Leonardo da Vinci, Virgin, Child and St Anne, Louvre, c. 1510.
Well, things have come to a pretty pass when eminent French curators refuse to associate themselves with the procedures of the Louvre. The Guardian reports that Ségolène Bergeon and Jean-Pierre Cuzin no longer agree with the cleaning treatment of one of the Louvre’s treasures- Leonardo’s Virgin and St Anne. Bergeon, an eminent expert on the cleaning of pictures said: "I can confirm that I have resigned from the international consultative committee, but my reasons I am reserving for a meeting with the president-director of the Louvre, Henri Loyrette."
Nobody can get a comment out of Cuzin, one of France’s greatest experts on paintings, but the Guardian says:
“Cuzin, the Louvre's former head of paintings, declined to comment beyond confirming his resignation. But a senior museum source said the experts believed the restoration had gone too far, and that steps had gone ahead without adequate tests. The restoration has divided the committee between those who believe the painting is now too bright and those who regard the cleaning as moderate. There were also disputes over whether an area dismissed as removable repaint was in fact a glaze applied by Leonardo."
The committee from which Bergeon and Cuzin have resigned include Luke Syson (curator of the current Leonardo exhibition) and Larry Keith, a restorer at the NG. It is emerging that the English, not the French wanted this restoration. "The English were very pushing, saying they know Leonardo is extremely delicate but 'we can move without any danger to the work.” Even the Louvre had doubts about undergoing this restoration since in the words of the Guardian:
“Seventeen years ago, the Louvre abandoned an earlier attempt to clean the painting amid fears over how the solvents were affecting the sfumato, Leonardo's trademark painterly effect for blurring contours. Since then, the British influence on restoration has helped to sway the Louvre.” And all this time I had doubts about the Louvre and cleaning!
Naturally, and understandably, this has roused the ire of the pressure group ArtWatch. It’s leader Michael Daly said "Implicitly, this is a vote of no confidence in the National Gallery cleaning policy because the most pro-active members of the [Louvre] committee have been the advisers from the National Gallery."
The final verdict is that Leonardo’s St Anne has been “overcleaned” and there will be another inspection on the 3rd January. As for Syson and co, I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes. Why on earth were they so overzealous for pressing for this restoration which experts tell me has irrevocably damaged the work? Hardly an auspicious way to ring in the art history new year. Leonardo done in by committee.
Claude Lorrain. Ascanius and the Shooting of the Stag, 1682, Ashmoleon Museum, Oxford
Decided to visit the Claude Lorrain exhibition in Oxford yesterday. I wasn’t disappointed: an excellent appraisal of Claude that takes in his paintings, drawings and etchings. Jon Whitley and the other curators have set every thing out nicely; you get three rooms devoted to the three types of media.
I spent about 90 minutes in it, most which was mainly looking at the room of Claude’s drawings. It’s fascinating to trace his use of wash, and eventually black chalk. It’s very instructive, especially the wall devoted to Claude’s drawings of figures and animals. It’s evident that Claude’s figure drawing is really awkward; some of the animals are ridiculously out of scale, such as the sheet with an eagle’s head. I was amused to discover that for a composition of the Golden Calf, he based his circle of figures on Poussin’s painting of the same subject. They were French painters in Rome who often shared a bottle of wine together. When Claude takes his cue from his friend he does better, but even on this sheet we get the disparities of scale. This should be borne in mind when looking at Claude’s Judgement of Paris (that subject again) whose figures may not even be by Claude, according to the curators. I find this quite plausible; the range of figurative expression is too wide for Claude, each of the goddesses have distinct poses and gestures, presumably so that they could be identified by the viewer.
The room of etchings is excellent too. The curators have even put out a glass case with all the tools of the process, so that you can appreciate how much labour goes into the art. Claude’s etchings are the least known of his work; I’m only sorry that my visit didn’t coincide with a talk that Jon Whitley's on that side of Claude.
Claude Lorrain, Psyche before the Enchanted Castle, 1664, National Gallery, London.
A nice selection of paintings, some of which have been lent from private collections like the Judgement of Paris, which comes from a private Scottish collection. It’s also nice to see Claudes in famous galleries, like the Psyche before the Enchanted Palace (NG, London) next to these lesser-known canvases. Best painting in this room? I’d probably say the Ashmoleon’s Ascanius and the Shooting of the Stag- at the top.
The Ashmoleon do these kind of exhibitions extremely well. To quote one of my students, “an anti-blockbuster experience”. During my visit there must have been about 10-12 people in the exhibition, at most. Well worth a visit, but you’ll have to hurry as it closes in early January.
And while you’re in Oxford, you might want to pop into Oxford Modern Art for a comprehensive (and free) display of 75 works on paper by Graham Sutherland. A far cry from Claude, with Sutherland’s representation of subterranean mines, surrealistic Welsh landscapes and war-ravaged London. Walking round this exhibition after Claude’s optimistic, sunshine soaked vistas, makes you feel that the sun has gone in and darkness has descended on the world. Curated by another artist, George Shaw, Sutherland: An Unfinished World, runs up to mid March next year.
And finally… if like me you like to unwind after a hard day’s museum going with a pint of Oxford real ale, there’s a nice poster setting out all the pubs of Oxford in the form of a tube map. This sort of thing has been done before by modern artists to make a political point, but the beer connection is much more palatable. The framed version is a bit pricey, but the unframed version is about a fiver. Cheers!
I’m killing two birds with one stone in this short post.
Firstly, I feel compelled to reassure readers, particularly Three Pipe Problem who is demanding technical data on the painting right now, that scientific data, technical results about the Malmesbury Judgement of Paris will be forthcoming, in the last part of this series, as I stated on the blog. This will consist of reports on major subsurface compositional development pentimenti, as this is arguably the greatest factor of Raphael's "Inventiveness" present in this composition, which outweighs many of the other points, apart from the specific Physiognomies.This is in no way to disparage technical scans or the like over other approaches- it’s just appropriate for the structure of presentation that I’ve chosen. And incidentally, I don’t consider what I posted a few days ago irrelevant, digressive or not “useful” to understanding this attribution.
Secondly, Graeme Cameron has asked me to note certain points, which weren’t made in yesterday’s post. I’m happy to do this as I’m trying to give a fully rounded presentation of the case.
1. Some of Raphael’s most famous paintings like the "Madonna of the Chair" and "The Fornarina" compositions had no records and were unknown before they later emerged long after Raphael's death, in the late 1580/90's as did the J o P several decades later.
2. One of Raphael’s assistants, Luca Penni also created a J o P " Hybrid" composition based on Raimondi's engraving, significantly, with the same main focal group of figures, but the cluttered background etc. made subsidiary to them.
3. Pignati cited an early Drawing claimed to be a representation of a lost Giorgione. It was titled "Zorzon", for "Giorgione", and was a very basic group, but more importantly, it was in reverse to Raphael's J o P.
4. I'm informed that “there is another significant link involving one of the copies, which leads directly back to the Malmesvbury composition's Raphael origins and to Rome, which has been withheld, which will be revealed in coming Volume II."
Attributed to Raphael, The Judgement of Paris, Private Collection, U.K., 1512.
