Monday, August 2, 2010

More da Vinci: The Authentication Controversy

A quick follow-on to the story about the National Geographic Society Museum's exhibition da Vinci - The Genius: Coincidentally, on the train returning from Washington, I found myself reading about yet another possible da Vinci work, currently on exhibition in Sweden under the patronage of the Italian government.

Known as La Bella Principessa, the drawing serves as the lead-in to a fascinating story in the July 12-19 issue of The New Yorker, a long piece of investigative journalism by a very talented staff writer, David Grann.

The Mark of a Masterpiece goes into an incredible amount of curious material describing some of what goes on in the art history/authentication/restoration fields. I found it to be one of those "too-good-to-put-down" stories, and while the focus of the story is a Canadian forensic art expert named Peter Paul Biro, there is a wealth of information describing what goes on in what Grann refers to as "the priesthood of connoisseurship".

Among the tidbits of information one picks up is that Biro is the inventor of an innovative multi-spectrum camera, much like that used in identifying the true pigments of the Mona Lisa, mentioned in the post about the National Geographic Society Museum's exhibition. Curious coincidence there, but in any case, it doesn't distract from the interesting story and certainly pulls up the reader's respect for how science and art are collaborating to drill down into the background and history of some of the most beloved and respected painters and their work.

No comments: