Rembrandt’s, Da Vinci’s eyes and art

In Rembrandt’s 1639 etching, Self-Portrait, Leaning on a Stone Wall, the eye on the left looks straight ahead while the eye on the right faces slightly outward. Gift of John J. Glessner III, 1947/The Metropolitan Museum of Art

In Rembrandt’s 1639 etching, Self-Portrait, Leaning on a Stone Wall, the eye on the left looks straight ahead while the eye on the right faces slightly outward. Gift of John J. Glessner III, 1947/The Metropolitan Museum of Art” title=”In Rembrandt’s 1639 etching, Self-Portrait, Leaning on a Stone Wall, the eye on the left looks straight ahead while the eye on the right faces slightly outward.

By Sofie Bates, December 9, 2019 at 6:00 am:

Why Rembrandt and da Vinci may have painted themselves with skewed eyes

Scientists are still debating if the cause was an eye disorder or one strongly dominant eye

A strongly dominant eye, not an eye disorder, may explain why Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt van Rijn painted themselves with misaligned eyes.

Previous research suggested that the famous artists may have had a literal artist’s eye — an eye disorder called exotropia in which one eye turns outward. Exotropia makes it harder for the brain to use input from both eyes to see in 3-D, so it must rely on 2-D cues to see depth. This gives people with the disorder a “flattened” view of the world, which could give artists who work on flat surfaces like canvas an advantage.

But using trigonometry and photographs of people looking into a mirror, David Guyton, an ophthalmologist at Johns Hopkins University, and his colleague Ahmed Shakarchi, conclude that the artists could have had eyes that faced straight ahead after all. The researchers published their analysis November 27 in JAMA Ophthalmology.

The brains of people who have a strongly dominant eye will favor whatever that eye sees. So when people with a strongly dominant eye look closely in a mirror — like, say, artists leaning in to get details needed to paint a self-portrait — they could perceive that they have exotropia even if that’s not true, Guyton says.

For instance, a person with a strongly dominant eye and eyes six centimeters apart who was sitting 16.5 centimeters from a mirror would wrongly perceive that the weaker eye is turned outward at a 10.3-degree angle, the researchers found. That angle is consistent with the eye angle portrayed in some artworks painted by or modeled after da Vinci.

“It is a clever idea,” says Christopher Tyler, a visual neuroscientist at the City University of London whose previous analysis of six pieces of art — some by da Vinci himself and some for which it’s suspected he was the model — suggested that da Vinci had exotropia (SN: 10/22/18). In many of those works, the eyes appear misaligned.

For the geometry of the strong eye explanation to work, Tyler says, the artist would have to sit “unrealistically close” to the mirror, especially for some of Rembrandt’s half-length, self-portraits or for the painting Salvator Mundi, which da Vinci may have partially modeled after himself. And it doesn’t fully explain why statues that were sculpted in da Vinci’s likeness by other artists also show apparent exotropia, Tyler says.

Bevil Conway, a neurobiologist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., says both explanations are plausible. A common trick among artists is to shut one eye and hold out a thumb to get a sense of how a three-dimensional world looks in 2-D. Both exotropia and a strongly dominant eye could have a similar “flattening” effect, which could have helped da Vinci and Rembrandt bring a 3-D world to life on flat canvases.

“The debate is still open, and the answer is that we can never know,” Conway says.

Leonardo da Vinci exhibition, Liverpool, England

The head of Leda, by Leonardo da Vinci, c1505-8

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 30 January 2018:


Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing
Walker Art Gallery
Until May 6

This free exhibition of 12 Leonardo da Vinci drawings, coinciding with 11 other simultaneous shows nationally, marks the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance master‘s death. It explores the diversity of subjects that inspired his creativity, including painting, sculpture, architecture, music, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany.

And it presents new information about his working practices and creative process, gathered through scientific research using ultraviolet imaging, infrared reflectography and X-ray fluorescence.

Leonardo da Vinci’s caricatures exhibited in Dutch Haarlem

Caricature by Leonardo da Vinci. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018

Translated from Annephine van Uchelen in the Netherlands today:

Astonishment, joy and blind anger: it can all be seen on the dozens of sketches of faces made by Leonardo da Vinci. He drew the faces as ‘mirrors of the soul’. And sometimes he also took ‘revenge with the pen’ on those who mocked him because he was ‘different’.

The works can be seen from this Friday on in the Teylers Museum in Haarlem, which takes an advance with this exhibition on the international Da Vinci year 2019. It is striking that the Netherlands kicks off and not Italy. While Da Vinci still counts as one of the best export products in the cultural field in his native country.

When Italian merchants of death corporation Finmeccanica, linked to convicted criminal racist mafia crony politician Silvio Berlusconi, was entangled in its umpteenth corruption scandal, these war profiteers whitewashed themselves by changing the corporation name to ‘Leonardo’. The real Leonardo hated money-grabbers.

Caricature by Leonardo da Vinci. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018

The land of Rembrandt and Van Gogh is very much ahead of the troops, some countries think. But the exhibition goes ahead – also in the context of 500th anniversary of the artist’s death. …

This exhibition is unique and will not be seen again soon in the Netherlands for the next forty years. …

Leonardo da Vinci was born in 1452 in Anchiano, near Florence. He is seen as all-rounder: he was, among other things, a visual artist, inventor, architect, philosopher, physicist and chemist.

Someone who has seen Da Vinci’s most famous painting, the lovely Mona Lisa, may have to get used to the sketches. The deformed faces and tronies would not be out of place as illustrations in a horror story: toothless men with sunken mouths and hook noses, curious headgear, beaked mouths and faces expressing blind fury.

“You would like to call Da Vinci the inventor of the caricature, but unfortunately we have never been able to link his work to famous names and people”, says guest curator Michael Kwakkelstein.

Caricature by Leonardo da Vinci. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018

“Unique for that time was that he also incorporated emotions, sometimes he went to the city gate to study the faces of tramps and travelers in preparation for his sketches.” …

“He was an illegitimate child“, says Kwakkelstein. “And he was not taken seriously by other scientists, because he did not do university studies and did not know Latin, and he was almost certainly homosexual.”

According to Kwakkelstein, some sketches seem to be a reckoning with his critical fellow men and impatient clients. “He has mocked them by deforming their features.”

Caricature by Leonardo da Vinci. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018

The museum did not get Da Vinci’s works without a struggle. Kwakkelstein: “Teylers Museum does not have any Da Vinci sketches in its collection, which is not an easy basis to ask for the already fragile works on loan, let alone from the Royal Collections of Windsor Castle, where most of the sketches come from.”

The fact that the British Queen Elizabeth gave permission has to do with earlier exhibitions by Teylers about the two other Renaissance figures Michelangelo (2005) and Raphael (2012). The Haarlem museum does have a large collection of their work, which is world-famous.

The exhibition can be seen from October 5 in Teylers Museum in Haarlem. Due to the expected crowds, a ticket must be booked online in advance.

An eye disorder may have given Leonardo da Vinci an artistic edge. A neuroscientist offers evidence that the artist had exotropia, in which one eye turns outward. By Amanda B. Keener, 6:00am, October 22, 2018.

Leonardo da Vinci and Saudi absolute monarchy

This video from the USA says about itself:

Leonardo‘s “Salvator Mundi”: Who Pays Millions for a Painting?

6 December 2017

Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, a little known Saudi Arabian prince, paid a record $450.3 million for Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi”. Here’s a few other buyers with deep pockets.

From the New York Times in the USA:

The Mysterious Buyer of the $450 Million Leonardo da Vinci? A Saudi Prince


DEC. 6, 2017

LONDON — He is a little-known Saudi prince from a remote branch of the royal family, with no history as a major art collector, and no publicly known source of great wealth. But the prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, is the mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting Salvator Mundi,” which fetched a record $450.3 million at auction last month, documents show.

The revelation that Prince Bader is the purchaser, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times, links one of the most captivating mysteries of the art world with palace intrigues in Saudi Arabia that are shaking the region. Prince Bader splurged on this controversial and decidedly un-Islamic portrait of Christ at a time when most members of the Saudi elite, including some in the royal family, are cowering under a sweeping crackdown against corruption and self-enrichment.

As it happens, Prince Bader is a friend and associate of the leader of the purge: the country’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

The $450.3 million purchase is the clearest indication yet of the selective nature of the crackdown. The crown prince’s supporters portray him as a reformer, but the campaign of extrajudicial arrests has been unprecedented for modern Saudi Arabia,

That the arrests also included royals is unprecedented. Extrajudicial arrests of commoners in Saudi Arabia are not unprecedented at all.

worrying Western governments about political stability in the world’s largest oil producer, alarming rights advocates and investors about the rule of law, and roiling energy markets.