The recent announcement that the Malmesbury Judgement of Paris was painted by Raphael has, unsurprisingly, provoked comment. At the time of the last few posts on the subject, AHT was not in possession of the full research picture and had tried to summarise the section on the painting in Graeme Cameron’s The Secrets of Leonardo da Vinci Vol 1, which is the tip of a very large attribution iceberg. However, that has now been remedied, and it is intended to present most of that information on this blog in a series of four posts, subdivided as follows:
1. Critical Fortune, Provenance, Documentation and Venetian Attributions.
2. Raphael’s Roman/Venetian Nexus and the New Scholarship.
3. Stylistic and Visual Analysis of Sources and Influences.
4. Technical Report on Materials, Pigments, Supports etc.
The first two sections are thematically broad in order to situate the attribution in its art history and scholarly contexts; the final two sections zoom in to focus on the picture itself. AHT has striven to present the information as accurately as possible, but any mistakes are the fault of yours truly, not the authors of the Malmesbury report. Thanks to Graeme Cameron for sending me a copy of his research summary on the painting, as well as the technical findings- which is his speciality; also, thanks to Norman Cameron for his sterling work in the archives, tracking down articles and sources, as well as answering my questions. Thanks also to K. Bender for sharing his quantative research on Venus in art, including of course the subject of the Judgement of Paris.
Critical Fortune and Provenance. (verbatim from GC’s research summary)
It is noted at the outset the incredulity and scepticism which the attribution might initially create, however the new evidence discovered and its past impeccable credentials attest to the pre eminence of the ex Lord Malmesbury’s, The Judgement of Paris as a very important masterwork. It has since 1648 (Carlo Ridolfi’s citing), but more particularly between 1854 and 1929, been highly esteemed, exhibited and published as a “beautiful” painting “of great value” by some of the world’s greatest connoisseur art historians and scholars, who viewed the painting, namely Gustave Waagen, J.David.Passavant, Sir Charles Eastlake and later Sir Martin Conway, as an original painting by the hand of Giorgione from Venice Circa 1507-10
Paul Joannides’s observations regarding such experts in recent insightful articles on Michelangelo Drawings and the Apollo article on (Pouncey’s) Connoisseurship are also noted. Their expertise hallmarks the painting as a very significant “Masterpiece” composition. The primary matter never properly resolved has been the painting’s true authorship, a not uncommon situation in other now accepted Raphael paintings, e.g., La Fornarina, Pope Julius II,, Bindo Altoviti, and Lorenzo Medici, all earlier greatly acclaimed as in this case, then later misattributed and erroneously downgraded as inferior works, only to be later reinstated.
Likewise, recent 20thC scholarship has unjustifiably overlooked the Malmesbury original and ignored this landmarkinterpretation of The Judgement of Paris subject. Various fine versions and copies of it exist, attesting to its importance, and its neglect since Conway’s 1927 publication was due solely to its rejection as not being the work of Giorgione. Yet no further consideration was subsequently given to its origins, including any alternative contemporary master’s authorship of what prima facie constitutes a unique high Renaissance concept and stylistic development of The Judgement of Paris legend. It is entirely understandable why earlier scholars and connoisseurs assigned this work to Giorgione, as the painting possesses a standard of excellence equal to his productions and is profoundly influenced by him, and also probably by Titian and Sebastiano, in its colour, nudity and Arcadian setting, and dates from the early second decade of the 16thC. at 1512.
Below is presented in list form- in chronological order- the opinions of leading connoisseurs, art historians and curators on the authorship of the Malmesbury Judgement of Paris.
CARLO RIDOLFI – 1648 Chronicle, “Le Maraviglie dell Arte” Venice – as Giorgione
GUSTAVE WAAGEN – 1854 U.K. Survey Treasures of Art in Great Britain Vol 1 pp 416, as Giorgione
GUSTAVE WAAGEN – 1876 ex Director Berlin Gemaldegalerie – Attestation Letter as Giorgione.
JOHANN DAVID PASSAVANT – 1876 Curator Berlin Gemaldegalerie, and author of monograph on Raphael -Attestation Letter as Giorgione
Sir CHARLES EASTLAKE – 1876 Artist/Director National Gallery London – Attestation Letter as Giorgione
BERNARD BERENSON – 1901 Disparaged as a Copy of the Chiavari Copy – Review 1894 New Gallery Exhibition. (GC notes: this opinion can prima facie be demonstrated untenable by the recent technical evidence, (to be presented in part 4 of this research report). Berenson’s remarks were as follows. ”Lord Malmesbury’s “Judgement of Paris” (No.29) is a wretched copy after a picture attributed to Giorgione, but probably by Polidoro Lanzani, in the Palazzo Albuzio at Venice.” “Venetian Painting, chiefly before Titian” in The Study and Criticism of Italian Art Vol. 1, 1903, 137. Berenson’s hatchet job can be countered by the followings facts: 1) four copies of this painting exist attesting to its importance and quality; 2) the substantial exhibition history of the painting proves the prime quality of the painting, particularly the R.A. 1912 and 1929 exhibitions, which was Britain’s foremost art institution. Questions of attribution aside for the moment, detractors of the quality of the picture, from Berenson onwards, have to explain why institutional imprimatura, including the various letters of attestation, were placed on this painting.
COOK – 1904 Copy of an original by Giorgione, (Ridolfi 1648), as Bolognese 17thC
Sir MARTIN CONWAY – 1927 ex Slade Professor of Art Giorgione Catalogue London – as Giorgione
ROGER FRY – 1927 – The Burlington Magazine – Review of Sir Martin Conway’s Giorgione Catalogue – as not by Giorgione, but a copyist, (a pasitiche). .
Although this list of opinions by scholars seems to weight the attribution towards Giorgione, it should be noted that there has been a wide degree of variation, verging on confusion, amongst scholars about the authorship of the painting. This secondary list should illustrate this:
GRONAU – 1904. Maintained that the Larpent version of the J of Paris was after a conception of Campagnola (For Campagnola’s probable connection with the Malmesbury Judgement, see below)
CROWE & CAVALCASELLE – 1908 Bolognese Picture in the style of Mola, (confused Provenances)
COLETTI – c. 1920 Agreed with the traditional view of the work and subject being by Giorgione.
VENTURI – 1926- A late imitator of Giorgione (which was strangely Prophetic)
RICHTER – 1937- Proposed a 16thC Venetian artist
MORASSI – 1942 Believed the subject to be after Titian
BERENSON – 1957 – After a lost Giorgione or more probably Titian (Chiavari Copy)
ANDERSON–1987 This concept of the Subject and its Copies and Versions– Omitted from Reference
LUCCO – 1995 This concept of the Subject and its Copies and Versions – Omitted from Reference
HEALEY – 1997 – After a lost Giorgione (17thC Dresden version – Destroyed WW2-see information on copies below). Omitted reference to Malmesbury original, dealing only with the Copies & Versions.(Healey did not actually attribute but acknowledged the JP subject as traditionally given to Giorgione and proposed that the (simplified) Dresden version was in her view the closest to a lost original).
PIGNATTI – 1999 – A variant of Giorgione (Chiavari Copy)
JOANNIDES- 2004-10 A composition after a lost painting by Titian- see below. (Joannides first presented these ideas in two public lectures: one in 2004 accompanying the Titian exhibition at the Prado; one in 2006, at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in a series of lectures with the exhibition devoted to Bellini, Titian and Giorgione.
Copies and Variants (for viewing convenience open this link in a separate window)
This section is directly taken from Graeme Cameron’s research summary.
