I thought this chap looked somehow very Scottish. Must be the beard.
Leonardos are like buses. You wait three hundred years for one….
After the discovery of Salvator Mundi, conveniently just in time for the National Gallery’s blockbuster exhibition, it’s as if the search to unearth Leonardo’s other known lost masterpiece The Battle of Anghiari was on. We know of its existence from writings at the time which describe it as amongst the master’s greatest work, and also from the Rubens drawing above, and now in a tale Dan Brown would be kicking himself to not have thought up, they may have found it.
The belief is that Leonardo’s unfinished (more correctly, abandonned) masterpiece may well be behind another by Giorgio Vasari in Florence. The theory that rather than overpaint Leonardo’s work, the artist built a new wall in front of it and paint on that is made more Brown-worthy by the inscription on Vasari’s work which reads “he who seeks, finds”, although it’s equally as likely that the state of the wall left by Leonardo’s experiment made overpainting impractical or even impossible.
Now researchers have drilled holes in Vasari’s work and discovered pigments underneath which match those used on the Mona Lisa. Which really doesn’t prove a lot more than that there’s another painting under there painted around the same time. The fact is that without destroying Vasari’s work, we cannot see what is underneath. What we do know is that Leonardo abandonned the painting because the new fresco techniques he was trying out weren’t working. We get an idea of the sort of “not working” he was experiencing by looking at the dejected Last Supper. We can only imagine then that even if it is there, that The Battle of Anghiari will be in a similar state, except without the decades of restoration work which have kept the former piece barely better than a child’s representation of its original glory.
I have issues with this:
1) They’re destroying another artists work to find this.
2) Leonardo abandonned this work. He did so for a reason. We know that reason, and it was not a fit of artistic pique.
3) It is almost certain that whatever lies under there is frankly, not worth looking at from anything other than a pure academic standpoint.
4) Can I just reiterate point 1.
This isn’t about furthering our knowledge of Leonardo, nor is it about enriching our world by finding more of his work; this is about being able to say “hey, we’ve got an undiscovered Leonardo! Come pay us to see it.” and all at the expense of another artists work, who tried to do his best by his fellow artist by not simply overpainting the work as a mark of respect. Perhaps he should have just plastered over and started again, whereupon we would be able to marvel properly at the resulting work of Vasari and Rubens.
I will be exhibiting at the Olympus art show in the Radisson Edwardian Hotel at Heathrow over Easter weekend. Pieces on display (and for sale!) will be:
Magnetic Fields (original)
Ocean Cloud (original)
Kaikoura (the last giclee artist’s proof )
You do need to be a member of the convention to see the art show, but it’s well worth it. More details at http://www.olympus2012.org/