Friday 11 November 2011

Stitching up the Sforzas (II)

I'd not mention this here were it not for how rude the art expert got about me trying to make sense out of the news reports linking it to Poland. The Independent carries an article about the drawing known as La Bella Principessa, "a controversial work which made headlines around the world in September" after claims were made that it was a genuine, £100m Leonardo, not a later fake, as previously believed. The article ('The Da Vinci feud: has the National Gallery snubbed a Leonardo masterpiece?' The Independent, 1 November 2011) discusses how:
Letters and emails seen by The Independent show how the gallery's director, Dr Nicholas Penny, unceremoniously severed communications with the Canadian owner of La Bella Principessa [...] Peter Silverman, [...] in one email to Dr Penny, Mr Silverman wrote: "I am rather dumbfounded by your silence, indifference and lack of support on this Leonardo thing." The row eventually became so fierce that Mr Silverman instructed lawyers to act as an intermediary between him and Dr Penny. In a letter dated 19 September, the exasperated gallery director told him: "I do not think there is going to be anything to be gained from further correspondence on this point," calling time on a debate that has lasted for more than three years [...] In 2008, Dr Penny told Mr Silverman he was "deeply suspicious" of the drawing.
Obviously getting it in the exhibition would do a lot to legitimise the claim of this work to be a genuine Leonardo, and boost its value accordingly. In the same way Renfrew urges museums not to show recently surfaced antiquities from private collections which do not have a kosher collecting history, this is because the mere fact that it was exhibited in such a venue and maybe mentioned in a published catalogue is then presented by the seller as in some way enhancing the "legitimacy" of the antiquity.

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