30 Sep 2010

Mona Lisa’s Bad Hair Day

After breakfast this morning I read an article on Tudor coinage – God knows why –but what a lucky break!  Who would ever have thought that England’s Bloody Mary and the Mona Lisa would have anything in common? But, first, some background. It has been fifteen years since Lillian Schwartz...

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29 Sep 2010

Rubens’ Commander is Rubens

A Rubens was recently sold at Christies described as Portrait of a Commander, three-quarter-length, being dressed for battle though any keen user of this site would recognize the image as Portrait of Rubens as a Commander being painted by two of his assistants (both alter egos of Rubens) in...

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26 Sep 2010

Face It! Anthea is Parmigianino

Fifteen years ago a computer scientist named Lillian Schwartz published her discovery that the proportions of the Mona Lisa’s face matched those of Leonardo in his famous Self-Portrait almost exactly, too exactly to be coincidence.1 Art historians with a sense of humor howled with laughter...

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15 Sep 2010

Sense and Nonsense about Caravaggio

Every writer from Caravaggio's day to our own has spoken of the artist's astonishing realism. One critic wrote a century after his birth that Caravaggio:

"recognized no other master than the model, without selecting [as artists had in the past] from the best forms of nature.....despising the...

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12 Sep 2010

Putin’s Portraits

Recent news from Russia suggests that Vladimir Putin is not a regular user of this website. According to The Art Newspaper he has approved plans to create the first National Portrait Gallery. “Society has a huge interest in our national history”, the Prime Minister declared, “and painted...

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10 Sep 2010

Warhol Shooting

I just read on The Art History Blog about a musical on Andy Warhol that ran in December 2009 at the Yale Repertory Theater. It includes a scene in Warhol's studio in the 1960's with actors playing famous American artists who come in and cause a ruckus. Here's how the story is told:


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07 Sep 2010

Fusion Confusion at The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection in London, an august institution, has a painting by Van Dyck of Paris, the mythological judge of beauty, posing by himself.  A detail of his face is illustrated above (left). Whatever else one has to say about this painting, there can be no doubt that the face of Paris...

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06 Sep 2010

Mauro Molinari

I turned up on the last day of an exhibition of  Mauro Molinari’s work at the Carlo Bilotti Museum in Rome, a small but fascinating show by an artist I did not know. There was only one visitor present, a short, happy Italian man in his mid-60’s who seemed more interested in us than Molinari’s...

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04 Sep 2010

The Error of “Errors”

Allowing an art lover to interpret art on their own is the purpose of this site and we reveal many ways to do so. This tip, though, is so effective at finding a route into the artist's meaning that I reveal with it some hesitation: the artist's "error." I have discovered that whenever an art...

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03 Sep 2010

Window of a Roman Art Gallery

I have been arguing for years that the concept every painter paints himself is alive and well in the art world, even if art scholars are unaware of it. So I was particularly delighted when I came across this notice posted on the window of an art gallery in Rome in January 2010. It was an...

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28 Aug 2010

Meaning in Architecture

The theory presented on this website, that there is meaning in visual art hidden from view but plainly apparent to a creative mind, is paralleled in architecture by the little-known idea that buildings can have meaning too. Today we are so convinced that architecture is functional and sometimes...

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10 Aug 2010

Train Stations or Museums?

It’s somewhat fitting that twenty years ago the French transformed an unused train station into a major museum because, ever since, major museums have been turned into train stations. The Musee D’Orsay is no less crowded now than it was, filled with passengers, a hundred years ago. At the...

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10 Aug 2010

Ambiguities in Art

Everyone who has ever studied art knows that one of the common characteristics of great masterpieces is that they do not make sense. For instance, just as Velazquez in Las Meninas paints a picture from an impossible viewpoint so the mirror in Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergere (above) provides...

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07 Aug 2010

Artists and Creation-Centred Spirituality

Conventional art scholarship is far too eager to believe that artists illustrated the orthodox, didactic beliefs of their patrons. The idea that Michelangelo was told what to paint in the Sistine Chapel is both common in art scholarship and mad. Yet there is a reason why such misinformation has...

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27 Jul 2010

The Traditionalism of Contemporary Art

Giulio Paolini (b. 1940) is an Italian artist living in Turin. His sculpture, Three by Three, is currently being exhibited at the new MAXXI museum in Rome and it demonstrates, with startling clarity that good contemporary artists today are just as aware as their predecessors that “every painter...

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