descendants of Leonardo or of tombs that could be attributed with certainty to the artist's close relatives.
Gruppioni said DNA extracted from the bones could also eventually be compared to DNA found elsewhere. For example, Leonardo is thought to have smudged colors on the canvas with his thumb, possibly using saliva. That would suggest DNA might be found on his paintings, though Gruppioni conceded this was a long shot.
Even in the absence of DNA testing, other tests could provide useful information, including whether the bones belonged to a man or woman, and whether the person died young or old.
"We can have various levels of probability in the attribution of the bones," Gruppioni said. "To have a very high probability, DNA testing is necessary."
The experts would also look for any pathology or other evidence of the cause of death. Tuberculosis or syphilis, for example, would leave significant traces in the bone structure, said Vinceti.
In the best-case scenario — that of a well-preserved skull — the group would take a CAT scan and reconstruct the face, said Francesco Mallegni, an anthropology professor who specializes in reconstructions and has recreated the faces of famous Italians, including Dante.

Even within the committee, experts are divided over the identity of the Mona Lisa.
Vinceti believes that a tradition of considering the self-portrait to be not just a faithful imitation of one's features but a representation of one's spiritual identity may have resonated with Leonardo.
Vezzosi, the museum director, dismissed as "baseless and senseless" the idea that the "Mona Lisa" could be a self-portrait of Leonardo.
The painting is "like a mirror: Everybody starts from his own hypothesis or obsession and tries to find it there," Vezzosi said in a telephone interview.
He said most researchers believe the woman may have been either a concubine of the artist's sponsor, the Florentine nobleman Giuliano de Medici, or Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a rich silk merchant, Francesco del Giocondo. The traditional view is that the name "Mona Lisa" comes from the silk merchant's wife, as well as its Italian name: "La Gioconda."

Article Link

My thoughts:
It seems to me that we are all going to be broken hearted if they dig up his tomb and find its not really him in there. So why do it? It might be interesting to know how he died. But I don't understand the need to know if he painted himself as the Mona Lisa. I think it is unlikely. It's very interesting though that there is so much fascination with him and disecting of his work.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Painting

A new one I just finished.

20 x 20
Oil on Canvas
January 2010

Little Monet - Kieron Williamson

He is being talked about in the same breath as Picasso, his artwork is making its way around the world including to Europe and the Far East and adults have been reduced to tears by the quality of his painting.

But nothing prepared a Norfolk gallery for the unprecedented speed at which a seven-year-old child prodigy's 16 new paintings sold this morning.

In a hectic 14 minutes, all of Kieron Williamson's paintings sold either to keen buyers at Picturecraft's gallery and exhibition centre in Holt or over the phone to distant collectors - as far away as China and Germany.

Art experts have already been discussing the investment potential of the Holt youngster's work and today's sales may support this theory.

The works, landscapes of iconic Norfolk locations such as Morston, Blakeney, Cley, Holkham and Brancaster and featuring sunsets, boats, snow scenes and churches, were all priced around the £1,000 mark and supposed to feature in a month long exhibition of mixed artists, starting at 9am.

But several have already been taken off the walls and depending on when buyers want to collect their purchases, there may be little of young Kieron's work to see once the exhibition comes to a close.

The young man's take on proceedings was straight forward: “It's absolutely excellent.”

For Adrian Hill, who owns Picturecraft with his father Michael, it was a staggering morning.

“It was over before it started. I have had fabulous sell out shows before, but never in that space of time, it was absolute bedlam.

“Kieron is now simply one of the most coveted British artists out there, he is red hot.

“I believe the last child artist in this bracket was Picasso. And Kieron is getting better and better and better, the pace at which he learns is quite amazing. He has mastered certain techniques which some artists would take years to perfect.”

The key to Kieron's success was his skill with light and dark, colour and tone, which allowed him to put so much life into the paintings, said Mr Hill, and demonstrated a “very mature hand”.

Those skills had brought some customers to tears, added Mr Hill.

And in a measure of how the youngster had kept his feet on the ground despite his success, Mr Hill added: “Kieron's first thought was 'did everyone like them?”.

For mum Michelle, arriving at Picturecraft at around 9.15am meant she had missed the full adrenaline fuelled excitement - although the resulting exhilaration will last for some time to come.

“When I arrived it was all over!

“Of course we are all absolutely thrilled. We are so pleased for Kieron, because obviously other people's opinion about the paintings matters a lot.”

Another show might be held in August, said Mrs Williamson, although that depended on how much work Kieron produced, a decision which would rest with him and no one else.

But he remained keen to paint, she added, especially now that a large chunk of his work had been sold.