Prince Mohammed’s consolidation of power has upended decades of efforts by previous Saudi rulers to build loyalty and consensus within the royal family. And even before the disclosure of the record-breaking purchase in a New York art auction by one of his associates, Prince Mohammed’s extravagance had already raised eyebrows, most notably with the impulse purchase two years ago in the south of France of a Russian vodka titan’s 440-foot yacht, for half a billion dollars. …

the newly opened branch of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, tweeted that the painting “is coming to Louvre Abu Dhabi.” The Saudi crown prince is a close ally of his counterpart in Abu Dhabi. …

“Salvator Mundi” represented a major prestige purchase in the art world, if a controversial one. Some experts questioned whether the painting was a true Leonardo. Some were simply unimpressed. The painting’s previous owner, Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, is a Russian billionaire who bought a $95 million Florida home from Donald J. Trump nearly a decade ago. Mr. Rybolovlev had paid $127.5 million for the painting in 2013 — less than a third of its sale price last month — and he is still locked in litigation with the dealer who sold it to him over that lofty price, among other transactions.

For Prince Bader, paying such an unprecedented sum for a painting of Christ also risked offending the religious sensibilities of his Muslim countrymen. Muslims teach that Jesus was not the savior [as the painting is called] but a prophet. And most Muslims — especially the clerics of Saudi Arabia — consider the artistic depiction of any of the prophets to be a form of sacrilege. …

Prince Bader appears to have worked with Prince Mohammed on at least one grand project for his own leisure, as well. Together, the two approached Brent Thompson Architects, a firm based in Los Angeles, to design an elaborate resort complex near Jidda, according to a description of the project on the group’s website.

It consisted of as many as seven palaces for princes in the Salman branch of the family, around an artificial body of water in the shape of a flower. “Petals of this tropical flower formed a series of private coves, each the home of an individual palace, its own private beaches, guesthouse, gardens and water sports facilities”, according to the description on the firm’s website.

SO SAUDI ARABIA’S LEADER SPENT $450 MILLION ON A PAINTING Here’s what that would do for the victims of his war in Yemen. [HuffPost]

Anti-money grabbing Leonardo’s (?) painting sold for $450 million

Salvator Mundi

By Sandy English in the USA:

Leonardo painting auctioned for $450 million

21 November 2017

On November 15, a painting attributed to the Florentine artist and polymath, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), sold at Christie’s auction house New York City for $450.3 million dollars, including fees. This is the highest price ever paid for a painting at a public auction. The buyer has remained anonymous, but observers have narrowed the list down to some 150 multi-billionaires.

The painting, Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World, c. 1500), depicts Jesus Christ in Renaissance garb holding a globe of the world in his right hand and raising his left hand in a gesture of benediction. It was commissioned by King Louis XII of France (1462-1515) over 500 years ago.

In recent times, the painting, not then thought to be by Leonardo, was purchased for a mere $10,000 at a New Orleans estate sale in 2005. It eventually ended up, after several transactions, in the hands of the billionaire Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, who purchased it for $127 million. His estate then sold it to Christie’s, which took the painting on a world tour as part of its marketing campaign. In 20 minutes of bidding on November 15, the price climbed from over $100 million to the final sum.

The painting has been heavily restored, and its authenticity and provenance have been hotly contested by some, but, as critics have pointed out, now that it has sold for nearly half a billion dollars, it must surely be a Leonardo! It will now be the only one of the Renaissance master’s paintings in a private collection.

The sale of Salvator Mundi has caused consternation even in the highly moneyed art world, in which contemporary and classic art works are routinely sold or auctioned for tens of millions of dollars. One writer at remarked, “The outcome is so far out of bounds that it bends our understanding of reality’s basic parameters.” The New York Times editorialized somewhat nervously that, “something has gone wrong in the balance of value and values.”

Also writing in the Times, perhaps on a sharper note, critic Jason Farago cited the words of the subject of the painting in Luke 6:21: “But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.”

Leonardo himself, in his “Ethics for the Painter,” addressed to fellow artists, argued that “you should learn that money earned in excess of our daily requirements is not worth much, and if you desire an abundance of wealth you will end up not using it.” The important artist, he explained, “will leave behind works which will bestow upon you more honour than money would do, because money is celebrated only for its own sake and not for that of he who possessed it, who is like a magnet of envy. … The glory of the virtue of mortals is far greater than that of their treasures. How many emperors, how many princes have there been of whom no memory remains, yet they strove only after territory and wealth to secure their reputations?”

While the astronomical price for Salvator Mundi is shocking, it is a part of a trend, particularly since 2011, of the tiny sliver of billionaires on the planet buying works of art at high prices. The previous record price had been paid by the richest man in Illinois, hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, who reputedly bought Willem de Kooning’s Interchange for $300 million last year. In 2013, Christie’s auctioned Francis Bacon’s triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud for $142 million and in 2015 the auction house sold Pablo Picasso’s 1955 Les femmes d‘Alger (Version ‘O’) for $179 million. In May this year, the Japanese collector Yusaku Maezawa spent $110.5 million for a work by Jean-Michel Basquiat at Sotheby’s in London.

