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The “Salvator Mundi”, recently rediscovered and attributed to Leonardo, goes to auction at Christie’s, with an estimated value of about $ 100M. Will it be sold? Will it come back to Italy? With all the spotlights on this painting, someone started playing devil’s advocate, questioning the authorship, pointing to some alleged mistakes in the representation of the orb that Christ holds with his left hand. However, several copies are known similarly representing the orb, moreover it seems that what is not taken into account are the scientific and technical results presented by Dianne Modestini – who directed the restoration –during the conference on the occasion of the great monograph exposition in London in 2012. During her talk, she illustrated how a major part of the painting was damaged and how in the orb area most superficial layers, those building the orb, were lost. Modestini writes in the volume “Leonardo da Vinci’s technical practice” (edited by M. Menu, Hemann editors), about some white touches, probably related to the reflections of an external light, now unfortunately out of context, but also about the typical inclusions of rock crystal, visible in the part covering the hand, that are manically painted and certainly are to be related to Leonardo. So the orb, still the center of discussion, is for her the witness of Leonardo’s hand.
With regard to the materials used, from the 8 samples extracted, a double gesso and glue stratigraphy was visualized for preparation layer, and as far as the pigments are concerned, various types of black, lapis lazuli, red lacquer and white lead and cinnabar for the flesh tones have been identified. And a nice bit of glass probably used as a siccative. All compatible materials and techniques. A curiosity: the background probably was not as black as it is now, but green. Imaging diagnostics then showed some small repentance, for example in the position of the thumb of the blessing hand. Is this sufficient enough to consider it original? Certainly such evidences are more grounded than those relating to alleged stylistic errors in the orb. Art–Test has worked on several Leonardo paintings, such as the “Musician” of the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milano (of which diagnostic results were presented at the same conference in London), the Scapigliata and other works attributed to Leonardo, like the Caprotti’s Christ. In fact, we would have expected a more elaborate preparatory drawing. Perhaps we are not alone, and perhaps that’s why experts at Christie’s write about “many big and small changes,” and the “dramatic shift” of the thumb position, with too much emphasis.
(For a comparison click here.)
It is not, and it was not, a common practice to make full size models for statues. But apparently Giambologna (Jean de Boulogne), at the time of this commission for Piazza della Signoria in Florence, was best known for “small” things, and he wanted to immediately silence who did not trust his abilities to work with bigger dimensions.
So he proved himself in large statuary already at the time of presenting a model, et voilat: a giant sculpture 4 meters tall was produced. But how did he do? What techniques and what materials did he use?
In 2013 Art-Test Florence, along with other research organizations and companies specialized in diagnostic applied to cultural heritage, was involved in the campaign designed to provide the complex analyses of the model of the Rape of the Sabine Women, now at the Galleria dell’ Accademia in Florence, with the objective to answer such questions. The model is in terra cruda, i.e. raw clay, having indeed the same size of the marble work, you can admire the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria in Florence. However the model is not identical. Do you want to know more? It is now possible to access all the results of diagnostic tests performed and the history of its restoration. They are now all published by Syllables in the book “It ratto delle Sabine e il suo restauro “. Inside it there are notes on the history of the artwork and on the restoration performed. It is not easy to synthesize the amount of information contained in the volume so we invite you to read it and find out how a simple “bozzetto” is actually a work of refined technical inventiveness. Jean de Boulogne really knew his business.
The Symposium was an interesting opportunity to learn, thanks to the Superintendent of Pisa, Dott. Francesco D’Anselmo, the official Amedeo Mercurio and to Dr. Roberta Lapucci, head of the restoration department of SACI, about the history and the current status of the fortification built in 1603 on the initiative of Philip II, and the adjoining church. A nodal and strategic site to defend Elba and Argentario from pirate raids from the south and French attacks from the north. Depleted from this function, from the mid-nineteenth century the fortification was gradually converted to a penitential institution.
