Friday, October 15, 2010

Lost Michelangelo?

This news (b, c, d) has been making the rounds this week, but the original article I read did not have an image of the "lost" painting. Unhindered, I googled the image. Upon seeing it, was a bit dismayed. With a disclaimer that I am not an expert on Michaelangelo nor on Renaissance art in general, I have to say that the painting is not at all similar to any Michaelangelo works I have seen, either in person or online. Mary's face looks contorted (Forcellino calls it "crying," but the sad and serene face in Michelangelo's sketch was more affecting), her proportions are way off, the obtuse perspective on Christ's face flattens it, and the body's musculature is too delineated and unsubtle. Compared to the study of the pieta did for Michaelangelo did for Vittoria Colonia (who apparently is the distant relative of the owner of this lost piece), the amateurish nature of the painted piece is more apparent. It is far easier to argue that the piece is a copy of a slightly less able set of hands. One could argue too that this could have been an "early", immature work by the master...but at 1542, right when he was executing his frescoes in Rome? Would it not make sense that the power and techniques of those frescoes would translate to a smaller piece?

The most interesting side of this whole story is the motivations of the people involved in proclaiming this work an original. The owners I believe are more interested in knowing their heritage through an heirloom, but I don't think the cash and fame looms far in their heads. (The American media never failed to cover the $300 million the piece would fetch if confirmed as an original.) The Michelangelo expert I'm sure was only interested in knowing more about the artist through rediscovery of Michelangelo's lost works, but is it any surprise that the discovery is already causing a buzz for the expert's book due to come out next year? In addition, the pressure of finding a "new discovery" especially for such a renowned artist with such little surviving painted works may blind anyone into thinking a work is a masterpiece when it is everything but. Time could only tell; this piece may in fact be proven to be a Michelangelo piece. If this is so, I am sure the attribution will be as eternally controversial as Titian's authorship for "Pastoral Concert" in the Louvre.

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