As several analysts have observed, a booming art market is directly tied to the ever-rising fortunes of the stock market and the expectation that US President Donald Trump’s tax cuts for the very rich will provide a massive financial windfall.

Portrait of Leonardo

For most critics and art world insiders, let alone the corporate media, the dizziness will soon wear off. The art world accommodates itself rather quickly to the obscene prices for art work, and, after all, some of the wealth gets spread around. Journalists and the most privileged academics may get a private glimpse of the painting or perhaps even a chance to nuzzle up to its new owner.

Everything about the sale of Salvator Mundi is deplorable, and revealing.

The fact that over two billion people on the planet live on two dollars a day or less and over 60,000 people, many of them children, have no place to live in the city in which the auction took place hardly rates a raised eyelid in the art world media.

Furthermore, the dependence of art on the market has now reached a dangerous threshold from the view of art production itself. Artwork has become a big item commodity for the ultra-wealthy. They invest in it as they would invest in any other property and, as has been observed in this case, the actual quality of the painting, what it tells us about life, what emotions and thoughts it evokes in us, none of this really matters.

The whole affair will have demoralizing influence on artists themselves. It is not the public or critics that judge their works or find pleasure in them, but only a few wealthy individuals. The end goal of a work of art is not to reveal a truth about the world, or even—an increasingly rare phenomenon—to support the artist so he or she can continue to create, but to be burnt in the bonfire of super-profits. Paintings, whether produced by a Renaissance master or even a living New York artist, are locked up for years in climate-controlled vaults and hidden from view, and then released only in a place and at a time acceptable to their beneficent owners.

The purchase of a work of art for this sum demonstrates the fate of art under capitalism. It is a kind of vandalism in which culture is weighed for its net worth and hidden away to appreciate, not for the benefit of masses of people.

However, the history of the painting offers us another side to the broader historical process. Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi at one time belonged to King Charles I of England, who lost the painting because his estate was sold in 1649, the same year the monarch lost his head as the result of a victorious revolution.

Painter Leonardo da Vinci, new film, review

This video says about itself:

Leonardo Da Vinci – The Genius in Milan

11 February 2016

In Spring 2015, Milan paid tribute to Leonardo by holding a large exhibition at the Palazzo Reale. Based on this stunning exhibition, Leonardo da Vinci – The Genius in Milan uses a combination of documentary interviews and mise-en-scènes to tell the story of the artist’s world and the treasures he left us, against the stunning backdrop of Leonardo’s Milan.

Drawing upon Leonardo’s legendary work as an artist, architect and scientist, audiences will be immersed in the story of Leonardo the man, in the context of what was a truly legendary period in the city’s history, and for the history of art.

By Lee Parsons in Canada:

Leonardo da Vinci–The Genius in Milan: The marketing of genius

23 September 2016

Directed by Luca Lucini and Nico Malaspina; screenplay by Jacopo Ghilardoti and Gabriele Scotti

Screened in Toronto this past summer, Leonardo da Vinci–The Genius in Milan is being distributed in over 50 countries this year and comes out of the largest exhibition ever mounted in Italy of the work of the great polymath, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). The latter took place in Milan in the spring of 2015 and was itself the product of collaboration among some of the leading scholars and experts in Europe.

The film, directed by Luca Lucini and Nico Malaspina, focuses on the 16 years, from 1482 until 1499, that Leonardo spent in what was then the city-state of Milan.

Given the enormous richness of this period in the artist’s life, merely shining a light on his legacy may be a worthwhile accomplishment. Unfortunately, certain regrettable creative choices (which appear to have been made only to reach the widest possible audience) and the tawdry marketing and crafting of The Genius in Milan contrast sharply with the exceptional achievements of its subject and many of its participants.

The weaknesses of this production, billed as an “exhibition event,” are apparent from the outset. Its opening feels like a promotional ad, which means to generate gravitas and drama but comes across too polished and packaged to be taken seriously. We see a reenactment of the careful packing and shipping of one of Leonardo’s greatest works, La Belle Ferronnière (1490-96) as it is removed with solemnity and reverence from its home in the Louvre in Paris and flown to Milan for EXPO 2015. The exaggerated tone permeates the film and only helps undermine the respect that the filmmakers are clearly trying to inspire.

La Belle Ferronnière

Unhappily, one cringes as this production’s crass approach becomes apparent. Seductive camera work, impressive visual effects and other costly production values indicate a healthy budget. That same budget also allows for excesses and gimmicks that continue throughout the film and nearly eclipse a subject matter the producers apparently don’t trust to otherwise hold the viewer’s interest.