Article Link

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Thursday, January 21, 2010


A couple of new drawings. 18 x 24, pencil.

Lady Gaga

Self Portrait

Monday, January 18, 2010

If you can get past the title, you might like this

My latest obsessions are Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Chanel.
I've always admired them but being couped up in winter I've had a little more time to watch some of the old movies and read more and am more facinated than ever.
I was searching for pics of Grace Kelly and this book came up in the search. Its about the wealthy, where they go, what they do. Its about those who have a certain style and class.
It is half photos of people like Grace Kelly, John F. Kennedy Jr, Audrey Hepburn and many others. Its an easy read. I read the first half in one evening.
If you've ever wondered if the rich really play polo and eat caviar...its an interesting read and I liked it a lot.
It's available on

Monday, January 4, 2010

Picasso, Rousseau paintings stolen in France

DRAGUIGNAN, France (AFP) – Around 30 paintings, including works by Picasso and Rousseau, valued at around a million euros (1.4 million dollars), have been stolen from a private villa in the south of France, police said Saturday.

But a Modigliani initially believed to be part of the haul has since been found, police in Toulon said.

The villa's French owner was holidaying in Sweden at the time of the break-in, which was discovered by the caretaker on Thursday afternoon.

Police said the owner had returned home to carry out an inventory of his collection to establish the exact loss.

The reported burglary in La Cadiere d'Azur comes after a pastel by Degas disappeared from the Cantini museum in Marseille on New Year's Eve. The 1877 pastel worth 800,000 euros had been lent for an exhibition by Paris' Orsay museum. Related article: Watchman questioned over stolen Degas

The painting had been unscrewed from the wall and there was no evidence of a break-in, police said, indicating the thief or thieves knew how to get round the museum's security system.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Found: the clue to van Gogh’s ear

Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889 by Vincent van Gogh (1853-90)

Found: the clue to van Gogh’s ear

The mystery behind the most famous mutilation in art history may finally have been solved.

A scholar has found evidence that a distraught Vincent van Gogh slashed his ear after learning that his brother, Theo, on whom he depended financially and emotionally, was about to get married.

Martin Bailey, who has written a book on van Gogh and curated two exhibitions of his work, devised his theory after meticulous detective work on a letter in a painting that the artist completed soon after he injured himself.

Bailey concludes that this letter was written by Theo from Paris in December 1888 and contained news of his engagement. This, he believes, tipped Vincent, who was already psychologically disturbed, into self-harm.

For years disputes have raged over what really happened to van Gogh’s ear just before Christmas 1888. Some have blamed his mental illness, others have said he was driven mad by lead in his paints. The breakdown of his friendship with Paul Gauguin, his fellow artist, has also been cited, although it is claimed that Gauguin made up this story himself.

Academics at Hamburg University argued recently that Gauguin, with whom van Gogh shared a house at Arles in the south of France, cut the ear in a quarrel over a prostitute called Rachel.

This theory was dismissed by the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and by Bailey.

Van Gogh gave ample evidence of his mental instability when, 19 months after the ear was cut, he shot himself in the chest and died from his wounds two days later.

Bailey assembled his evidence partly from close study of van Gogh’s Still Life: Drawing Board with Onions. The work was completed at the beginning of 1889, just a month after his injury. It will be the star painting at a new exhibition opening in January at the Royal Academy around the theme of van Gogh and his letters.

It includes an envelope on a table. Bailey examined it microscopically and found the number 67 inside a circle. This was the official mark of a post office in Place des Abbesses, close to the apartment in Montmartre occupied by Theo, an art dealer who regularly provided money for Vincent.

The envelope has a special frank mark that says “New Year’s Day”. The Paris postal museum confirmed that in the second half of the 19th century such a mark was put on envelopes from mid-December onwards.

Bailey believes van Gogh deliberately put the envelope in the painting because of its deep significance.

Vincent usually received his allowance from Theo on or about the 23rd of each month, although sometimes he received two a month. It is known from a letter he wrote to Theo at the end of January 1889 that he had received what he called “the much-needed money” on December 23.

Bailey argues that the letter in the painting contained the news from Theo that he had proposed to his girlfriend, Johanna Bonger. The letter, dated December 21, is from Theo to his mother seeking permission to marry. “Vincent would surely have been next to be told,” said Bailey.

Another letter, from Theo to his fiancée, mentions his brief visit to Vincent on Christmas Day after he had taken the train from Paris on hearing of the mutilation.

Theo wrote: “When I mentioned you to him he evidently knew who and what I meant and, when I asked whether he approved of our plans, he said marriage ought not to be regarded as the main object in life.”