Monday, August 6, 2012

Lost Leonardo

Several times Fiona McLaren, 59, had almost disposed of the painting (upper right) that hung in her bedroom in London, but transferred it with the rest of her things to the Scottish farmhouse into which she and her mother moved. It was her mother who had given her the painting nearly 20 years ago as a birthday present. It had been gifted to her father Dr. George McLaren (d. 1979, image upper left) by a patient in the 1960s. The 23" x 28" painting remained on the wall, even acquiring little flecks of paint when they redecorated. Now Fiona is glad she held onto it - since it has been valued at more than £100 million ($155million). She brought it to Sotheby's auctioneer Harry Robertson for appraisal and describes, "I showed it to him and he was staggered, speechless save for a sigh of exclamation." Robertson recognized it as the possible work of Leonardo da Vinci, and is taking it to London and Cambridge for testing and dating. Some suggestive indicators have been identified (see more here):
  • The similarity of the boy to the child in da Vinci's "Virgin of the Rocks."
  • The distinctive "V" shape at the woman's hairline that echoes the portraits in "The Last Supper."
  • The unfinished area by the woman's shoulder is common in da Vinci works.
  • The depiction of the baby's 2nd toe as longer than the big toe is also typical of da Vinci.
If the work is not original to da Vinci, it may have been painted by one of his students. Although the subject appears to be Madonna and Child, the woman's red garment indicates her identity as Mary Magdelene. And that is the name mentioned in a papal bull (bottom image) attached to the back that confirms it was owned by Pope Paul V (1552-1621). If the painting is authenticated, Fiona McLaren hopes it will be purchased by a museum for people to enjoy for years to come, and plans to donate a percentage to a children's charity.

See National Geographic to read about a rediscovered mural also believed to be painted by da Vinci.
Leonardo is preeminently blogworthy:

1 comment:

  1. Red color of the garment doesn't indicate that the woman is Mary Magdalene. This is a Madonna dressed in red and maybe blue which pigment changed color (a very typical color combination of a Madonna) together with baby Jesus and little St. John. Madonnas were often painted in red dresses and blue mantles. Plenty of Madonnas are dressed in red, and indicated as Madonnas in the titles and old contracts.

    Is this really a "papal bull" on the back? A papal bull is a long document signed and sealed, not some label.One rather recent label reads Paris, Parigi, in Italian. What the other label says? Pontius? What else? The murals are not really believed yet to be by Leonardo, it is just a hypothesis which was thrown around and needs a solid confirmation or rejection, and this takes time. Sorry, couldn't refuse my temptation to comment...


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