The high definition photography of some of the artist’s most enduring paintings is nevertheless captivating on the big screen—these include the Mona Lisa (La Gioconda, c. 1503-06) and La Belle Ferronnière (also known as Portrait of an Unknown Woman. The film employs 4K photography, an advance in ultra-high definition digital video allowing us to see a number of the artist’s works with a degree of detail that approaches an in-person viewing.

The other principal merit of Leonardo da Vinci–The Genius in Milan lies in a number of the on-camera interviews. The figures interviewed include renowned experts such as Claudio Giorgione, from the National Museum of Science and Technology in Milan, who speaks on the profound contribution Leonardo made to many scientific fields. There is further valuable commentary by Richard Schofield on his architectural work.

The economic and social changes associated with the rise of the Renaissance (from the 14th to the 17th centuries) allowed for the flourishing of a more fully developed and all-rounded human being. A new social type emerged, since known as the “Renaissance man,” of which Leonardo da Vinci is perhaps the classic example.

The illegitimate son of an affluent Florentine notary, Leonardo was not accepted into his father’s family until late in childhood. He was nevertheless given the benefit of a proper education and, having shown unusual talent early on, was eventually placed as an apprentice to a prominent local artist. He did not make a real name for himself until well along in his career, and his reputation was hampered by his habit of not finishing commissions and projects, often disappearing without notice. This was more a matter of an insatiable curiosity than anything else, which drove Leonardo from one pursuit or investigation to another in a lifelong fury of creative output.

Along the same lines as the 2015 exhibition, The Genius in Milan is arranged in twelve sections, tracing the complex course that Leonardo followed after he left Florence and began his work in Milan. The film does not follow his time there in a strict chronological order. Leonardo’s difficulty in completing projects presented problems for him in winning new commissions, although he did have devoted patrons, including the powerful Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, who commissioned The Last Supper (1495-98). That famed mural has undergone numerous efforts at restoration and was the subject of a high-definition video also made for the 2015 show.

In Milan Leonardo also produced most of the 1,100 drawings and writings that were later collected, in 12 volumes, in what is known as the Atlantic Codex.

Despite Leonardo’s voluminous writing on many subjects, including philosophy, art and technology, details about his personal life remain fairly sketchy and this is particularly true of his early years. This dearth of documentation has allowed for a good deal of speculation about his life and the Lucini–Malaspina documentary indulges in imaginings along these lines as well.

Unhappily, aside from the repeated observation that Leonardo did not view himself principally as a painter, the film does not offer a cohesive theme or guiding perspective as we move from one disjointed segment to the next. The documentary touches on Leonardo’s varied investigations and inventions. We also learn details about the conditions under which Leonardo worked in the Sforza court and some of the painters who were influenced by him. Co-curators of the 2015 exhibition Pietro Marani and Maria Teresa Fiorio offer some commentary on aspects of the artist’s life and work.

The efforts to re-enact episodes in Leonardo’s life constitute the most awkward portions of The Genius in Milan. Although performed competently by some talented actors, including Cristiana Capotondi, Alessandro Haber, Gabriella Pession and Nicola Nocell, these segments—delivered directly to the camera in the manner of an aside in Shakespeare—are conceived of in the manner of petty, personal gossip that does no credit to the subjects or participants.

The general effect of the invented—and undignified—scenes and dialogue is to lower the overall quality of the film and hamper a serious consideration of the artist and the period.

The authentic settings used in these dramatizations, such as the Bicocca degli Arcimboldi (a 15th century villa) and the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie, are beautifully filmed if only as the backdrop to the unfortunate skits. The tone of the film alternates between the undignified one created by these imagined forays into Leonardo’s personal life and a grave reverence for the artist, which is also extreme. In either case, little of substance is revealed about Leonardo the man or the transformative period that produced such a figure.

Genius and history

It is inspiring to reflect on the extraordinary human capability and potential embodied in the figure of Leonardo da Vinci. Our confidence in humanity in general has to be fortified by such a reflection, especially in a period of cultural crisis like the present one where many, including “left” intellectuals, have come to question the very idea of human progress.

What might be more helpful in a film like The Genius in Milan is some effort to understand the relationship between such advanced individuals and the broader historical and social processes they reflect.

Frederick Engels associated the Renaissance with “that mighty epoch when feudalism was smashed by the burghers [urban bourgeoisie]. … It was the epoch which brought into being the great monarchies in Europe, broke the spiritual dictatorship of the Pope, evoked the revival of Greek antiquity and with it the highest artistic development of the new age, broke through the boundaries of the old world, and for the first time really discovered the world.”

In explaining why the Italian Renaissance was so culturally rich, Leon Trotsky noted that “the Renaissance only begins when the new social class [the bourgeoisie], already culturally satiated, feels itself strong enough to come out from under the yoke of the Gothic arch [i.e., feudal culture], to look at Gothic art and on all that preceded it as material for its own disposal, and to use the technique of the past for its own artistic aims.”

