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Thursday, November 24, 2011

LEONARDO’S SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD REDISCOVERED IN NEW YORK


Leonardo’s Saviour of the World rediscovered in New York
The work was assumed lost until it turned up in an American private collection

By Martin Bailey. From Features, Issue 227, September 2011
Published online: 31 October 2011

After New York conservator Dianne Dwyer Modestini had removed the varnish and overpaint, the picture’s quality and style convinced the scholars. A technical examination also supported the attribution. Pentimenti, such as a change in the thumb of the hand of Christ raised in blessing, were further evidence.

The attribution is fully accepted by Syson and National Gallery director Nicholas Penny. “We felt that it would be of great interest to include it in the exhibition as a new discovery,” a gallery spokesman told us.

The roll call of specialists who accept the attribution includes Carmen Bambach, Andrea Bayer, Keith Christiansen and Everett Fahy (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), David Alan Brown (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC), Mina Gregori (University of Florence), Maria Teresa Fiorio (Raccolta Vinciana, Milan), Pietro Marani (Politecnico, Milan), David Ekserdjian (University of Leicester) and Martin Kemp (University of Oxford). Some have dated it to the end of Leonardo’s period in Milan (1498-99) and others to Florence (1500-06). So far, Italian specialist Carlo Pedretti is the only scholar to have questioned the attribution.

Where has the painting been for five centuries—and how did it emerge? By the 17th century, it belonged to Charles I. It went to the Duke of Buckingham in 1688 and was sold in 1763 by his descendants as a Leonardo. The painting disappeared and surfaced in 1900, attributed to Bernardino Luini, when it was bought by collector Sir Francis Cook.

Tancred Borenius, in his 1913 catalogue of the Cook collection, described it as a “free copy after Boltraffio”, although Sir Herbert Cook added a dissenting note, ascribing it to a “contemporary painter of Leonardo’s School”. Sir Herbert was an Italian Renaissance specialist, so it is curious that he never subjected the picture to further scrutiny.


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