Category Archive 'Art'
17 Nov 2017

Questionable Leonardo With Serious Condition Issues Sold for $450.3 Million at Christie’s

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New York Times:

After 19 minutes of dueling, with four bidders on the telephone and one in the room, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” sold on Wednesday night for $450.3 million with fees, shattering the high for any work of art sold at auction. It far surpassed Picasso’s “Women of Algiers,” which fetched $179.4 million at Christie’s in May 2015. The buyer was not immediately disclosed.

There were gasps throughout the sale, as the bids climbed by tens of millions up to $225 million, by fives up to $260 million, and then by twos. As the bidding slowed, and a buyer pondered the next multi-million-dollar increment, Jussi Pylkkanen, the auctioneer, said, “It’s an historic moment; we’ll wait.”

Toward the end, Alex Rotter, Christie’s co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art, who represented a buyer on the phone, made two big jumps to shake off one last rival bid from Francis de Poortere, Christie’s head of old master paintings.

The price is all the more remarkable at a time when the old masters market is contracting, because of limited supply and collectors’ penchant for contemporary art.

And to critics, the astronomical sale attests to something else — the degree to which salesmanship has come to drive and dominate the conversation about art and its value. Some art experts pointed to the painting’s damaged condition and its questionable authenticity.

“This was a thumping epic triumph of branding and desire over connoisseurship and reality,” said Todd Levin, a New York art adviser.

Christie’s marketing campaign was perhaps unprecedented in the art world; it was the first time the auction house went so far as to enlist an outside agency to advertise the work. Christie’s also released a video that included top executives pitching the painting to Hong Kong clients as “the holy grail of our business” and likening it to “the discovery of a new planet.” Christie’s called the work “the Last da Vinci,” the only known painting by the Renaissance master still in a private collection (some 15 others are in museums).

“It’s been a brilliant marketing campaign,” said Alan Hobart, director of the Pyms Gallery in London, who has acquired museum-quality artworks across a range of historical periods for the British businessman and collector Graham Kirkham. “This is going to be the future.”

RTWT

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Times Critic Jason Farago (speaking on behalf of the Establishment) does not like the painting or its buyer.

You can’t put a price on beauty; you can put a price on a name. When the National Gallery in London exhibited a painting of Christ in 2011 as a heretofore lost work by Leonardo da Vinci, the surprise in art historical circles was exceeded only by the salivating of dealers and auctioneers.

The painting, “Salvator Mundi,” is the only Leonardo in private hands, and was brought to market by the family trust of Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, the Russian billionaire entangled in an epic multinational lawsuit with his former dealer, Yves Bouvier. On Wednesday night, at Christie’s postwar and contemporary sale (in which it was incongruously included to reach bidders beyond Renaissance connoisseurs), the Leonardo sold for a shocking $450.3 million, the highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction. Worth it? Well, what are you buying: the painting or the brand?

The painting, when purchased at an estate sale in 2005 for less than $10,000, was initially considered a copy of a lost Leonardo, completed around 1500 and once in the collection of Charles I of England. Over time, its wood surface became cracked and chafed, and it had been crudely overpainted, as an image in the sale catalog shows. Cleaned by the conservator Dianne Dwyer Modestini, the painting now appears in some limbo state between its original form and an exacting, though partially imagined, rehabilitation.

Authentication is a serious but subjective business. I’m not the man to affirm or reject its attribution; it is accepted as a Leonardo by many serious scholars, though not all. I can say, however, what I felt I was looking at when I took my place among the crowds who’d queued an hour or more to behold and endlessly photograph “Salvator Mundi”: a proficient but not especially distinguished religious picture from turn-of-the-16th-century Lombardy, put through a wringer of restorations.

RTWT

24 Oct 2017

Spectators Matching Artworks

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Bored Panda:

France-based photographer Stefan Draschan always keeps himself entertained at art galleries by creating his own art projects.