The upheaval in social relations allowed for greater independence for artists and artisans who were now able to offer their services more freely to a growing variety of patrons. Geographic boundaries loosened as well, lessening the grip of the dominant city-states of Florence, Venice and Milan on culture and trade, and allowing the leading artists and craftsmen of the day, including Leonardo, to compete in an expanding market for lucrative commissions and recognition right across Europe.

In the course of The Genius in Milan we hear from experts on Leonardo who enthusiastically expound on the wonders and mystery surrounding this man, but the perspective advanced is generally limited to his personal achievements and dealings largely disconnected from the social forces that produced him. In this regard, it should be emphasized that while Leonardo may have been the most outstanding figure, he was just one of many brilliant artists, writers, thinkers and explorers of the period who represented a broad advance in human progress.

We are speaking of the birth of the modern world, at a time when capitalism was at its most revolutionary and progressive. Some insight ought to be offered into this process by a film dedicated to one of the most brilliant lights of this era.

New Leonardo da Vinci discovery?

The painting appears to be a completed, painted version of a pencil sketch drawn by Leonardo da Vinci in Mantua in the Lombardy region of northern Italy in 1499

From the Daily Telegraph in Britain:

Leonardo da Vinci painting lost for centuries found in Swiss bank vault

It was lost for so long that it had assumed mythical status for art historians. Some doubted whether it even existed.

By Nick Squires, Rome

3:32PM BST 04 Oct 2013

But a 500-year-old mystery was apparently solved today after a painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci was discovered in a Swiss bank vault.

The painting, which depicts Isabella d’Este, a Renaissance noblewoman, was found in a private collection of 400 works kept in a Swiss bank by an Italian family who asked not to be identified.

It appears to be a completed, painted version of a pencil sketch drawn by Leonardo da Vinci in Mantua in the Lombardy region of northern Italy in 1499.

The sketch, the apparent inspiration for the newly found work, hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

For centuries it had been debated whether Leonardo had actually had the time or inclination to develop the sketch into a painted portrait.

After seeing the drawing he produced, the marquesa wrote to the artist, imploring him to produce a full-blown painting.

But shortly afterwards he embarked on one of his largest works, The Battle of Anghiari on the walls of Florence’s town hall, and then, in 1503, started working on the Mona Lisa.

Art historians had long believed he simply ran out of time — or lost interest — in completing the commission for Isabella d’Este.

Now it appears that he did in fact manage to finish the project — perhaps when he encountered the aristocrat, one of the most influential female figures of her day, in Rome in 1514.

Scientific tests suggest that the oil portrait is indeed the work of da Vinci, according to Carlo Pedretti, a professor emeritus of art history and an expert in Leonardo studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“There are no doubts that the portrait is the work of Leonardo,” Prof Pedretti, a recognised expert in authenticating disputed works by Da Vinci, told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

“I can immediately recognise Da Vinci’s handiwork, particularly in the woman’s face.”

Tests have shown that the type of pigment in the portrait was the same as that used by Leonardo and that the primer used to treat the canvas on which it was painted corresponds to that employed by the Renaissance genius.

Carbon dating, conducted by a mass spectrometry laboratory at the University of Arizona, has shown that there is a 95 per cent probability that the portrait was painted between 1460 and 1650.

But there needs to be further analysis to determine whether certain elements of the portrait — notably a golden tiara on the noblewoman’s head and a palm leaf held in her hand like a sceptre — were the work of Leonardo or one of his pupils, Prof Pedretti said.

A likely contender would be Gian Giacomo Caprotti, nicknamed Salai, who began working with Leonardo as a child and is believed to have become his lover.

He is believed to have entered Leonardo’s household around 1490, when he was about 10 years old.

Working as the artist’s apprentice for the next 20 years, he acquired the nickname Salai, or Little Devil. He was the subject of several erotic drawings produced by the Renaissance master.

The newly discovered portrait, which measures 24in by 18in, does bear a striking similarity to the Leonardo sketch held by the Louvre — the woman’s posture, her hairstyle and her dress are almost identical, while her enigmatic smile recalls that of the Mona Lisa.

Martin Kemp, professor emeritus of the history of art at Trinity College, Oxford, and one of the world’s foremost experts on da Vinci, said if the find was authenticated it would be worth “tens of millions of pounds” because there are only 15 to 20 genuine da Vinci works in the world.

But he raised doubts about whether the painting was really the work of Leonardo.

The portrait found in Switzerland is painted on canvas, whereas Leonardo favoured wooden boards.

