Friday, May 7, 2021

A clash of wills hides a Leonardo masterpiece


French curators worked for a decade to produce a major exhibition 500th Anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s Death. When it opened, however, the most talked about painting he planned to show – “Salvator Mundi,” the most expensive work sold at auction – was nowhere to be seen.

Surrounded by shabby ambiguity in New Orleans estate sales, the painting was sold as a lost “lost” Leonardo in 2017 and received more than $ 450 million from an anonymous bidder who saw it. Was kept hidden Two years later, the chance to see it at the Louvre Museum’s anniversary show created a sensation in the international art world, and its absence sparked new questions.

Did the Louvre conclude that the painting was not actually Leonardo’s work, as the vocal fists of the scholars insisted? Was the buyer – reported to be Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, though he had never accepted it – refused to feature it on the show for fear of public scrutiny? The Tatarisation notion that the ruthless Saudi prince may have gambled a fortune on fraud had already led to books, documentaries, art world gossip columns, and even the cottage industry. A proposed broadway musical.

None of this was true.

In fact, the crown prince secretly dispatched the “Salvator Mundi” to the Louvre in 2018, according to several French officials and a confidential French report on its authenticity. The report also stated that this painting is from the Saudi Ministry of Culture – some things that the Saudis never accepted.

A team of French scientists created a subject of unfamiliar canvas for a week of forensic examination with some of the most advanced technology available to the world of art, and in their unannounced report they were more empowered than any previous assessment Accents were made that the painting appeared to be working. In Leonardo’s own hand.

Yet the Saudis accepted it for entirely different reasons: Saudi’s disagreement over the demand that the painting of Jesus be hung next to the “Mona Lisa” last week led many French officials to remain anonymous Speaking on condition, the talks were confidential.

Far from the controversy about art scholarship, the painting’s return turned to questions of power and arrogance.

Some art skeptics say they suspected that the Saudis were never serious, including painting at the French show, and later wanted to keep the work under wraps to increase the commercial ability to install it at a planned tourist destination in the state. However, current and former French officials say the Saudis were eager to roam the Louvre for their newly acquired trophy, as long as it was placed next to the world’s most famous painting.

Recognizing those demands as irrational and irretrievable, the French refused to make their positive assessment of its authenticity public until the Saudi government allowed “Salvator Mundi” to appear in the exhibition at the Louvre.

And the resulting diplomatic deadlock between the French and the Saudis has kept the painting out of sight as clouds of intrigue surround it.

“Frankly, I think all of the tardyld must have evaporated,” said Luke Sison, director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England, a curator who oversaw Leonardo Exhibition at the National Gallery in London in 2011 Which included “Salvator Mundi”.

If only the painting was displayed, he explained, “People can decide for themselves by experiencing the painting.”

Painted around 1500, “Salvator Mundi” is believed to have been one of two similar works listed in a catalog of the collection of King Charles I of England after his execution in 1649. But the historical record of its ownership came to an end at the end of the 18th century. .

Then, around 2005, a pair of New York art dealers selling the New Orleans estate had a badly restored and partially painted image that they suspected might be worth a closer look. He acquired it for less than $ 10,000 and later brought in a skilled specialist to remove layers of paint and restore the original.

It changed hands shortly after, and hung as Leonardo at the 2011 exhibition at the National Gallery in London. But it was a record-setting bid in 2017 – for $ 450 million – that brought “Salvator Mundi” to front-page headlines, notably the New York Times reported Anonymous buyer was a surrogate for the Crown Prince Of Saudi Arabia.

Now the controversy made headlines again last week with the release of a new French documentary that claimed the Louvre had concluded that Leonardo had “only contributed” to “Salvator Mundi”. The documentary, which aired on French television on Tuesday, featured two disguised figures, identified as French government officials, saying that Crown Prince Mohammed would not loan the painting to the anniversary exhibition as the Louvre gave Leonardo Completely refused to work.

In a telephone interview, the documentary’s director, Antoine Witkaen, said he stood by his claims, stating that the Louvre’s president declined to comment on the museum’s decision to “Salvator Mundi”.

Louvre stressed that the report on the authenticity of the painting was “non-existent,” Mr. Wiktaine said.

Despite their denials, the Louvre curators had secretly produced a glossy, magazine-style 46-page summary of the findings of their forensic examination of the painting. Its existence was first reported in March 2020. By Alison Cole of The Arts newspaper. Scanned copies of the confidential report were prized among leading Leonardo experts around the world, and the New York Times received several copies.

Experts at the Research and Restoration Center of the Museum of France, an independent Ministry of Culture institute, used fluorescent X-rays, infrared scans, and digital cameras through high-power microscopes to match the signature details of materials and artistic techniques . Salvator Mundi “with other Leonardo creations of the Louvre.

The thin wooden plank on which the “salvator mundi” was stained is a variant derived from Lombardi that Leonardo used in other works. The artist added a glass of fine powder to the paint, as Leonardo did in his later years.

Hidden painting marks beneath the visible layers, details in the locks of Christ’s hair, and the shadow of the bright vermilion used in the shadows all point to Leonardo’s hand, the report concluded.

“All these arguments favor the idea of ​​a completely ‘autographed’ work,” said Vincent Deliuvin, one of the two curators of the anniversary exhibition, who wrote a lengthy examination stating that the painting was poor “unfortunately poorly patronized.” From “and” old, undeniably even cruel restitution.

Jean-Luc Martinez, Louvre president, was even more certain. “The results of historical and scientific studies presented in this publication allow us to confirm the works of Leonardo da Vinci,” he writes in the preface. (His current term is scheduled for later this month, and French President Emmanuel Macron is too much to announce whether he will extend Mr. Martinez’s term or appoint a new leader.)

Officials said the Louvre was so eager to include “Salvator Mundi” in its anniversary exhibition that the curator planned to use an image of the painting on the front of its catalog.

But the Saudis insisted that “Salvator mundi” would also be combined with “Mole Lisa”, French officials said.

The extraordinary safety measures surrounding the “Mona Lisa” make the painting exceptionally difficult, taking it to a huge upstairs gallery at a special partition in the center of the Salle Des, tats. It would be impossible to place a painting next to it, argued French officials.

French culture minister Frank Risterer tried for weeks to mediate at the time, proposing that “Salvator Mundi” could proceed after a period in the “Mona Lisa” anniversary program as a compromise.

And even after the exhibition opened without a “salvator mundi” in October 2019, French officials kept on trying.

Prince Badar bin Farhan al-Saud, an old friend of Crown Prince Mohammed, who worked as his surrogate bidder for “Salvator Mundi”, was later named Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture. When he visited Paris, the French Minister of Culture and the Louvre president took him on a private tour of the museum and exhibition to try to convince him to lend the painting, French officials said.

A spokesman for the Saudi embassy in Washington declined to comment.

A planned section of the catalog detailing the certification was removed before publication, and the museum ordered that all copies of the report be locked in storage.

Louvre spokesman Sophie Grange said museum officials would be prohibited from discussing any such documents because French regulations prohibited the disclosure of any evaluation or certification of works shown in the museum.

A prominent French art lawyer, Corne Hershkovic, said that these “long-held traditions” were “carried out by law in 2013 in a formalism establishing the status of inherited conservationists.”

But the French refused to talk about the painting and the Saudis refused to show it, the questions being asked about the painting have taken its toll, a New York art dealer involved in the redistribution of “Salvan Mundi” Robert Simon said.

“It’s compiled in a way,” he said, “because it’s all inappropriate speculation.”



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