Saturday, July 16, 2011

Newly Discovered Paintings by Leonardo and Caravaggio

Posted by Charles Kessler

Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World), c.1500, oil on a wood panel, 26 x 18 ½ inches.
The story of the discovery of this Leonardo painting was originally reported by Milton Esterow in Art News and elaborated on nicely here by Jonathan Jones in the Guardian.

Finding a Leonardo is especially significant because there are so few of them in existence — only fourteen. In fact the number of Leonardo paintings known to be lost (The Battle of Anghiari and Leda and the Swan among them) almost equals the total of his existing work. 

The Salvator Mundi will be exhibited at London's National Gallery as part of a show about Leonardo's years at the court of Ludovico Sforza that will include an extraordinary seven of the fourteen existing Leonardos. It opens November 9 and will run through February 5, 2012.
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, St Augustine, c.1600, oil on canvas, 47 x 37 inches
British art dealers are on a roll. I just wrote about a London dealer discovering a Van Dyke;
now, as reported in the Guardian, the British dealer and art historian Clovis Whitfield unearthed a Caravaggio that was covered in old varnish and bad repainting.

The painting is considered an example of Caravaggio’s mature work (done when he was only 28!). It adds to our understanding of Caravaggio because, according to Renaissance scholar David Franklin,
 “Often a [lost original] composition is known from copies but not this one. ...It shows a side of Caravaggio perhaps that is not as drastic and antagonistic as usual but where he was working very closely with [Vincenzo] Giustiniani [Caravaggio’s patron in Rome] to try to create a much more quiet image of a saint."

The painting is currently at the National Gallery of Canada in an exhibition called Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome.

1 comment:

Michael W. Domoretsky said...

This is very troubling; when people who restore cannot understand the "intent" of the artist in this case it is the artist/master Leonardo, da Vinci,
Intent; as in Leonardo, da Vinci the act of turning the mind toward an object; hence, a design; a purpose; intention; meaning; drift; aim.

A comparison of the preparatory drawings of the raised hands in both paintings shows them to be identical. The extreme accuracy and detail indicate to us that the hands were drawn by da Vinci. A detailed analysis of the Blue painting reveals off-sets in the symmetry and scale. These anomalies were introduced into the original work by the student who completed the painting and by the recent restoration artist.

In the original, (the red and blue) note the the roundness of the thumb and arch on the side coming down from the top to the inside of the crease of the next knuckle. Also make note of the "S" in the on the cuff of the wrist. This was created in very old in block form which is consistent with the fonts of the era in which the painting was created.

Notice in the blue painting the top of the thumb has a more squared off character. The arch of the thumb from the top to the inside of the next crease of the knuckle is missing. These omissions are very obvious to anyone looking at the painting carefully. These issues should have been noted and corrected, if not by the original artist, then by the restoration artist. The S in the area of the cuff of the wrist is a modern font and not consistent with the fonts of the middle ages. These errors are clear and obvious, and Leonardo would not have allowed such errors to persist in his own works..... He was far to exacting to allow such oversights to remain uncorrected.

Our conclusion that the red and Blue painting is the authentic Leonardo painting, while the Blue painting is not that of da Vinci but by another artist , likely a student, is clearly supported by the just the observations of the prominent errors remaining in the artwork. This evidence stands alone and is enough to convince us. When combined with the additional mathematical, geometric and style evidence covered elsewhere, it is difficult to come to any other conclusion.

We are hoping that the scholars and historians who are presently constrained by traditional methods of authentication will come to understand the new discoveries made by The da Vinci Project Research Group, and accept and use our research as added criteria by which to authenticate the works of Leonardo and other renaissance artists.