One of those projects is “People matching artworks”. Although at first Draschan’s images seem perfectly staged, the secret behind them is actually patience. The photographer enjoys visiting different museums mostly in Paris, Vienna and Berlin where he waits for visitors to suddenly match with a piece of art in a funny way. The result is these humorous and unique pictures of unexpected harmony between people and the artworks they’re facing. It’s usually the outfits that match the art, but there are also people who match with the paintings because of their hair styles and colors, or even beards.

04 Sep 2017

The Poor Poet

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Car Spitzweg, Der Arme Poet (The Poor Poet), 1839, Neue Pinakothek, Munich.

29 Jul 2017

Michelangelo’s Grocery List

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Open Culture:

Living in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Italian High Renaissance sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer Michelangelo… had only to send assistants off to market to bring back what he needed. Though vanishingly few of this prolific creator’s papers survive today, we do happen to have a few of the grocery lists he sent with them, like that which you see above.

John Updike once wrote that “excellence in the great things is built upon excellence in the small,” and the observation holds up ideally when we think about Michelangelo’s numerous great achievements — Pietà, David, The Last Judgment, St. Peter’s Basilica — in comparison to this humble yet striking rundown of ingredients for a meal, of the same basic kind each of us scrawl out regularly. But when Michelangelo scrawled, he scrawled with both a craftsman’s practical precision and an artist’s evocative flair. “Because the servant he was sending to market was illiterate,” writes the Oregonian‘s Steve Duin in a review of a Seattle Art Museum show, “Michelangelo illustrated the shopping lists — a herring, tortelli, two fennel soups, four anchovies and ‘a small quarter of a rough wine’ — with rushed (and all the more exquisite for it) caricatures in pen and ink.” As we can see, the true Renaissance Man didn’t just pursue a variety of interests, but applied his mastery equally to tasks exceptional and mundane. Which, of course, renders the mundane exceptional.

04 Jul 2017

Lion Bowl

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Lion Bowl
Northern Syria, 9th-8th century B.C.
Steatite, carved
Length: 7 1/4 in. (18.4 cm); Diameter: 3 7/8 in. (9.8 cm)
The Nasli M. Heeramaneck Collection of Ancient Near Eastern and Central Asian Art, gift of The Ahmanson Foundation (M.76.97.910)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

23 Jun 2017

Interactive Tour of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights

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24 Apr 2017

The Bibliophiles

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Luis Jiménez y Aranda, Los bibliófilos, 1880

04 Apr 2017

St. Julian

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Spinello Aretino, Saint Julian Murdering his Parents,Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.

St. Julian — Feastday: February 12

Patron of Boatmen, carnival workers, childless people, circus workers, clowns, ferrymen, fiddlers, fiddle players, hospitallers, hotel-keepers, hunters, innkeepers, jugglers, knights, murderers, pilgrims, shepherds, to obtain lodging while traveling, travelers, wandering musicians, St. Julian’s; Macerata; Ghent.

According to the account that was very popular in the Middle Ages, Julian was of noble birth and while hunting one day, was reproached by a hart for hunting him and told that he would one day kill his mother and father. He was richly rewarded for his services by a king and married a widow. While he was away his mother and father arrived at his castle seeking him; When his wife realized who they were, she put them up for the night in the master’s bed room. When Julian returned unexpectedly later that night and saw a man and a woman in his bed, he suspected the worst and killed them both. When his wife returned from church and he found he had killed his parents, he was overcome with remorse and fled the castle, resolved to do a fitting penance. He was joined by his wife and they built an inn for travelers near a wide river, and a hospital for the poor. He was forgiven for his crime when he gave help to a leper in his own bed; the leper turned out to be a messenger from God who had been sent to test him.

Wikipedia:

The earliest known reference to Julian dates to the late twelfth century.

There are three main theories of his origin:

Born in Le Mans, France, possibly from confusion with Saint Julian of Le Mans
Born in Ath, Belgium, around 7 AD
Born in Naples, Italy

The location of the hospitals built by him is also debated between the banks of the River Gardon in Provence and an island near the River Potenza heading to Macerata.

