Voices from Russia

Saturday, 7 July 2012

100 Works by Caravaggio Found in Italy

A Portrait of Michaelangelo Caravaggio

Ottavio Leoni



A new chapter may be opening in the history of world art. Italian art historians have found about a hundred previously unknown works by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. The unique discovery was made because of research work conducted by art historians Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz and Adriana Conconi Fedrigolli. What is at issue are early works by Caravaggio created in the period from 1584 to 1588 during his study at Simone Peterzano’s studio in Milano. More than 1,400 paintings and graphics are stored in the Peterzano Fund located in Sforza Castle in Milano. Until recently, it was believed that Caravaggio’s teacher created all of them. While studying the collection, researchers discovered a stylistic and compositional similarity of some of the works… mostly the graphics… to famous works by Caravaggio. This allowed them to conclude that one of the most influential artists of the Baroque period created 83 of the drawings.

If the international community confirms the authenticity of the discovered drawings, their value may come to some 700 million Euros (28.3 billion Roubles. 860 million USD. 560 million UK Pounds). This is rather a rough estimate, as the works by Caravaggio almost never appear on the antiques market, and a comparative base simply does not exist. Irina Osipova, art critic and of the antiques market expert, said in a VOR interview, “The story is as fascinating as it is incredible. Caravaggio’s legacy is rather small and is scattered in museums all over the world and only a few museums that can boast of owning more than one work by Caravaggio. If Caravaggio’s authorship is confirmed, the Sforza Castle Museum’s collection will become significantly richer. Nevertheless, in this connection it is worth remembering another recent discovery… the Salvator Mundi painting by Leonardo da Vinci. Last year, before it was displayed on show at the National Gallery in London, the absolute majority of all the living specialists in his works had confirmed Leonardo’s authorship… only one person had had some doubts. However, things can happen the wrong way round. Perhaps, if art critics reattributed only one picture or a couple of paintings to Caravaggio, it would’ve aroused more confidence. At present, the number of works and their evaluation seem unreal”.

Moscow antique dealer Alexei Zaitsev believes, “Miracles do happen, of course. However, we mustn’t forget that very often a student’s drawings don’t resemble even remotely the manner of a mature master. I think there’s still a lot of work left for experts, both Italian and the rest of the world. Furthermore, they may come to an agreement. At least, I wouldn’t deny this discovery outright. It’s worth admitting that today’s the perfect moment for such a discovery… a serious crisis has struck Italy, and, suddenly, there appears an opportunity of supporting both the economy and national feelings”.

7 July 2012

Armen Apresyan

Voice of Russia World Service



Friday, 15 July 2011

The Find of the Century: “The Saviour of the World” from Leonardo

Salvator Mundi (The Saviour of the World)

Leonardo da Vinci



The Western media announced the greatest art find in the last hundred years…

This time, we’re not talking about another version of who served as a model for the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci or the secret signs that one can allegedly find in the pupils of the eyes of that painting. According to ARTnews, a painting surfaced in a private collection that many considered a lost work of Leonardo da Vinci. The first public exhibition of Salvator Mundi (The Saviour of the World) will occur at London’s National Gallery in November 2011. Whilst there’s very little information on this work and the circumstances surrounding its rediscovery, a monochrome photograph of it has seen widespread circulation. We do know that the painting, found about six years ago, is now owned by “a consortium of dealers”, including a renowned expert from New York, Robert Simon, who arranged an examination of the work carried out by art historians at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After restorers removed layers of varnish from the painting, a legacy of previous (and, according to experts, rather unsuccessful) attempts at restoration, the experts acknowledged its authenticity. According to them, it was actually a rediscovered masterpiece of Leonardo, the documentary evidence for the existence of which isn’t in doubt.

We know that in 1506 that the French King, Louis XII, commissioned a painting named Salvator Mundi (The Saviour of the World) from Leonardo da Vinci, which the artist finished in 1513. Queen Marie, the wife of Louis XII, bequeathed the painting to a religious order, who received it after her death. In 1650, Henrietta Maria of France, the widow of the English King Charles I, executed by the Commonwealth in 1649, saw the picture, and she commissioned the artist Wenceslas Hollar to make an engraving of it for her collection. In the 19th century, with the dissolution of the monastery that housed the painting, Baron de Larenti, a gentleman from Paris, bought Leonardo’s masterpiece. It went through several owners until it ended in the collection of the Marquis de Ghana, where it was until recently. No one really knows the chain of circumstances by which the painting passed into the hands of the “consortium”. There are conflicting versions of what happened, and the degree of credibility attached to its attribution. Judging by the fact that the conclusions of the Metropolitan Museum experts agreed with one of the most world-renowned authorities on the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Martin Kemp of Oxford University, most believe that it’s truly a once-missing painting by Leonardo.

In many respects, Salvator Mundi is similar to Leonardo’s famous depiction of John the Baptist painted in the same period… the palette composition, the blending of the brushwork, even a tree portrayed on both works, are almost identical. At the same time, researchers carefully noted that it somewhat lacks the well-known softness of touch that’s characteristic of Leonardo’s paintings. Therefore, in fact, is this a true work of Leonardo? There’s no doubt that the artist actually painted a work entitled Salvator Mundi in 1513. Since the common belief is that about 75 percent of Leonardo’s work was lost, many people have the strong suspicion that this painting may very well be one of them. In the end, the world’s leading experts agreed that in the viewers of the November exhibition at its London venue will see an authentic picture of the great Leonardo, which means that the art world’s waiting for a real sensation. Moreover, Salvator Mundi is in private hands, which means that the owners can sell it. Experts say that its price could reach 200 million USD (5.63 billion Roubles. 141.6 billion Euros. 124 billion UK Pounds), making it the most expensive piece of art ever put up for public auction. You can be absolutely sure that Professor Silvano Vincenti, the detail-obsessed researcher that looked for the body of Lisa Gherardini, will pore over every detail of the recently discovered painting; he’ll probably find a secret code, or a similarity to the Mona Lisa.

5 July 2011

Armen Apresyan

Voice of Russia World Service


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