“Canvas was not used by Leonardo or anyone in his production line,” Prof Kemp told The Daily Telegraph. “Although with Leonardo, the one thing I have learnt is never to be surprised.”

There are further doubts – Leonardo gave away his original sketch to the marquesa, so he would not have been able to refer to it later in order to paint a full oil version.

“You can’t rule out the possibility but it seems unlikely,” Prof Kemp said.

It was more likely to have been produced by one of the many artists operating in northern Italy who copied Leonardo’s works.

Mona Lisa’s skeleton research

This video is called Leonardo da Vinci: “The Man Who Wanted to Know Everything”.

From the Huffington Post in the USA:

Mona Lisa’s Supposed Skeleton May Finally Solve Centuries-Old Mystery

08/09/2013 11:30 pm EDT

Researchers in Florence, Italy, are opening a centuries-old family tomb in hopes of solving one of the art world’s most pressing mysteries. The tomb in question belongs to the family of Lisa Gherardini, the 16th century Florentine woman thought to have been the face of Leonardo da Vinci‘s “Mona Lisa.”

According to NBC, a team of specialists have begun a series of DNA tests on three different skeletons found in an Ursuline convent in Florence. The bones were originally discovered in 2012 and are believed to include the remains of Gherardini, the wife of a merchant who at one point lived across the street from da Vinci.

Now, researchers are turning to the Gherardini family tomb, located in Florence’s Basilica della Santissima Annuziata, where they hope to excavate the skeletons of the supposed muse’s sons. The experts plan on comparing DNA evidence from the convent excavation to the bones in the basilica in order to verify that they indeed have access to Mrs. Gherardini’s remains.

Right now we are carrying out Carbon-14 tests on three of the eight skeletons found in St. Ursula.” explained Silvano Vinceti, head of the National Committee for the valuation of historic, cultural and environmental assets, to ANSA. “The Carbon-14 test will tell us which of the three dates back to the 1500s. Only then will we know which skeleton to do the final DNA test on.”

The 16th century art historian Giorgio Vasari was the first to identify Gherardini as the smirking female in Leonardo’s masterpiece. A number of academics since then have agreed that the former neighbor is the most likely suspect, speculating that her husband commissioned the “La Gioconda,” as the painting is known in Italy, himself.

If DNA testing proves that the skeletal remains are indeed Gherardini’s, the next step would be to reconstruct the woman’s face, based on the found bone structure, and measure that against Leonardo’s famous portrait.

Perhaps then we can understand why Mona Lisa pursed her lips hundreds of years ago. Maybe it was bad teeth after all?

Mona Lisa’s bones discovered?

This video says about itself:

Leonardo da Vinci

Italian Artist

1452 – 1519

0:01 – The Last Supper
0:14 – Portrait of an Unknown Woman (La Belle Ferroniere)
0:24 – St. John the Baptist
0:35 – Portrait of Ginevra de’Benci
0:48 – Study of an Old Man’s Profile
0:59 – Madonna Litta
1:11 – The Annunciation
1:23 – The Virgin of the Rocks
1:33 – Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (Lady with an Ermine)
1:43 – The Lady of the Dishevelled Hair (La Scapigliata)
1:53 – John the Baptist
2:02 – Virgin and Child with St. Anne
2:14 – St. Hieronymus
2:24 – Madonna with the Carnation
2:33 – Portrait of a Musician
2:45 – Mona Lisa (La Gioconda)
2:58 – Self-Portrait

Music: Bach’s Prelude And Fugue No. 13 In F-Sharp Major BWV 882 – Praeludium from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2 performed by Daniel Ben Pienaar. Available at

by Philip Scott Johnson

From Discovery News:

Mona Lisa’s Skeleton Found?

Analysis by Rossella Lorenzi

Wed July 18, 2012 01:01 PM ET

Archaeologists say they have found a complete skeleton buried beneath the floor of an abandoned nunnery in Florence, Italy, which might belong to Lisa Gherardini, the woman believed to have inspired Leonardo da Vinci‘s Mona Lisa.

The bones were found beneath the remains of an altar in the church of the now derelict Convent of St. Orsola.

“That altar was certainly in use at Lisa Gherardini’s time,” said Valeria D’Aquino, an archaeologist at the Tuscan Superintendency.

D’Aquino and colleagues had to dig through a foot of concrete before they unearthed a brick crypt containing the bones.

The bone hunt, which began last year, aims to possibly reconstruct Lisa’s face in order to see if her facial features match that of the iconic painting hanging at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Indeed, most scholars believe that the Mona Lisa, known as La Gioconda in Italian or La Joconde in French, is the portrait of Lisa Gherardini, a member of a minor noble family of rural origins who married the wealthy merchant Francesco del Giocondo.

The ambitious project is led by Silvano Vinceti, president of a private organization known as the National Committee for the Promotion of Historic and Cultural Heritage.

Known for controversial claims, like that letters and numbers are hidden inside the Mona Lisa painting, Vinceti has based his search in the convent on documents found by historian Giuseppe Pallanti some years ago.

“Lisa Gheradini did exist and lived a rather ordinary life,” Pallanti, who is not involved in the project, told Discovery News.

The historian traced back Lisa’s life from her birth on June 15, 1479, to her death at the age of 63.

In his research, Pallanti found several important documents, such as Francesco del Giocondo’s will. There, the merchant asked his younger daughter, Marietta, to take care of his “beloved wife”, Lisa.

At that time, Marietta, one of Lisa and Francesco’s five children, had become a nun, thus she brought her mother to the nearby convent of Sant’Orsola.

Lisa remained there until her death, according to a document known as a “Book of the Dead”, found by Pallanti in a church archive.

“Lisa di Francesco Del Giocondo died on July 15, 1542 and was buried in Sant’Orsola”, the document stated.

The record noted that the whole parish turned out for her funeral, showing that Lisa was rather famous among Florentine society.

Vinceti said that the newly discovered bones will undergo radiocarbon dating, hystological analysis and DNA testing.

“If the bones turn to be those of a female skeleton there will be two possibilities: Either they belong to the noblewoman Maria del Riccio or they belong to Lisa Gherardini. According to historic records, only these two women, who were not nuns, were given special burials in the convent,” Vinceti told the local daily La Nazione.

Eventually, comparisons will be made with the DNA of Bartolomeo and Piero, Lisa’s children who are buried in the church of Santissima Annunziata in Florence.

Leonardo’s Mona Lisa was Lisa Gherardini

Mona Lisa

Reuters reports:

German experts crack Mona Lisa smile

By Sylvia Westall

Mon Jan 14, 11:33 AM ET

BERLIN – German academics believe they have solved the centuries-old mystery behind the identity of the “Mona Lisa” in Leonardo da Vinci‘s famous portrait.

Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a wealthy Florentine merchant, Francesco del Giocondo, has long been seen as the most likely model for the sixteenth-century painting.

But art historians have often wondered whether the smiling woman may actually have been da Vinci‘s lover, his mother or the artist himself.

Now experts at the Heidelberg University library say dated notes scribbled in the margins of a book by its owner in October 1503 confirm once and for all that Lisa del Giocondo was indeed the model for one of the most famous portraits in the world.

“All doubts about the identity of the Mona Lisa have been eliminated by a discovery by Dr. Armin Schlechter,” a manuscript expert, the library said in a statement on Monday.

Until then, only “scant evidence” from sixteenth-century documents had been available. “This left lots of room for interpretation and there were many different identities put forward,” the library said.

The notes were made by a Florentine city official Agostino Vespucci, an acquaintance of the artist, in a collection of letters by the Roman orator Cicero.

The comments compare Leonardo to the ancient Greek artist Apelles and say he was working on three paintings at the time, one of them a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo.

Art experts, who have already dated the painting to this time, say the Heidelberg discovery is a breakthrough and the earliest mention linking the merchant’s wife to the portrait.

“There is no reason for any lingering doubts that this is another woman,” Leipzig University art historian Frank Zoellner told German radio. “One could even say that books written about all this in the past few years were unnecessary, had we known.”

The woman was first linked to the painting in around 1550 by Italian official Giorgio Vasari, the library said, but added there had been doubts about Vasari’s reliability and had made the comments five decades after the portrait had been painted.

The Heidelberg notes were actually discovered over two years ago in the library by Schlechter, a spokeswoman said.

Although the findings had been printed in the library’s public catalogue they had not been widely publicized and had been received little attention until a German broadcaster decided to do some recording at the library, she said.

The painting, which hangs in the Louvre in Paris, is also known as “La Gioconda” meaning the happy or joyful woman in Italian, a title which also suggests the woman’s married name.

(Editing by Giles Elgood)

See also here.

( — Italian scientists hope to dig up the remains of Leonardo da Vinci in order to determine if his most famous painting, the Mona Lisa, is a disguised self-portrait: here.

Mona Lisa’s eyes may reveal model’s identity, expert claims: here.

Another Mona Lisa theory: here.

Mona Lisa could have been completed a decade later than thought. A drawing of rocks by Leonardo in the Royal Collection provides evidence that the artist worked on the portrait for much longer than the dates officially given by the Louvre: here.

Leonardo’s Last Supper: here. And here.

Leonardo’s Last Supper As It First Appeared? Here.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Studies on the Science of Flight Come to the Air and Space Museum: here.