He was known as the patron of the cities of Ghent and Macerata. The Paternoster (Our Father prayer) of St. Julian can be found as early as 1353 in Boccaccio’s Decameron, and is still passed on by word of mouth throughout some places in Italy. The account is included the 13th-century Leggenda Aurea of Genoan Giacomo da Varazze, a Dominican priest. Beautiful stained glass depicting St. Julian by an unknown artist in the Cathedral of Chartres also dates back to the 13th century. Early fresco paintings of him are found in the Cathedral of Trento (14th century) and the Palazzo Comunale di Assisi.

According to de Varazze, the night Julian was born, his father, a man of noble blood, saw pagan witches secretly jinx his son into killing both his parents. His father wanted to get rid of the child, but his mother did not let him do so. As the boy grew into a handsome young man, his mother would regularly burst into tears because of the sin her son was destined to commit. When he finally found out the reason for her tears, he swore he “would never commit such a sin” and “with great belief in Christ went off full of courage” as far away from his parents as he could. Some versions say that it was his mother who told him at the age of 10, while others say it was a stag he met in the forest while hunting (a situation used in depicting St. Julian in statues and pictures). After fifty days of walking he finally reached Galicia where he married a “good woman”, said to be a wealthy widow.

Twenty years later, his parents decided to go look for their now thirty-year-old son. When they arrived, they visited the altar of St. James, and “as soon as they came out of the church they met a woman sitting on a chair outside, whom the pilgrims greeted and asked, for Jesus’ love, whether she would host them for the night as they were tired”. She let them in and told them that her husband, Julian, was out hunting. (This is why he is also known as the patron of hunters). The mother and father were overjoyed to have found their son, as was Julian’s wife. “She took care of them well and had them rest in her and Julian’s bed”. But the enemy went off seeking Julian and told him: ‘I have sour news for you. While you are here, hunting, your wife is in bed embracing another man. There they are right now, still sleeping.'”

De Verazze continues: “And Julian felt deep sadness and his face drew into a frown. He rode back home, went to his bed and found a man and a woman sleeping in it. He drew his sword and killed them both. He was about to take off and never again set foot in that land, but as he was leaving he saw his wife sitting among the other women. She told him: ‘There are your mother and father resting in your room’. And so Julian knew, and fell into a rage. ‘The shrewd enemy lied to me when he said my wife was betraying me’, and while kissing their wounds he cried ‘Better had I never been born, for I am cursed in soul and body.’ And his good wife comforted him and said ‘Have faith in Christ Almighty, a stream of life and mercy.’ They had no children… Gold and silver they had a lot… And after seeking redemption in Rome, Julian built seven hospitals and twenty-five houses. And the poor started flowing to him, to Jesus’ Almighty’s love.”

De Verazze continues: “The enemy conspired again to ruin Julian—disguised as a weak pilgrim, he was let in by Julian with the others. At midnight he woke up and made a mess of the house.” The following morning Julian saw the damage and swore never to let in anyone else in his home. He was so furious he had everyone leave. “And Jesus went to him, again as a pilgrim, seeking rest. He asked humbly, in the name of God, for shelter. But Julian answered with contempt: ‘I shall not let you in. Go away, for the other night I had my home so vandalized that I shall never let you in.’ And Christ told him ‘Hold my walking-stick, please’. Julian, embarrassed, went to take the stick, and it stuck to his hands. And Julian recognized him at once and said ‘He tricked me the enemy who does not want me to be your faithful servant. But I shall embrace you, I do not care about him; and for your love I shall give shelter to whoever needs.’ He knelt and Jesus forgave him, and Julian asked, full of repentance, forgiveness for his wife and parents. Some versions skip the second mistake and tell of an angel visiting Julian and announcing to him that he is forgiven.

17 Feb 2017

Red

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Dyers at work. Bartholomeus Anglicus and Jean Corbechon, Le Livres des Propriétés des Choses, Manuscript, Brussels, 1482.

Arts and Letters Daily excerpts a bit from Michel Pastoureau’s Red: The History of a Color.