1.“The Judgment of Paris” ex Chiavari/Lanfranchi, Albuzio Colls. Venice, Uffizi Gall. 60 x74
This rendition is the closest in composition to the Earl of Malmesbury’s prototype of the copies. It is presently attributed as a 17th Century copy after a lost work either by” Titian” or “Giorgione”, being painted by a “Later 17thC follower” of either, Although almost identical to the Malmesbury original, it manifests a more “tense” atmosphere as seen in the expressions of the faces of the participants, who portray concerned looks and unsmiling dispositions: very different physiognomies to those of the Malmesbury work. Accordingly, this research indicates, the painting was a direct copy of the Malmesbury prototype by Raphael, rather than after a lost work by Giorgione or Titian. The artist must have had access to the Malmesbury original, either whilst at “Casa Leoni”, possibly as early as the late 16th.C or its 17thC locale, to have based his copy so completely upon it. The recorded provenance of the Uffizi’s painting is limited to the 19thC, having passed through several Venetian Collections, (Chiavari, Lanfranchi and Albuzio). It remains a loosely attributed composition within the Uffizi Gallery’s Florence inventory and is understood to be unexhibited.
2. “The Judgment of Paris” ex Gemaldegalerie, Dresden, Destroyed during WW2, 52 x 67cm
This version was destroyed in WW2. Probably by a 17thC artist, it shares direct links and is clearly based on either the ex Malmesbury painting, or the Uffizi copy, but is much abbreviated. Many of the features seen in the two former paintings are here either completely deleted or very cursorily presented. The layout has been much modified, as have some of the figures, the main tree, and background, and Mercury is absent. The terse expressions and physiognomic types more closely match those of the “Uffizi” version, which suggests that it probably provided the model for this later work. The substantial difference with this Dresden version in addition to its simplification is that the artist has enlarged the central participants of the event into a flat, magnified focus group, losing all the wider spatial transitions of the landscape from middle ground to distant background that is otherwise evident in each of the former works. Moreover, even Paris is shown in a very’ flat’ profile rather than three quarter turned, as in the previous compositions and all the faces appear quite naively portrayed. This variant was formerly attributed to a “Later 17thC Follower of Giorgione or Titian”, with the artist possibly being “Flemish”.
3. “The Judgment of Paris” ex Larpent Coll., Oslo – State Mus. of Art, Copenhagen 61.5 x 92
This and the following version (No 4) present a different approach to that of the three previous compositions Whilst the core elements appear directly derived from the Malmesbury prototype, it has added features and various changes to the characters and their dress. Mercury is absent, and there is an introduced Eros beside Aphrodite. Some foreground Armour is added and a much altered background is evident, when compared with the earlier Malmesbury and Uffizi compositions. These numerous additions further demonstrate the paucity of the previous Dresden work, (No.2). Once again the physiognomies also vary. The research findings suggest these divergences could represent a version of the Malmesbury painting by a close contemporary of its original creator, possibly a pupil, as is being further researched. Moreover, whilst the final (No.4) Gubbio version below also shares much common content to this composition, it appears probably a direct copy of this Larpent version, by a later 17thC artist This painting’s current designation, as with all of the versions, has remained loosely attributed as “after a lost work by Giorgione or Titian”, by an unknown artist. Its earlier provenance was unrecorded until later in the 19thC, when it came into the collection of one of Norway’s greatest collectors, Sophus Larpent (1835 - 1911). For decades Larpent pursued the case for the work as a “Giorgione”, unsuccessfully. On his passing it was bequeathed to the State Museum at Copenhagen.
4. “The Judgment of Paris” attr. Giralamo Danesi after Giorgione –Gallery Ducale, Gubbio,
This is the final version of the group and shares direct links to the above Larpent composition. It is slightly magnified and of a lesser standard but otherwise very close in most respects and appears almost certainly to have been copied from it, rather than after a lost work by an earlier artist, such as Giorgione. It is attributed by the Gubbio Gallery to a minor 17thC Italian artist, Giralamo Danesi. Its size and provenance have not been provided, and additional information is still being sought. This would not alter its present status as being a later 17thC version, as presently catalogued by the Gallery. Inventory no. 277.
In a response to the initial presentation of research on the painting, H Niyazi of Three Pipe Problem observed that it was perilous to make attributions without a document contemporary to the painting, a letter or contract. Whilst regrettably such a document doesn’t exist, it should be pointed out that many contracts for paintings in the renaissance have not survived, but research has nevertheless proceeded on the basis of both traditional and modern connoisseurship methods. When considering the problem of documentation, it may be judicious to follow Berenson:
“The document, therefore, cannot be taken as absolutely sufficient proof that a certain work of art answering to the description it gives is by the artist mentioned. The document helps to establish such a proof, but the proof is complete only when confirmed by connoisseurship- which we may roughly define at once as the comparison of works of art with a view to defining their reciprocal relationship.” Berenson, Study and Criticism of Italian Art, Vol. 2, 113).
Absence of a document is regrettable but should not be considered as invalidating attributions, including this one. As to a letter in which the painting is mentioned, we simply don’t have one unless we are willing to link the Malmesbury painting with Raphael’s comments on beauty and selection in his letter to Castiglione, although that is just a theory. Yet, before dismissing the attribution in the absence of documentary “proof”, we should try to understand the cultural context more, particularly the intersection of poetic tradition and painting in early cinquecento Rome. As Hubert Damisch pointed out, Raphael could have learnt about the Judgement of Paris story “only by hearsay having encountered it in spoken form, which was the way the Homeric poem was transmitted over a period of centuries.” (Damisch, The Judgement of Paris, 103). This is obviously a subject for further research, but in the interest of critical balance, it should be emphasized that Damisch had no proof to substantiate this. Yet as noted by Costanza Barbieri, Raphael was a courtier-artist at the centre of a humanist milieu and that environment full of “poets and literati” “was highly important in defining artistic and literary taste, including Raphael’s: “Raphael, Michelangelo and Sebastiano” in The Cambridge Companion to Raphael, 147. If Damisch is right, then surely the poets and literati of Leo X’s court would have conveyed the J of Paris to him in the “Homeric” manner. The links between poetic tradition and Raphael’s relationship with such men as Paolo Giovio, Andrea Navagero, Castiglione, Ludovico Ariosto and Angelo Colocci needs more research. One should also add the perceptive comment by Clark Hulse (cited in Barbieri: “Courtiership…as the intermediate identity-form of both poets and painters, the arena in which they are able to play out the Albertian script and display their visual and literary knowledge…The consummate artist of the new model is Raphael.” (Hulse, The Rule of Art: Literature and Painting in the Renaissance, 1990, 83-90).
Finally, the openly erotic, some might say voyeuristic, nature of this picture and the biographical associations- assuming these are accepted- might play against the courtiership model; it may have been a private endeavour, outside the normal channels of commissions and contracts, or even written records. This might indicate that its existence was not known to the courtly poetic circle as it was a highly personal “pictorial message of love, set in the context of a mythical classical beauty contest.” (GC, Secrets of L da Vinci, Vol. 1, 64). In that case, we are dealing with something outside the structures of reception that Hulse and Damisch hypothesize.
The Giorgione Attribution.
Much of the problem in attributing the Malmesbury Judgement of Paris to Raphael is bound up with the inescapable fact that for centuries the painting has been given to Giorgione. Can it therefore be reasonably inferred that this could be a lost painting after a Giorgione original? The historical evidence doesn’t seem to support this view. Giorgione is not known to have painted a Judgement of Paris, although he may have executed subjects about other episodes in Paris’s life, such as the so-called Finding of Paris. The Giorgione scholar, Dr Francis P. DeStefano sees the title as a misidentification, and AHT has to confess that it has never heard of a “Finding of Paris” in renaissance art, so Frank’s interpretation seems just as, if not more, valid- see here.
David Teniers, (after a “lost Giorgione”), “The Finding of Paris”, 1655, Private Collection.
A painting of the discovery of the infant Paris is mentioned by Marcantonio Michiel in 1525, in the collection of Taddeo Contarini.
