Update on La Bella Principessa

The Antique Trade Gazette has an update on the status and research being conducted on the disputed Lenardo da Vinci drawing, La Bella Principessa (see image). The ATG reports that oxford University professor and da Vinci exoert Martin Kemp is publishing a new book on the drawing, and believes it is by da Vinci. 

It is reported that Stitch holes in the drawing closely match those of a portfolio with links to da Vinci.  If the art world accepts the drawing as a Leonardo da Vinci, it could be worth close to $20 million.  There are experts that are yet to be convinced that it is by da Vinci.

A very interesting article to see the lengths experts go to authenticate a piece.

STITCH holes in a volume held by a Polish museum have added a new layer of evidence in establishing a disputed drawing as an important work by Leonardo da Vinci.

The evidence has just been unveiled by Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of Art History at Oxford University and a leading Leonardo scholar, who has already written a book, La Bella Principessa, putting forward the arguments that would turn what was previously thought to be a 19th century pastiche worth about $20,000 into a Renaissance masterpiece valued at up to £100m by one London gallery.

After ATG broke the story about the discovery of a possible Leonardo in October 2009, D.R. Edward Wright, Emeritus Professor of Art History at the University of South Florida, contacted its owner, Paris-based collector Peter Silverman, to suggest a possible link between the portrait and a de luxe copy of the Sforziada a book eulogising Francesco Sforza (Duke of Milan 1451-66), now in the National Library of Poland.

Wright, a specialist in Renaissance iconography, noted that the Warsaw Sforziada and the portrait have near-identical dimensions; that the Sforziada's illuminations by Gian Petro Birago contain allegorical references to the 1496 marriage of Bianca Sforza (identified by Kemp as the likely subject of La Bella) to Galeazzo Sanseverino, Army Captain to the Duke of Milan – Bianca's father, Ludovico Il Moro; and that Birago also depicted the 'Scythian' costumes Leonardo designed for Sanseverino for a jousting tournament in January 1491.

Subsequent analysis of the Warsaw Sforziada by Kemp and Pascal Cotte, head of Scientific Research at Lumi̬re Technology (Paris) Рwho previously discovered a fingerprint matching that identified as Leonardo's under the surface of La Bella Рhas established that stitch holes in the volume correspond "very closely" to those still visible to the left of the portrait. They also identified from where in the volume the portrait folio was removed and noted that its thickness matches the remaining pages in the volume.

Kemp and Wright believe La Bella was removed from the Warsaw Sforziada when it was rebound in double-clasped, plain brown leather some time between the late 17th and early 19th centuries.

However, proving that the page came from the Sforziada is one thing, demonstrating that the image was contemporary with the volume's creation is another, a point critics have already picked up on and, doubtless, one which Kemp, Silverman and Cotte will be keen to address.

Many of the world's leading Leonardo scholars have backed Kemp in his findings so far, but there have been notable exceptions, including London's National Gallery director Nicholas Penny, who refused to let the work be included in an exhibition on Leonardo, due to open there in November.

Interestingly, though, Kemp was one of the experts called in to authenticate another work newly attributed to Leonardo, Salvator Mundi, which will feature in the show.

Penny was appraised of the Sforziada findings in July; both he and Camille Bambach, the specialist in Leonardo's drawings at the Metropolitan Museum whom Penny also consulted over the Salvator Mundi, were first invited by Silverman to view La Bella in 2008, but have yet to do so.

However, in an apparent bid to defuse the conspiracy theories flying around the art world, Dr Penny wrote to Silverman on September 19 explaining that La Bella, as a work in coloured chalks, had not been considered for the exhibition as "the main focus is on the paintings of Leonardo from his first Milanese period".


ASH said...

Color of the hair and eyes is too light for an Italian, particularly for Sforza’s daughter. The girl looks rather northern European (German) than Italian

Neck is too thick for LDV proportions (check the overlay photos from here: http://www.3pipe.net/2011/07/enhancing-art-of-seeing-leonardo-case.html

Lower eye lid looks wrong – horizontal part is too thick - looks unprofessional

According to LDV theory advocates the carbon analysis puts the probability that the velum existed in the period of interval 1470-1530 is 27.2%. But “La Bella Principessa” died in 1496. That will bring this “probability” to less than 10%

All noble women in the Renaissance portraits (by LDV and others) wear jewelry - not “Principessa”

GC/MS and MS/MS analysis of the pigments (not velum) from “Bella” should be compared with the LDV’s proven original pigments to be able to have any significant data for publication in scientific journal

For now my most serious problem is the girl’s neck. It’s too awkward (too thick) to be done by Leonardo.

Anonymous said...

ASH, watch the NOVA documentary "Mystery of a Masterpiece". The most compelling piece of evidence, IMO, is the Sforziada book.

Regarding the dates, the C-14 range of the vellum is 1440-1650, Bianca Giovanna Sforza was married in 1496 at age 14, and Da Vinci worked for her father Ludovico 1481-1499. The dates absolutely work out.

Another bit of info, Bianca was illegitimate, her mother was Ludovico's mistress. That might explain why she wasn't wearing more elaborate jewelry in the portrait.

It seems reasonable to me that it's either a work by Da Vinci or a work of one of his students.