Monday, October 11, 2010

Art Up The Ying-Yang (Part 2)

A painting owned by a Buffalo, New York family might be an original Michelangelo "Pieta" (more than a couple hundred million than Boldini's Woman in Pink - see prior post.  Personally, I like Boldini's painting much better).

Story from The New York Post:

A 'Mike' found in Buffalo?
Last Updated: 1:04 PM, October 11, 2010

This unfinished painting of Jesus and Mary could be a lost Michelangelo, potentially the art find of the century.

But to the upstate family on whose living-room wall it hung for years, it was just "The Mike."

When the kids knocked the painting off its perch with an errant tennis ball sometime in the mid-1970s, the Kober clan wrapped it up and tucked it away behind the sofa.

There it remained for 27 years, until Air Force Lt. Col. Martin Kober retired in 2003 and had some time on his hands. His father gave him a task -- research the family lore that the painting was really a Michelangelo.

Now, with your newfound free time, do something with this!" Kober recalled his father telling him.

Kober, now 53, dug into the history of the painting, contacting auction houses, Renaissance art scholars, European archives, and even meeting museum directors in Italy. He found Antonio Forcellino, an Italian art restorer and historian and told him of the tennis ball, and something more horrifying.

"It wasn't the story that had scared me, but that it had been exposed to heating commonly found inside a middle-class home," Forcellino writes in his new book, "La Pieta Perduta," or "The Lost Pieta," published in Italy and due out in the United States next year.

And he did not believe in the existence of another version of Michelangelo paintings that are hanging in Italian museums.

"I had assumed it was going to be a copy," Forcellino said.

Still, Forcellino skeptically visited Kober's home outside Buffalo to view the painting, and the trip left him a bit breathless.

"In reality, this painting was even more beautiful than the versions hanging in Rome and Florence. The truth was this painting was much better than the ones they had. I had visions of telling them that there was this crazy guy in America telling everyone he had a Michelangelo at home," Forcellino said.

A scientific analysis of the painting proved that the Michelangelo claim was not so crazy.

Forcellino told The Post that infrared and X-ray examinations of the painting -- on a 25-by- 19-inch wood panel -- show many alterations made by the artist as he changed his mind, and an unfinished portion near the Madonna's right knee.

"The evidence of unfinished portions demonstrate that this painting never, never, never could be a copy of another painting," Forcellino said. "No patron pays in the Renaissance for an unfinished copy."

Additionally, the provenance, or ownership history, points to the work being done by Michelangelo around 1545 for his friend Vittoria Colonna. That was about 45 years after Michelangelo did his famed "Pieta," or pity, sculpture of Mary holding Jesus, housed in St. Peter's Basilica.

The Pieta painting was passed to two Catholic cardinals, eventually ending up in the hands of a German baroness named Villani.

The work ended up in the Kober family after Villani willed it to her lady-in-waiting Gertrude Young. Young was the sister-in-law of Kober’s great-grandfather and she sent the work to America in 1883, according to an account by Kober.

Forcellino said Herman Grimm, a noted Michelangelo biographer, saw the "Pieta" in 1868 and attributed it to the master. Additional evidence includes a letter in the Vatican library discussing a Pieta painting for Colonna, he said.

"I'm absolutely convinced that is a Michelangelo painting," Forcellino said.

Michelangelo expert William Wallace, a professor of architecture and art history at Washington University in St. Louis, said he saw the painting before Kober had it privately restored to remove 500 years of wear and tear.

Since there is no definitive scientific way to attribute such a painting, Wallace said it would be the weight of experts over time that would hold sway on whether it is a Michelangelo.

One thing is certain, however -- the painting's potential worth. It is now in a bank vault.

The rare Michelangelo drawings that have come up for sale in recent years have sold for as much as $20 million. And a possible Michelangelo at the Metropolitan Museum of Art could be worth as much as $300 million.
"Millions and millions," Wallace said of the lost Pieta's value.

Additional reporting by Isabel Vincent and Clemente Lisi

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm pleased that this painting has turned up, and might well be available for the public someday.

But who would have it hanging in their living room?

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