This painting is also included in the inventory of the collection of Archduke Wilhelm I; it was a little larger than Giorgione’s canonical Three Philosophers, also once owned by Prince Leopold. (Paul Joannides, “Titian, Giorgione and the Mysteries of Paris”, Artibus et historiae, no. 61 (XXI), 2010, 103-4). A small copy was made of the Leopold Birth of Paris by the Flemish artist David Teniers- a reproduction of it is shown here. A black and white reproduction of the Teniers copy- or a variant, as it was labelled Princes Gate Trust, Courtauld Institute- was reproduced as fig. 22 in The Genius of Venice 1500-1600, (eds) Jane Martineau and Charles Hope, (London, 1983), 47.
Berenson saw what Morelli thought to be the original of the “Birth/Finding of Paris” at Budapest, which he described in the following words:
“We need not stop long after the picture at Buda-Pesth, which Morelli identified as a fragment of Giorgione’s “Birth of Paris”, seen in 1525 by the Anonimo Morelliano in the house of Taddeo Contarini.” [And in a note, Berenson adds]: “The interesting question arises whether this fragment is part of the entire work which was in the collection of the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of the Netherlands, or is independent of it. If independent, then there is a chance that the picture in the Archduke’s collection was the original, and that someday it may reappear. Of course, no decision can be made from the double translation of the picture, first into the forms of Teniers, and then into those of the engraver, which we find in the Theatrum Pictorum.” (Teniers’s paintings of paintings in the Archduke’s gallery). (“Certain Copies after Lost Originals by Giorgione” in The Study and Criticism of Italian Art, (1903, 75-6).Berenson’s biographer, Ernest Samuels, stated that Berenson translated the description of an engraving (by Théodorus von Kessel) of the picture to show that the Budapest painting was a copy of the lost painting. (Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Connoisseur, Harvard, 1979, 125).
According to Joannides, Sir Martin Conway, “published a pair of paintings in which the subjects of Paris’ “Finding” and Nurture were treated, the narrative divided into two (reproduced in Joannides, 2010, figs 7 and 8).Sir Martin believed both to be by Giorgione, and of course he authenticated the Malmesbury Judgement in 1927as a Giorgione, too. It should also be noted that Joannides connects these paintings, hypothesized as pendants of Conway’s with a highly damaged fragment by “an unidentified artist”at Princeton, which shows a baby on its own in a landscape. Though Joannides states this “has always been accepted as “The Exposure of Paris”, it hasn’t excited much interest amongst scholars. Joannides states that the quality of this fragment strikes him as better quality than the panels published by Conway (which he admits he hasn’t seen) and the painting lies “somewhere nearer Titian and Giorgione.” Clearly, there are iconographical issues that need unravelling here- Frank DeStefasno’s work is obviously a reference point.
Is The Judgement of Paris a “Venetian” subject?
For all Joannides’s deep knowledge of Venetian art and perceptive understanding of it, he found it hard to detect such a subject within Giorgione’s oeuvre; he also remarked that the subject of the Judgement of Paris was “largely absent from Venetian cinquecento painting.” Let’s assume for the present that the Malmesbury Judgement is after a lost Giorgione, what other painters in Venice, or the Veneto is he likely to have influenced? There is no Judgement of Paris in Titian’s oeuvre, unless we accept Joannides’s claim that the Malmesbury picture is actually after a lost original by Titian- see below for details. Crowe and Cavalcaselle mention a “Judgement of Paris” by Sebastiano in the collection of Charles I (C & C, Painting in Northern Italy, Vol. 1, 234, n. 3), though this has never to AHT’s knowledge been connected with the Malmesbury Judgement. I haven’t been able to consult any of the catalogues of Sebastiano exhibitions yet, but I’ll report if there sightings of this work. C & C also allude to a Judgement of Paris painted by Pordenone (1484-1539/2) “in the old palace of counts of Monaco”, alongside another mythological subjects like Diana and Actaeon, (C& C, Vol. 1, 164, n.3).
Attributed to Andrea Medolla (“Schiavone”), The Judgement of Paris, whereabouts unknown, probably 1540s.
So, throughout their mammoth survey of painting in Venice and the Vento, only two mentions of the Judgement of Paris are to be found. However, a number of Venetian painters feature on the list of Judgement painters in K. Bender’s catalogue of Venus in Italian art. In the lists of versions that show “Paris to the left”, the type we’re dealing with here, there are painters from Venice, Bologna, Ferrara, Rome, Naples and others listed. Sebastiano does not appear, so it’s to be wondered if C & C misidentified a painter or subject here. As noted above, the two seminal connoisseurs misidentified the Malmesbury Judgement as the work of Pier Francesco Mola (1612-1664), from Bologna in the 1908 edition of their Italian Painting. One of Three Pipe Problems’s correspondents Edward Goldberg suggested working back from “the Venetian seventeenth-century.” If we did that we might end up with a picture like the one shown above:, by Andrea Meldolla, better known as Schiavone (1510/25-1563). Schiavone hailed from Dalmatia originally, but is known to have painted mythologies after Titian and, more significantly, lost paintings by Giorgione. In the catalogue of The Genius of Venice, R.A., no. 90), we have a Schiavone Diana and Callisto, thought to be based on another lost composition by Giorgione; but which might have had some connection with Titian’s much more famous work of the same name in Edinburgh. Not much is known about Schiavone’s training, but he was probably in Venice in the late 1530s, and he was influenced by Giorgione and Titian. The Judgement of Paris shown above appeared on the art market recently and was probably painted in the 1540s, although K Bender notes a J of Paris attributed to Schiavone in Vienna, dating from the 1550s. This differs from the one reproduced above: the Vienna Schiavone has cupids, not just the goddesses alone and Paris, though in both Paris appears on the left, his traditional location.
The landscape in the reproduced painting above shows study of Titian, perhaps even in his workshop; but the goddesses show the unmistakeable influence of Parmigianino. Due to the stylistic dissimilarity, it’s unlikely that Schiavone’s Judgment evolved from the Malmesbury Judgement, whether it has a connection with Giorgione or not. We could work forwards to say, Mola, virtually ignored in seicento studies. Yet AHT was not able to find a Judgement of Paris by him. He certainly modelled himself on Venetian art, but qualified it by his study of Roman classicism, Pietro da Cortona, and even Poussin whose work has been mis-attributed to him on occasion! Turning back to Schiavone, who doesn’t stylistically seem part of this continuum because of his obstinate mannerist deposits, what’s left? We could move geographically outwards from Venice and look for traces of the Giorgionesque model in the Veneto, look for painters who may have emulated this “lost” Giorgione. AHT hasn’t gone through K. Bender’s detailed catalogue, but I’d be surprised if there were many examples of Judgments from the Veneto. To repeat, Crowe and Cavalcaselle mention a Pordenone, a painter from Ferrara with Venetian links, not on K. Bender’s list unless my eye has slipped. Finally, there is Paul Veronese, whose stature and the fact that versions of the Judgement by him are mentioned in early sources, might suggest extant versions- but they don’t appear to have survived. (Joannides, 2010, 107). Although this is just a preliminary survey, it looks like the Judgement of Paris began to appear more in Venetian art in the mid- fifteenth-century, but in Giorgione’s era, the early cinquecento in Venice, it is rare. Of course, versions of it are missing so it is difficult to construct an accurate overview of its development in Venice and the Veneto.
The Titian Attribution.
