Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Making Silk Purses Out Of Sows' Ears

"New" Leonardos seem to be turning up at the rate of about one a year. First there was that coloured drawing of the blonde girl called La Bella Pricipessa or something like that, then there was the rather creepy Salvator Mundi, and now there's a profile portrait of Isabella D'Este. What they all have in common is they're not very good.

The hunt for undiscovered works by great artists has little to do with art. The scholars are having fun but the world is no richer. These paintings were always knocking around- and got overlooked because they were nothing very special. The taste that consigned them to attics and museum store-rooms can't be faulted; they received the neglect they deserved.  Their authorship has been reassigned not because they radiate genius but because science and scholarship have made a case for them.  Not everything that comes out of a master's studio is a masterpiece.

We acquired a new painting by Van Gogh recently. It isn't signed and had always been described as the work of an unknown imitator. Now it's by the man himself- which'll have added several noughts to its supposed value. The story about it- gleaned from Van Gogh's correspondence- is that he he didn't sign it because he didn't like it. He thought it a failure- which it is.  If he didn't put it on the bonfire it's because canvas is valuable and- as artists do- he was fixing to reclaim it by painting over it.  As things now stand it's going to go out into the world with his name attached- which is just what he didn't want- and that's a shame. 
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