The late Middle Ages and the modern period have left us works by great painters that are particularly remarkable for their range of reds. Let us mention Van Eyck, Uccello, Carpaccio, Raphael, and later, Rubens and Georges de La Tour. But all artists seemed to love this color and tried to draw various tonalities from it. Accordingly they chose their pigments, taking into account not only their physicochemical properties, their ability to cover or make opaque, their resistance to light, and how easily they could be worked or combined with other pigments but also their price, availability, and—what is most disconcerting to us—the name they went by. Indeed we can observe in the laboratory that in panel paintings from the late Middle Ages, symbolically “negative” reds—those coloring the fires of hell, the face of the Devil, the coat or feathers of infernal creatures, and all impure blood of one kind or another—were often painted with the same pigment: sandarac, a resin lacquer more commonly called “cinnabar of the Indies” or “dragon’s blood.” Various legends circulated in workshops regarding this pigment, a relatively expensive one because it had to be imported from far away. It was believed to come not from a plant resin but from the blood of a dragon, gored by its mortal enemy, the elephant. According to medieval bestiaries, which followed Pliny and the ancient authors here, the inside of the dragon’s body was filled with blood and fire; after a fierce struggle, when the elephant had punctured the dragon’s belly with its tusks, out flowed a thick, foul, red liquid, from which was made a pigment used to paint all the shades of red considered evil. Legend won out over knowledge in this case, and painters’ choices gave priority to the symbolism of the name over the chemical properties of the pigment.

Unlike the dyers, the painters of the modern period hardly profited at all from the discovery of the New World or the settling of Europeans in the Americas. No truly new colorants resulted from these events. But Mexican cochineal, transformed into lacquer, allowed them to perfect a subtle, delicate pigment in the range of reds, superior to earlier lacquers from brazilwood or kermes for fixing a glaze over vermilion. Beginning in the sixteenth century, vermilion experienced a steady rise in popularity and its production became something of an industry, first in Venice, the European capital of color, and then in the Netherlands and Germany. It was sold in apothecaries, hardware shops, and paint stores, and even though it was more expensive and less stable than minium, it eventually contributed to that pigment’s decline.

05 Feb 2017

Leonardo Drawing Found in French Estate

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Kovels:

A retired doctor from a remote town has discovered his father had a collection worth millions and he could sell it. The doctor went to a Paris auction house and showed them 14 ink drawings. One 7 1/2-inch by 5-inch piece of paper with a sketch on each side was interesting. The auction house’s expert on old master paintings realized the drawing might be from the 16th century. Three months and three art experts later, the sketch has been authenticated as the work of Leonardo da Vinci, drawn about 1482-85. The handwriting, inscription, and the subject are all related to a known drawing of St. Sebastian by da Vinci. The good news for the owner is the sketch is estimated at about $15.8 million. The bad news is that the French government has put an export ban on the art work because it is “a national treasure.” The owner would like to offer it to an international market where it could sell for much more. The French government has 30 months to buy the sketch at market value.

29 Jan 2017

“Pauline in the Yellow Dress”

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Sir James Gunn, Pauline in the Yellow Dress, 1944, Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston.

“Pauline was the artist’s wife. Her glamour and enigmatic smile caused a sensation when the portrait was first exhibited in London. The Daily Mail described it as the ‘Mona Lisa of 1944’. Gunn was Britain’s foremost portrait painter of his time. Amongst his sitters were two kings and three prime ministers. He painted Pauline many times.”

70 Years of Pauline

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

16 Jan 2017

Renoir on Film

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The great Pierre-Auguste Renoir (born 1841) filmed painting, and smoking like a chimney, at age 78 in 1919.

22 Dec 2016

Jakub Rozalski

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Design You Trust has a feature on Polish artist Jakub Rozalski who specializes in images of supernatural creatures, werewolves, and particularly invading giant Mecha robots encountering Eastern European or Japanese peasants.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

23 Nov 2016

Balloon Dog

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Jeff Koons Balloon Dog sells for $58,405,000 at Christie’s, setting a new record for a single work by a living artist.

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