Domenico Campagnola, The Judgement of Paris, Paris, Louvre, drawing, date unknown
In his article, Joannides has re-baptized the Malmesbury Judgement in the name of Titian. He is therefore agreeing with Richter, Morassi and Pignatti (see above) that the lost original Judgementof Paris was by Titian, not Giorgione. What is the reason for this? This introduces the contribution of another artist, the engraver Domenico Campagnola (1500-1552). Joannides says that two figures from the lost Judgement of Paris were copied by Campagnola onto a sheet in Frankfurt, and it “inspired his version of the Judgement of Paris in the Louvre.” (Joannides, 2010, 109). Although Campagnola didn’t copy motifs from Giorgione, he “was deeply affected by Titian” (Joannides, 2010, 109) which was another reason he thought Richter, Morassi and Pignatti favoured an attribution to Titian for the “lost original” by that painter.
Titian, Nymph and Shepherd, re-titled “Paris and Oenone” by Joannides, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna,1575-6.
Sebastiano del Piombo, Polyphemous, Rome, Villa Farnesina, 1512.
Joannides notes that the unidentified nymph in the so-called late Nymph and Shepherd is actually taken from an engraving by Domenico, which to complicate things further was after a design by Sebastiano del Piombo, (Philip Pouncey was the first to note the Sebastiano connection). Muddying the waters even further, the figure of the shepherd in the late Titian- which Joannides identifies (after Panofsky) as Paris- is believed to derive from Sebastiano’s figure of Polyphemous in the Villa Farnesina, Rome, done many years earlier. George Goldner advanced this theory ( “A Source for Titian’s Nymph and Shepherd”, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 116, No. 856 (Jul., 1974), 392-395). Panofsky first suggested that the late, perhaps Titian’s last work, represented the tragic story of Paris and Oenone (Problems in Titian: Mainly Iconographic, 1969, 169-170.
Malmesbury Judgement, Minerva, Venus and Juno, 1512.
Marcantoni Raimondi, The Temptation of Adam (after Raphael), engraving, 1510-11.
With the Polyphemous link, we are looking towards Rome, but we can actually place this analysis within the Roman context because there is a stylistic link between the Malmesbury Judgement and Raphael’s productions in the Eternal City. Joannides is the first to state that the middle woman in the Malmesbury Judgement- Venus- matches the figure of Eve in an engraving of Temptation of Adam by the Venetian artist, Marcantonio Raimondi (1470/80-1534) after Raphael’s design of around 1508 for a fresco in the Stanza della Segnatura. Joannides dates the engraving of the Temptation to 1511, though other Raphael scholars have pushed it into 1512-14 period.(Béguin et al, Raphael dans les collections françaises, 1984, 330). Raimondi probably arrived in Rome about late 1510, and according to Joannides, this was one of the first prints that he did there. As a compiler of an important catalogue of Raphael’s drawings, Joannides notes a pen drawing by Raphael of the Adam, (Ashmoleon,1506-9, verso of Death of Meleager) with the figure of Eve in lead point only; my guess is that the distinctive, curves of Eve evolve from studies of Leonardo’s Leda- but we will have to return to this problem (Joannides, no. 132).
Marcantonio Raimondi (after Raphael), The Judgement of Paris, 1514-18, engraving.
Once he had established himself in Rome, Raimondi would create one of Raphael’s most famous designs, the engraving of the Judgement of Paris, which Hubert Damisch said was “traditionally held to be after a lost work by Raphael”, (Damisch, The Judgement of Paris, 72). The links between the engraving and the Malmesbury Judgement of Paris need to elucidated in detail in section 3, along with other antique and contemporary sources like the Leda; but the next section aims to expand on the cross-fusion of ideas between Rome and Venice, in order to locate the Malmesbury Judgment within the Raphael/’s Roman/Venetian nexus. A secondary aim is to overview the new scholarship in Raphael studies that addresses this issue of the Rome/Venice interchange and the problem of diversity in his oeuvre.
Graeme and Norman Cameron, unpublished Research Summary, The Judgement of Paris, Raphael Sanzio, 2011.
Articles and Books
Costanza Barbieri, “ The Competition between Raphael, and Michelangelo and Sebastiano’s Role in It” in The Cambridge Companion to Raphael, ed Marcia B. Hall, 2005.
Bernard Berenson, The Study and Criticism of Italian Art, 2 vols, 1902-3.
Graeme Cameron, The Secrets of Leonardo da Vinci, Vol. 1, 2001.
Sir Martin Conway, Giorgione – A New Study of his Art as a Landscape Painter, 1927.
J.A. Crowe and G.B. Cavalcaselle, History of Painting in Northern Italy 2 vols. (ed) Tancred Borenius, 1912.
Hubert Damisch, Le Jugement de Paris: Iconologie analytique, 1992; translation, The Judgement of Paris, 1996.
A Bacon catalogue raisonné (John Rothenstein and Ronald Alley, 1960.
Chilling article over at the Art Newspaper on how much the law is encroaching on art history research and scholarship. In this age of high profile attributions. skyrocketing prices and vested interests, I suppose this is to be expected. It’s depressing reading, though. Take the case of the Francis Bacon expert, Martin Harrison.
“On the advice of lawyers, Martin Harrison, who has published widely on 19th- and 20th-century art and is the editor of the Bacon catalogue raisonné, will only go as far as saying that these drawings, which some suspect are fakes, are “unlike any authenticated works”. An open seminar on these drawings is due to be held at the Courtauld Institute on 25 January.”
Then there’s the curator, and Modigliani scholar, Marc Restellini, who abandoned compiling a catalogue raisonné because he was fearful of legal consequences.
“Compiling catalogues raisonné is another source of potential risk. The Parisian curator Marc Restellini abandoned preparation of the catalogue of Modigliani’s drawings after a court challenge by a collector whose two drawings were excluded.”
Basquiat’s Fuego Flores (1983) being sold at Sotheby's
OK, so you’re a leading expert in your field, you doubt an attribution, but you don’t want to be sued by the owner of the work. So you keep your mouth shut. Safe? Think again.
“Even keeping silent can be dangerous. Recent cases have seen owners of works attacking specialists and boards for not giving an opinion. The owner of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Fuego Flores, 1983, sued the artist’s authentication board, demanding that it either reach a decision or pay damages of up to $5m. After the lawsuit was dismissed, the Basquiat Authentication Committee ruled the work genuine.”
Art history doesn’t do court well, as with the Ruskin v Whistler trail of 1878, or as in the hilarious case of Duveen, Berenson and the Hahns of 1929, mentioned a few post ago.
Auction houses have formidable legal expertise, but the scholar giving his or her opinion at a conference, or in symposia ? Will Bacon scholars be scared to air their expertise at next year’s Courtauld seminar?
“Many fear that individuals may soon fear speaking openly in public platforms, such as in symposia, and institutions are also concerned. Sanig says that larger museums in the US appear to be stopping their curators from giving opinions on authentication matters. However, this can be resolved by seeking a disclaimer from any potential suit or an indemnity for legal costs from an interested party, in order to further academic debate.”
Rumpole of the Bailey prepares to defend another art historian in court.
OK. Most of this is modern art, but don’t kid yourselves. With disputes over the Leonardo “Bella Principessa”, and the stakes becoming higher and higher for the Old Master market, maybe we’ll see more of this madness, especially in relation to fakes and copies.
Maybe in future, we should say things like: “This painting isn’t by Leonardo, allegedly”. Or, ” I think this drawing is by another artist, whose name must be withheld for legal reasons.”
What does it mean when an art historian changes his or her mind about an attribution? On the one hand, it might demonstrate flexibility and open-mindedness; on the other, it could indicate vacillation and even invite speculation about the scholar’s ability to judge the work of art. Of course there’s the practical aspect: new evidence emerges which might prompt a re-assessment of the case. Bernard Berenson changed his mind all the time; the lists he drew up of Italian renaissance paintings were subject to continual revision.
Attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, Portrait of a Woman, “La Belle Ferronière”, Louvre, Paris, about 1493-4, oil on walnut panel, 63 x 45 cm.
Revised edition of Clark’s Leonardo book.
Perhaps one of the most glaring examples of a revision was made by Berenson’s student Kenneth Clark. In earlier editions of his ground-breaking monograph on Leonardo, Clark attributed the Louvre version of the picture known as La Belle Ferronière- now in the landmark Leonardo show- to his pupil Boltraffio. This was pointed out by John Brewer in his interesting discussion of Clark’s role in the fortunes of La Belle Ferronière- both versions in his important book. As Brewer observed, in the 1939 and 1952 editions of the monograph, Clark wrote “It is reasonable to suppose that Leonardo, occupied in multifarious commissions for the Sforzas allowed this promising youth [Boltraffio] to complete work from his designs, and that under his guidance the pupil achieved a delicacy absent from his later, independent work.” This comes after Clark has said “Some such hypothesis seems necessary if we are to explain the authorship of the painting in the Louvre, known as La Belle Ferronière.” I’ve quoted this as it appears in Brewer’s book because my copy, which is 1958, says something completely different, which was noted by Brewer. After analysing the Louvre painting, including noting its “commonplace pose” and comparing it to Lorenzo Costa- a minor Ferrarese painter- Clark concluded with this orotund pronouncement. “No one who prefers truth to finality should be dogmatic about La Belle Ferronière, but I am now inclined to think that the picture is by Leonardo, and shows how in those years he was willing to subdue his genius to the needs of the court.” 
Lord Clark on Civilization.
Brewer is the first to point out not the change of mind per se, but the fact that it is not pointed out to the reader. Of course this could be Clark writing for the cognoscenti, and expecting them to pick up on the changes invisible to the un-initiated; however, his Leonardo monograph- quite rightly so- has found a much wider readership outside the charmed circle of connoisseurs and experts, yet many people remain ignorant of the original Boltraffio attribution. Brewer confessed himself puzzled by this volte-face, but I prefer to see it as reticence on Clark’s part to assign the portrait to Leonardo. The comment about subduing his genius to the needs of the court is hardly a ringing endorsement of the painting, and it must be remembered that Clark initially quoted Berenson’s weary words: “one would regret to have to accept this as Leonardo’s own work.” Berenson was never fond of the Milanese school anyway, and dismissed Leonardo’s imitators like Boltraffio, professing interest only in Leonardo’s share of their work, not the intrinsic qualities of their own. Berenson rued the day that Leonardo had come to Milan, and fervently wished he had stayed in Florence. Milanese painting would then have evolved differently, probably turning into an outpost of Venetian or Brescian painting.The School would have culminated in Veronese rather than Luini. I don’t think Berenson would have liked the London show at all!
Unknown artist, possibly 17th century French, Portrait of a Woman, “La Belle Ferronière”, Private Collection, USA.
Although Brewer was nonplussed by Clark’s turnaround, he did introduce a cautious hypothesis: Clark who had been studying photographs of the American Leonardo, the “Hahn Leonardo” might have been swayed by them into a reassessment. Perhaps Clark’s “acquaintanceship with photographs in 1956 and his knowledge that the picture was on the market led to his revaluation.” At this time Clark found himself in the middle of an attribution war orchestrated by Maurits van Dantzig, the founder of “pictology” and nemesis of art historians-see my review of Brewer’s book. Van Dantzig who had visited the London Leonardos in the N.G. in 1957, and circulated copies of pages of Clark’s Leonardo book in order to highlight the change of mind, worked with Frank Glenn who’d helped Harry Hahn publish his Rape of La Belle in 1946. Glenn and Van Dantzig were obviously trying to get the painting sold, hence their pursuit of expert opinion. To cut a long and labyrinthine story short, Van Dantzig finally turned to his friend Helmut Ruhemann, the “father of picture cleaning” to make representations to Kenneth Clark about the Hahn La Belle, which had now been brought to Europe. Ruhemann met Clark in June, 1958, and the plan was to persuade Clark to help with negotiations with the Louvre who had agreed to the showing of both pictures side by side- behind closed doors- way back in 1923. Everybody in the Hahn camp was gearing up for a sale, but Van Dantzig’s death in 1960 threw the strategy out of balance, though his wife took up the cause and tried to arrange a meeting with top officials of the London N.G. as well as Ruhemann. One would have to endorse Sir Philip Hendy’s declaration, who on seeing the picture in London on the 13th May, 1960 cried “not a Leonardo!” Despite Ella van Dantzig’s consternation, Hendy was unfailingly polite and very gracious, impressing the widow by giving her and a daughter a masterclass with the Hahn “Leonardo” next to the Virgin of the Rocks, though one would hardly need that to see the difference. Ella van Dantzig’s remembrance of the encounter with Hendy are worth repeating. “He thought it was very pretty, and was much prettier than the picture in the Louvre. But it was not a Leonardo.”
Art Historian’s disguise kit.
Despite this major setback, Ruhemann continued his charm offensive on Clark which would result in Clark actually seeing the picture under conditions of secrecy. Responding to Ruhemann, Clark asked if he could “slip” into the NG one day, without anybody seeing him, in disguise. It emerged years later via a letter from Clark that he had actually gone to see the Hahn La Belle when it was in London; and that he had worn a disguise, swearing the restorer who showed it him to secrecy! I would expect Anthony Blunt to get involved in this cloak and dagger stuff, but Clark! Was he ashamed to admit interest in the picture?
Laurent de La Hyre, Allegory of Grammar, London, National Gallery, 1650, oil on canvas, 103 x 113 cm
Ruhemann was to persist with the Louvre over the Hahn La Belle, but that’s another story. Meanwhile, Clark was done with the picture. He said in a letter to Ruhemann that he was “completely convinced” that the Louvre La Belle was “the original of the Fifteenth-Century, and the Hahn picture a post-Raphaelesque copy.” Brewer notes that Clark still doesn’t say the Louvre version is by Leonardo. Interestingly, when Martin Kemp examined the Hahn Leonardo in 1993, in its sealed vault in Omaha, he judged it “probably a northern European copy of the first half of the second century, perhaps by the French academician, Laurent de La Hyre. This apparently, conformed with the view of Duveen’s cohort of connoisseurs. Thinking about it, this seems a good call to me. La Hyre is a graceful, “sweet” painter, but this is offset by his drawing which relies heavily on the contour. His line is sharp, sometimes too much so, which lends his pictures an air of the studied academicism rather than naturalism. La Hyre, like the painter of the Hahn La Belle, is an exponent of line drawing rather than mass drawing. Though there is shading, it’s seldom allowed to blur his edges. It’s difficult to mount a comparison, but you’ll get an idea of La Hyre’s style from his Allegory of Grammar in the London National Gallery. I’m not saying definitely that the Hahn La Belle is by La Hyre, or in his style. That’s a question that might be resolved in the future, although that seems increasingly unlikely with the Hahn Leonardo buried in a private collection.
As a coda, in his very well researched entry on the Louvre La Belle, in the catalogue to the current London exhibition, Luke Syson refers briefly to the attribution issues bound up with this painting, stating that “the picture has been regularly removed from Leonardo’s corpus of fully autograph pictures, assigned wholly or in part to a pupil or follower, most frequently Boltraffio.” This of course brings us back to Clark and his intriguing revision of the 1950s, in a book where he stated that Leonardo was willing to subdue his genius to “the needs of the court” in order to paint pictures such as the Louvre La Belle Ferronière, assuming he did paint it.