The paintings which belong to the church and were the subject of analysis and restoration are of the Florentine school and dated between the seventeenth and eighteenth century. They were donated by the Tuscan grand ducal court or commissioned by the governors of the Fort. The iconographic theme is centered on sacred subjects and honours the saints celebrated by the post-Tridentine tradition.
In 1987, because of a riot in the prison, the church was severely damaged and has since been abandoned.
Only now, thanks to the synergy between the SACI school and the Superintendent a project is being carried out to return to the public part of the goods stored here Art-Test has contributed a diagnostic campaign that has studied the first four paintings which underwent restoration. Both addressing conservation aspects and studying the genesis of the paintings through the study of the underlying composition, visualized thanks to reflectographic imaging performed.
The day ended with a praise for the initiative, with the confirmation of the obvious need to recover a site so important to the history of Elba island but also with a reflection, as underlined by dr. Mercurio on what could be the future of the church’s art apparatus. Currently it is not foreseen for the church to be reopened to the public. The restored works if not relocated would still remain unseen by the community. Alternative solutions are therefore being sought after. An alternative way of exhibit could for example include showing the diagnostic surveys to add intriguing information and create fascinating opportunities for the curious tourist.
Here the link to a video of the exhibition https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iS9Jb3GkM9o
The exhibition dedicated to ‘Carlo Dolci 1616-1687’ is in full swing at the Palatine Gallery in Florence, with about seventy works on display (including many from prestigious international museums, like the British Museum in London, the Musée du Louvre in Paris , and the Alte Pinakothek in Munich of Bavaria) in dialogue with works by other artists of his time and a small group of works of his followers.
For the occasion, the Palatine Gallery in collaboration with the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence will dedicate a conference to discuss the important campaign of study and restoration of numerous paintings that preceded the preparation of the exhibition and which has contributed to extend the knowledge of the style and modus operandi of the painter. The central theme will focus on the painting technique of Dolci.
Art-Test will gladly participate with the restorer Miriam Fiocca with the contribution “The hidden magician”: key findings emerged about the painting “Madonna tendering the Baby Jesus” (work n.79 int the catalog) that, under radiographic examination, revealed a surprising and substantial modification of the composition.
The event is scheduled for Wednesday, October 7 at the Theater of the Rondo di Bacco, Palazzo Pitti.
An unique opportunity not to be missed!!
Read more at: http://www.unannoadarte.it/carlodolci/main/
In his latest book the author provides a new interpretation of the many self-portraits by Goya, identifying five categories, and through them tracing the often dramatic events of the life of the Aragonese painter.
We are pleased that our analyzes have proved useful. We strive to support experts with certainties. After all we share the thought of Leonardo: “a little certainty is better than a big lie“.
Piero di Cosimo
On show this summer in Florence the monographic exhibition “Piero di Cosimo eccentric painter between Renaissance and Mannerism” (Uffizi, until 27/9), following the one recently concluded at National Gallery of Art in Washington.
Lent to Washington and now worth a visit in Florence, among others the extraordinary “Liberation of Andromeda“, as according to Vasari: “Piero never made a lovelier or more highly finished picture than this one“, (diagnostics by Art-Test, not yet published)
In the Florentine exhibition, paintings and drawings by Piero relate with works by artists such as Filippino Lippi, Fra Bartolomeo and Lorenzo di Credi, to highlight how the pupil di Cosimo stands out as an original painter, whose style was said to be more Flemish (or Venetian), rather than Florentine, as his paintings were more relying on color values rather than on the preparatory drawing. But is this what emerges from the investigation?
A solitary painter, he was however greatly demanded by the most prominent families of Florence (including Strozzi, Capponi, Vespucci). He was an experimenter, one of the firsts, along with Leonardo, adopting the oil painting technique. The studies conducted byE. Walmsley reveal, in fact, how Piero was also eccentric in the way he was making use of his tools, with overlapping and peculiar brushstrokes and sometimes also of fingertips. It was in fact just uncovering the use of such a particular way of working that helped to solve several cases of dubious attributions.
