da Vinci or Not

Martin Gayford has a good article in Bloomberg about the current debate and lawsuits involving the possible Lenoardo da Vinci, "La Bella Principessa".  The article goes into current lawsuits, the various experts, both pro and con, connoisseurship and forensics. If deemed and accepted as a true da Vinci, the painting could be worth $150 million.  In the not to recent past the portrait has been sold as 19th century German.  It sold at auction in 1998 for $almost $22,000.00 and was resold again in 2007 for $20,000.00.

There are many indicators that it is a da Vinci, but none are completely viable, such as the painting is on Vellum which dates to the proper period, it is also painted with the left hand (as da Vinci painted) there is a fingerprint in the paint (dont forget to read the NY article on forensic examiner Biro and fingerprint identification, click HERE to go to that post).The article also looks back at a previously disputed da Vinci court case from 1929.

The Bloomberg article is very good as it again compares and looks at both the need and uses of connoisseurship and forensics.

Gayford writes:

It’s the same in the case of the disputed Leonardo, dubbed “La Bella Principessa” by Kemp. There are scientific findings. The vellum -- or treated animal skin -- on which it’s drawn is from 1440-1650 according to carbon dating. The drawing is by a left-handed artist, which Leonardo was. A partial fingerprint on it is a match for another on a more definite Leonardo.

In the end, though, it comes down to judgment of quality and style. That is, whether the work -- which has been restored in the past more than once -- is drawn in the way that Leonardo drew. And secondly, whether it’s good enough to be by him.

Those are both subjective calls. Kemp answers a firm yes to both. He has, he writes in a book on the subject (“La Bella Principessa: The Story of the New Masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci,” Hodder & Stoughton), “not the slightest doubt” that this is “a masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci.” Others are not so sure. Off the record, many in the art world express doubt about the Principessa.

Hung Jury

The last big Leonardo case in New York was in 1929. Then the plaintiffs were Mr. and Mrs. Harry Hahn, Franco-American owners, they claimed, of the authentic version of Leonardo’s portrait known as “La Belle Ferronniere.” Questioned by a New York journalist, the Old Master dealer Joseph Duveen flatly stated that the authentic painting was the one in the Louvre and that this was a copy. The owners sued for $500,000.
To read the full Bloomberg article, click HERE.

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