 See David Alan Brown’s catalogue to the exhibition, Berenson and the Connoisseurship of Italian Painting, (Washington, 1979), 43-4.
 Kenneth Clark, Leonardo da Vinci: An account of his development as an Artist, (London, 1958), 56-7.
This is just a quick post- a placeholder, if you like- to acknowledge the controversy about the Judgement of Paris, attributed to Raphael. It’s obvious to me that there are omissions on both sides, and we need more information before we can launch a real debate about it. When I tried to summarise the information in Graeme Cameron’s book, I wasn’t in possession of all his research matter; what appears in his book is just the tip of a much larger iceberg. However, to help me with my off-line researches into the Judgement of Paris generally, and renaissance aesthetics, Graeme Cameron has sent me his complete research material on the painting, which includes technical and scientific data. I’m currently sifting through this material and will present a summary of its main points in a series of posts over the next month as I’m anxious to give a wider research picture to aid interpretation and evaluation. This will aim to put the Malmesbury Judgement in its art historical, stylistic, technical and Raphael studies contexts. After that its up to the individual whether to accept, attribute, or reject this picture. I’m not going to fall out with anybody over this attribution.
A few points. On the question of quality, including whether this is a copy or schoolwork, I would point out that three of the most eminent scholars of the nineteenth-century vouched for the quality of this picture: Gustave Waagen, J.David.Passavant and Sir Charles Eastlake, although admittedly they assigned it to Giorgione, not Raphael- the attribution was removed in the twentieth-century. I must also clarify a point which is also important. All of these experts were affiliated to institutions: Waagen, (former Director of Berlin’s Gemaldegalerie and its first Professor of Art History); Passavant who was the Berlin Gemaldegalerie’s Curator and an artist; Eastlake who was then Britain’s foremost art historian, also an artist and former Director of The National Gallery London). Indeed, I can recall Lady Eastlake’s comment on her husband’s ability to detect copies or doubtful attributions. “My husband is a fountainhead of knowledge and seldom quits a collection of any kind without having cleared up some doubtful masters for the owners. The way in which [Sir Charles] smashes a false name is sometimes very amusing. “ (Correspondence of Lady Eastlake).
I should have made this clear, but this picture was hardly “private” since it did have an institutional record. These three institutionally connected scholars provided letters of attestation to the picture’s qualities and its Giorgione authorship. Obviously, this begs the question of why then didn’t they assign it to Raphael? I think the answer partly lies in the fact that the link between Raphael, Giorgione and the Venetian school is new in scholarship and Eastlake and his colleagues weren’t aware of this angle. There’s a whole new avenue to be opened up on Raphael and the Venetians, as is evident from reading this unpublished research. Published articles on this subject have only been appearing quite recently; I’ll say more about this in a future post on the painting’s significance to Raphael studies.
As for Hubert Damisch, the significance of his book for this specific debate is that in a an important discussion of the Raimondi engraving, Damisch refers to an “an absent but conjectured “Masterpiece” by Raphael related to Marcantonio’s “The Judgement of Paris.” Although Damisch's book ranges far beyond the visual images, he is very well informed about visual art. He was taught by American art historians of the calibre of Meyer Schapiro and has curated exhibitions of drawings at the Louvre. I’ve no idea what he would make of this painting, but his book, without doubt, provides one of the most important contexts for further research on this painting and its themes.
That’s it for now. I’ll aim to get the first in this series up next week, but first there’s the tale of two Leonardos to tell.
Here’s a review of an important book I’ve not had time to put up; it’s especially relevant in these times of Leonardo mania.
When the legendary dealer and confidante of connoisseurs, Joseph Duveen (fig. 2), declared a painting of the woman known as La Belle Ferronnière a copy (fig. 1), after seeing a photograph, he found himself sued by Mrs Andrée Lardoux Hahn, the owner of the picture. The case was eventually settled with Duveen paying $60,000, something like $650, 000 today. The trail in 1929 fielded a formidable team of connoisseurs, including the most famous of all, Bernard Berenson (fig.3). Yet, to no avail as the presiding magistrate, Judge William Harman Black, dismissed all the expertise of the connoisseurs as inadmissible; and Black demanded much more rigorous methods to prove the ability to determine the authorship of paintings. Enter science, particularly x-rays to make connoisseurship transparent to a lay public. Brewer’s account of the famous trial of Hahn v Duveen and its consequences demands to be read by anybody- within or without the profession- interested in the machinations of the Old Master market. Not only does the author place the trial within the context of art history, but also within the culture of modern American capitalism. As he reminds us at the start of the book, this was the age of conspicuous consumption: a tine during which wealthy Americans chased valuable works of art, the sort of milieu described in the novels of Edith Wharton and Henry James. In the scramble for worldly goods, modern wealth became linked to high culture; the renaissance, which was seen as the epitome of this, was co-opted by dealers and financiers; while with the growth of the public sphere and modern communications powered by capital, the American public shared in the debates about art covered by the modern press.
1.La Belle Ferronnière, Private Collection, USA,
In one of the most important parts of the book, Brewer dissects the “culture of connoisseurship.” Identifying two types of “scientific connoisseurship”: firstly, the type that depends upon a barrage of technology such as X-rays, infra-red, microscopy etc which is common to us today; secondly, the connoisseurship of the nineteenth-century organised around systems and hierarchies, sub-divisions of schools following a taxonomy borrowed from the life sciences. It was this latter type of connoisseurship that found itself unwittingly on trial since its Morellian methodology was seen as kind of “magic” by Judge Black. Berenson’s “magic”, which to use Brewer’s words was “a subjective technique dependant on the eye”, could not be verified objectively; a way of scientizing attributions was therefore demanded. As Brewer amusingly puts it, Berenson and the connoisseurs were eye rather X-ray. It was ok to detect the ghost in the machine by technological devices, but not by what was perceived as the mysticism of the experts. Introducing technology into the trial, as well as the forensic skills of the Hahn’s lawyers, helped to undermine the consensus of connoisseurs. Not that you need a lawyer to break a consensus; James Beck showed how fragile such groups are in his discussion of the Madonna of the Pinks, incidentally mentioned by Brewer in his introduction.
2. Joseph Duveen visits the races..
There have been many consequences arising from the Hahn v Duveen trial. For one thing, here we have the uninformed owner of art going head to head with the experts, usually with the objective of financially benefitting from it. This may have been an intention of the Hahns, although they were almost certainly goaded by Duveen’s arrogance and contempt for the non-expert. He pronounced their picture a copy, though he shot himself in the foot by saying that the Louvre version was not by Leonardo, but somebody “close to his hand-possibly it was painted by Boltraffio.” The pressing of science on the trail came out of this; it was a way of democratising the culture of connoisseurship. However, Duveen didn’t completely renounce technology; after being sued, he called for more photographs of the Hahn La Belle, since he had little faith in his pre-trail experts; Valentiner was too young; de Ricci knew more about manuscripts than painting, Duveen sent large photographs of the painting to more established experts in Europe like Sir Charles Holmes (former editor of The Burlington Magazine), Roger Fry, part of the Bloomsbury set and former curator at the Met in New York, Sir Claude Philips, retired keeper of the Wallace Collection. Photographs would prove problematic however to Duveen since they would be challenged as evidence in court.- technology can be a double-edged sword. Eventually the Hahn picture and its more famous Louvre variant would be examined side by side behind closed doors by an assembly of curators, connoisseurs and lawyers in 1923, which presages another trend in the modern art world- the appearance of disputed art works in litigation.
3.Bernhardt Berenson inspects a painting.
One of the main threads running through this account is the relationship between science and art. The rift between scientific connoisseurship and traditional connoisseurship is wide, and really shows no signs of narrowing at the present time, with good reason. Despite the hoped for Holy Grail of objective scientific testing, such procedures cannot validate attributions on their own. In a thoughtful afterword, Brewer calls on a method that incorporates both objective scientific testing and the subjective techniques of the eye, a harmonised methodology suggested by someone who was a conservator, and the “father of cleaning pictures” in the U.K., Helmut Ruhemann. I recall that in an essay on Berenson, Sydney J. Freedberg called the intuition of the connoisseur “computerlike in its swiftness” since the connoisseur enters data into his memory bank, retrieves, process and analyses this visual information as he looks at the work of art; but all of these computer-like operations demand an aesthetic sense and eye for characteristics in a painting, such as colour, form, gradation of light etc. Ideally, a connoisseur “machine”, calibrated halfway between objective examination and aesthetic subjectivism confronting the work of art. Is it possible to have such a model for connoisseurship in our own time? Retaining the computer analogy, I’m not sure that you could programme one to take account of all the historical, visual, art historical data, complete with stylistic and local variations. “Scientific connoisseurship” is such a slippery concept anyway; Berenson thought what he did was “scientific”, “the isolation of the characteristics of the known and their confrontation with the unknown” as he said in “The Rudiments of Connoisseurship.” That didn’t cut any ice with the formidable Judge Black, who must have believed Berenson’s authenticating method was difficult, if not impossible to substantiate with concrete evidence. Black saw it as smoke and mirrors. Maybe someone should have explained to him that the trick is to strike a balance between analysis based on accumulated knowledge and an empirical means of testing art in the present. There are signs of this in our own time, but as Brewer says, we still have a very long way to go.
The kind of modified Morellian connoisseurship that Berenson practiced can have its disadvantages, since it can encourage a “checklist” mentality, something that aristocratic connoisseurs and museum directors like the formidable Wilhelm von Bode, condemned. Von Bode also hated Morellian connoisseurship because it threatened to make connoisseurship available to all; the last thing he wanted was his Berlin museums to be filled with crowds pronouncing on Botticellis and Raphaels, aided by manuals of “mechanical connoisseurship.” All one had to do was draw up a catalogue of physiognomic details, hands, eyes, ears, memorably called by Charles Eliot Norton, Berenson’s teacher at Harvard, “the ear and toe-nail school.” One of the worst examples of this DIY connoisseurship was the “fakebuster” and friend of Ruhemann, Maurits van Dantzig, who helped to detect the master forger Van Meegeren. Van Dantzig found art history unaccommodating when he introduced his method of “pictology,” a technique derived from graphology and psychological testing. Interestingly, Van Dantzig’s methodology developed out of his use of psychologically profiling employees in his company. Just like F.B.I. profiling, the data was used to build up a picture of an individual; the same principle was applied to hunt down the artist within the work. Pictology might be termed a blend of science and aesthetics that announced it could identify the painter through a worksheet of “characteristics”- van Dantzig claimed over 70 in a Leonardo painting! Inevitably, as Brewer recounts in his chapter on Ruhemann and van Dantzig, the latter ran foul of art historians, not just for his mechanistic connoisseurship, but because of his contentious personality. Van Dantzig significance to the Hahn La Belle was that he tried to use it in his war against art historians, while the more placid Ruhemann tried to get on with them; he could boast Philip Hendy, a director of the National Gallery who actually saw the Hahn La Belle in London, amongst his friends.
4.Guardian photo showing crowds outside the current Leonardo exhibition.
Perhaps the most admirable thing about John Brewer’s book is the way it deftly interweaves these debates about connoisseurship with the expansion of the public sphere in modern times. No one can doubt that connoisseurship now occurs in a mass society underpinned by high speed communications and mediatized experience, available to all. Today even leading curators make decisions in the blink of an eye influenced by this electronic matrix; just seeing a sent photograph via e.mail or the web can trigger an acquisition. The internet has exploded art out into cyberspace where most developments in the art world can be discovered, if you know where to look.
The Hahn trial was sensationalized by the New York newspapers and thus involved the public vicariously. At the time of the Hahn trial, scientific connoisseurship stood for a common-sense allied against the collective snobbery of the experts; this seems to have continued into our time with such cases as the Jackson Pollock woman who battled the Manhattan elite and much more recently, David Joel, who went up against the mighty Wildenstein Foundation in an episode of the BBC’s Fake or Fortune?
I wrote this post on connoisseurship and the public after visiting an exhibition of renaissance drawings last year, not heavily crowded, though more people in attendance than usual. I’m not sure what I would have written if I’d done it after visiting the Leonardo blockbuster (fig.4), which is breaking all the records for public museum-going- truly a phenomenon of our times. Art in major museums has become big business; exhibitions have turned into commodities and the painter a brand to be sold and consumed, for better or worse. The public has become more aware of all the debates through high gloss catalogues, TV and the internet, and in cases is even engaging via the web, or letters to newspapers.
Where does this leave the connoisseur practicing his or her method in this age of mass consumerism? Wilhelm von Bode must be turning in his grave. Connoisseurship has become popularized by the net, newspapers and television programmes, a development whose seeds may have been planted in the Hahn era where the clouds of mystique were dispersed by democratic scientific connoisseurship demanded by a couple who felt that the the old style of art evaluation was an elitist scam.
5.Hahn La Belle (left); Louvre La Belle, as they appeared in Harry Hahn’s The Rape of La Belle (1946).
The public may never get the chance to see the Hahn La Belle as it resides in a private collection- it was sold at Sotheby’s last year for $1.3 miillion, three times above its pre-sale reserve. Before that the lady resided in splendid isolation at an address in Omaha that Brewer was not allowed legally to disclose. Despite attempts by the Hahns and their supporters to gain the approval of such august personages as Kenneth Clark, it has remained hidden from the public. In 1993 the U.K.’s leading Leonardo scholar Martin Kemp studied it in Omaha, pronounced it a 17th century copy but interestingly said it was more “seductive” than the one deemed authentic, now in the Leonardo show. Looking at the colour reproduction of her (fig 1), as well as this b/w image (fig. 5)- obtained from this site which has good material on the case- which was reproduced in Harry Hahn’s 1946 book about the painting, The Rape of La Belle, I can see what Kemp means. The Hahn lady looks more alluring… Even if this is a copy, I much prefer to it to its more well-known, colder and lifeless twin, not just my opinion, but other art historians. Another important point made by Brewer is that although no one has proved the Hahn La Belle is a Leonardo “at least to the satisfaction of most experts”, nobody has proved it is not. It seems to function as a symbol of the ambiguity of connoisseurship and art history, indeterminate, midway between an original and a copy.
This book is a fine addition to the literature on the history of connoisseurship, especially as it extends that topic out into the era of modern capitalism and the culture industry. Imagine Leonardo in Hollywood, and I don’t mean Leonardo DiCaprio! John Brewer has made a timely and valuable contribution; he deserves to read by anybody interested in the relationship of art and modern society. The chapter on the “cult of connoisseurship” is one of the best summaries of the subject that I've ever read. Highly recommended.
I’ll return to this subject of the two La Belles in another post eventually.
James Beck, From Duccio to Raphael: Connoisseurship in Crisis, Florence, 2006).
Bernard Berenson, “The Rudiments of Connoisseurship” in The Study and Criticism of Italian Art Vol. 2, (London,1903), 111-148.
Sydney J. Freedberg, “Some Thoughts on Berenson, Connoisseurship, and the History of Art”, I Tatti Studies: Essays in the Renaissance, Vol. 3 (1989), pp. 11-26.