Attempting new ways, away from the established traditional ones, however, could also be the cause of the difficult state of conservation faced by several of his works.
For example, the great altarpiece “Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine and Saints“, alongside the high quality of the original painting, revealed also significant losses under the multiple layers of repainting (diagnostic analyses by Art-Test, not yet published). This masterpiece was unexpectedly found, resurfacing in the antiquarian market, in a private collection. On special loan for the exhibition, you can now admire it during the challenging phases of restoration. Such a unique opportunity should also not be missed!
The top part of the altarpiece was missing, but a befitting fragment displaying two angels distributing incense and jointly carrying a crown, listed as “style of Piero di Cosimo” was identified at the National Gallery in Edinburgh. When it came to Florence to undergo the necessary conservation treatments, the examinations revealed on the altarpiece, concealed by overpainting and restoration, the feet of the angels of the top. The testing (performed by Art-Test, still to be published) left no doubt! The repainting has been removed and the two parts are now joined for the display. So the angels got their feet again, but only temporarily, since after the exhibition they will be separated by over 1700 km again!
“Angels holding a crown “, before restoration, Piero di Cosimo, National Gallery of Edinburgh
“Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine”, before restoration, Piero di Cosimo, private collection; currently on display at the Florentine exhibition in the course of the conservation treatment
Saturday, April 11 2015, the Church of St Stephen Augustinian in Empoli will host the workshop“From Caravaggio. The San Giovanni Battista Costa and his copies” moderated by Prof. Bruno Santi.
This subject had a great fortune, in Italy and abroad. There are at least 8 known versions of this painting, with different and controversial attributions. Which artists did paint them? And what is the history of the little-known version now in Empoli? This painting, which became part of the heritage of the church of St. Stephen, thanks to the donation of Monsignor Marchetti in 1823 and almost unreadable before restoration, was nearly neglected hanging in a building that has a long history: it was erected in the fifteenth century by the brotherhood of the Augustinians, who are since the Middle Ages in the area of Empoli. Among the famous names of artists who worked there we find Masolino and Starnina (whose frescoes have come to us in the form of a fragment or sinopia), Cigoli and Cresti, said the Passignano. But the most illustrious name is certainly that of Caravaggio, tied to the the St. John the Baptist now in the Chapel of the Purification. But is this painting original or is it a copy? The symposium will be an opportunity to present the studies and the results of the recent restoration, conducted by Sandra Pucci, and directed by Maria Cristina Gnoni Mavarelli of the SBAPSE of Florence Pistoia and Prato, together with the results, that we cannot anticipate, of the diagnostic testing, including analysis of materials and reflectography performed by Art-Test.
Please join us on Saturday, April 11 from 9:30 am at the Church of St. Stephen of the Augustinians of Empoli. Admission is free. Save the date !!
St. John the Baptist of Mercy Empoli, photos of Alena Fialová
Here the program for the day
San Paolo Bank sponsored, this year as well, some restoration works of neglected or needing artworks. Among the most prestigious pieces the “Cristo in meditazione” by Ribera of the Galleria Palatina of Florence was restored by Anna Teresa Monti. The painting with the original signature, was covered by a thick varnish layer and was interested by several past interventions. Art-Test performed the Multilayer acquisition and the IR scanner reflectography, both at regular (on the entire surface) and at quadruple resolution. This last analysis was performed on a relatively small area including the left hand of the saint, where an unclear paint layer had to be further investigated to understand whether it was an original or a restoration layer. To this aim a very new technique was applied: the XRF scanner (in collaboration with S.T.Art-Test). A very high resolution map of the pigment in the investigated area can be achieved this way, and a quantitative analysis performed. This is a revolution in XRF data, since it gives a quantitative insight also in the investigation of the composition of the various superimposing layers. In this case it was possible to conclude not only that the paint layer was original, despite the slightly different colour, but also that the painter carried out the composition, not only the drawing, before deciding to change for a different pose of the hand.
See details at: