Tag: news from art scene

Did Leonardo da Vinci copy his famous ‘Vitruvian Man’?

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Did Leonardo da Vinci copy his famous ‘Vitruvian Man’?

Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of a male figure perfectly inscribed in a circle and square, known as the “Vitruvian Man,” illustrates what he believed to be a divine connection between the human form and the universe. Beloved for its beauty and symbolic power, it is one of the most famous images in the world. However, new research suggests that the work, which dates to 1490, may be a copy of an earlier drawing by Leonardo’s friend.

Another illustration of a divinely proportioned man — the subject is Christ-like, but the setting is strikingly similar to Leonardo’s — has been discovered in a forgotten manuscript in Ferrara, Italy. Both drawings are depictions of a passage written 1,500 years earlier by Vitruvius, an ancient Roman architect, in which he describes a man’s body fitting perfectly inside a circle (the divine symbol) and inside a square (the earthly symbol). It was a geometric interpretation of the ancient belief that man is a “microcosm”: a miniature embodiment of the whole universe. Leonardo and other scholars revived this vainglorious notion during the Italian Renaissance.

After decades of study, Claudio Sgarbi, an Italian architectural historian who discovered the lesser known illustration of the Vitruvian man in 1986, now believes it to be the work of Giacomo Andrea de Ferrara, a Renaissance architect, expert on Vitruvius, and close friend of Leonardo’s. What’s more, Sgarbi believes Giacomo Andrea probably drew his Vitruvian man first, though the two men are likely to have discussed their mutual efforts. Sgarbi will lay out his arguments in a volume of academic papers to be published this winter, Smithsonian Magazine reports.

The key arguments are as follows: In Leonardo’s writings, he mentions “Giacomo Andrea’s Vitruvius” — seemingly a direct reference to the illustrated Ferrara manuscript. Secondly, Leonardo had dinner with Giacomo Andrea in July 1490, the year in which both men are thought to have drawn their Vitruvian men. Experts believe Leonardo would have probed Giacomo Andrea’s knowledge of Vitruvius when they met. And though both drawings interpret Vitruvius’ words similarly, Leonardo’s is perfectly executed, while Giacomo Andrea’s is full of false starts and revisions, none of which would have been necessary if he had simply copied Leonardo’s depiction.

Other scholars find the arguments convincing. “I find Sgarbi’s argument exciting and very seductive, to say the least,” said Indra McEwen, an architectural historian at Concordia University who has written extensively about the works of Vitruvius. “But [I] would opt for the view that Giacomo Andrea and Leonardo worked in tandem, rather than Leonardo basing his drawing on Andrea’s.”

Rather than competitors, the two Renaissance men were colleagues working together to bring a beautiful, ancient idea back to life. “Whose was the ‘original’ drawing is a non-question as far as I’m concerned. Much as it is a preoccupation of our own time, I don’t think it would have been an issue in Leonardo’s day,” McEwen told Life’s Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience.

Patrice Le Floch-Prigent, an anatomist at the University of Versailles in France who has analyzed the anatomical correctness of Leonardo’s famous work, noted that, for both drawings, “the source is Vitruvius.”

Furthermore, regardless of their chronology, Leonardo’s work is an improvement on Giacomo Andrea’s, McEwen said: “Leonardo is by far the superior draftsman, with a far superior understanding of anatomy.”

Leonardo’s is also more faithful to the text, she explained. “Nowhere does Vitruvius say that the man is positioned inside the circle and the square at the same time. A man lying flat on his back, can be circumscribed by a circle if his hands and feet are outstretched,” writes Vitruvius. “Similarly, his height is equal to his arm span, ‘just as in areas that have been squared with a set square.'” Giacomo Andrea’s figure has only one set of arms and legs, which are simultaneously circumscribed by a circle and outlined by a square, while “Leonardo deals with [the two propositions] by having the position of his man’s arms and legs change. That, I would have to admit, makes his drawing a closer approximation to the textual description than Giacomo Andrea’s,” McEwen wrote.

One thing is certain. The better Vitruvian man gained international fame, while the simpler, but possibly more original, one was left to languish in a library for five centuries. That may have to do with the very different fates met by Leonardo and Giacomo Andrea. When the French invaded Milan in 1499, the former fled to safety and went on to achieve eternal renown. The latter stayed in Milan and was hanged, drawn and quartered by the French, and largely forgotten by history — until now.

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Yuri Gagarin: The First Man in Space Limited Edition Pens

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Yuri Gagarin: The First Man in Space Limited Edition Pens

Montegrappa is proud to honour one of the greatest heroes of the 20th Century, with a limited edition pen marking the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight into space. It signalled the start of manned space flight, launching the most exciting period in the history of man’s unquenchable thirst for exploration.

Born on 9 March 1934 in Klushino, Russia, Gagarin was a Soviet Air Forces pilot who, in 1960, after completing the selection process, was chosen with 19 other pilots for the Soviet space program. Gagarin was further selected for an elite training group known as the Sochi Six from which the first cosmonauts of the Vostok programme would be chosen. He became the first human being to journey into outer space when his the Vostok 3KA-3 (Vostok 1) spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth on 12 April 1961, with a time in space of 1 hour 48 minutes.

Following this momentous flight, Gagarin became a worldwide celebrity, touring widely abroad. Beginning in 1962, Gagarin served as a deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union; he also spent seven years working on designs for a reusable spacecraft. Gagarin achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel of the Soviet Air Force on 12 June 1962 and on 6 November 1963, was promoted to Colonel.

Because of his importance as a Soviet hero, and fearing for his safety, officials banned him from participating in further spaceflights. Gagarin had become deputy training director of the Star City cosmonaut training base, later named after him, while re-qualifying as a fighter pilot. On 27 March 1968, with tragic irony and despite the best efforts of Soviet officials to protect him, Gagarin and flight instructor Vladimir Seryogin died when their MiG-15UTI, on a routine training flight, crashed near the town of Kirzhach. Their bodies were cremated and the ashes were buried in the walls of the Kremlin on Red Square.

Originally conceived as part of the new Cosmopolitan collection, the importance of the 50th Anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s space flight has elevated the pen to the status of a stand-alone limited edition. The Montegrappa Yuri Gagarin Pen joins the company of other honours including a series of commemorative ruble coins issued by the Soviet Union for the 20th, 30th and 40th anniversaries, his title of Hero of the Soviet Union and the re-naming of the town of Gzhatsk in 1968 as Gagarin.

Montegrappa’s artisans have engraved the barrel with the image of Yuri Gagarin in bas-relief, bordered with an interplanetary motif, while the cap features the coat-of-arms of the USSR. The pocket clip, fitted with a rotating ball at its tip to facilitate smooth insertion to and removal from a pocket, is flanked by reproductions of Moscow’s monument to Yuri Gagarin, completed in 1980 and located in Gagarin’s square. The fountain pen features a built-in piston-fed filling mechanism, providing ink to the two-tone 18K gold nib with ebonite feeder.

Both the roller ball and the fountain pen arrive in presentation boxes, fashioned in wood. The lid of the box is embellished with a metal plaque bearing an engraved image of Yuri Gagarin, with a commemorative message in Cyrillic characters. The box for the fountain pen also includes a complimentary bottle of ink.

To mark the 50 years since Yuri Gagarin’s historic space flight in 1961, Montegrappa will issue the Yuri Gagarin pen in a limited edition consisting of:

• 1961 silver fountain pens
• 1961 silver roller balls
• 50 solid 18K gold fountain pens
• 50 solid 18K gold roller balls

Since 1912, Montegrappa has been manufacturing high-quality writing instruments in the same historic building in Bassano del Grappa, North East Italy.

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Rare Chinese art collection rediscovered

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Rare Chinese art collection rediscovered

A university coordinator stumbles upon 15 handmade propaganda pieces made decades ago.

Propaganda pieces produced in China four decades ago during the Cultural Revolution have been unearthed in a storage room at the University of Michigan — a rare find in either the U.S. or its country of origin, experts said.

The rediscovery of the 15 poster-sized papercut images illustrating the political upheaval of the era is a pleasant surprise to scholars studying a society that was largely closed off from the West. The images are cut out of red paper in the same way that artists customarily create decorations for Chinese New Year celebrations and other festivities. They include glowing portrayals of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong and Red Guards burning books and trampling on a Buddhist statue.

The handmade images were stored at the university’s Center for Chinese Studies, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Carol Stepanchuk, the center’s community outreach coordinator, found them while sorting through boxes in its storage room. She said the collection of 15 framed images “stood out.” The frames weren’t in great shape, but the images were in “remarkably good condition,” she said.

Stepanchuk took them to her office and brought the find to the attention of faculty members, who marveled at the rarity and quality of an entire set that tells a coherent story.

The late scholar Michel Oksenberg, who taught at the university for two decades, collected the papercuts while doing research in Hong Kong in the early 1970s and donated them to the center when he left in 1991 to lead the East-West Center in Honolulu.

Ena Schlorff, the center’s program coordinator, remembered the donation.

“We were storing them for future consideration,” said Schlorff, who had been Oksenberg’s personal secretary. “It took the newer faculty … to realize the current importance of this collection.”

Associate history professor Wang Zheng said the collection was produced at a small, folk art institute in the southern province of Guangdong, and it most likely wasn’t commissioned by Communist Party leaders. She said it shows how young artists at the time understood and related to the decade-long Cultural Revolution, and she plans to use one of the images in a book she is writing.

“They did not have embedded interests in the establishment, and the Cultural Revolution was to smash the establishment,” Zheng said. “The young ones who didn’t have power … likely identified with it.”

Zheng said it’s rare for the English-speaking world to have access to such visual historical documents. Even in China, she said, this collection probably would not have survived because it features Mao alongside Lin Biao, who was accused of plotting a coup against Mao and deemed a traitor. He died in a plane crash while flying to the Soviet Union in 1971.

“This whole project would be politically incorrect,” she said.

Xiaobing Tang, a professor of Chinese literature and visual culture, said in a university release that the images are more valuable than others found online because of their complexity and detail. He estimated that each papercut could be worth more than $150 to a serious collector.

The university has no immediate plans for a public display of the actual papercuts but has digitized the images and posted them online.

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Theory claims van Gogh didnt kill himself

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New questions surround the death of Van Gogh

Two American authors present an entirely different account of how the famous artist died.

Vincent Van Gogh has long been a poster boy for geniuses who appreciated only after death. Not one of his paintings sold during his life. But while his creative legacy is undisputed, a new theory has raised some doubts about the official story of his death.

CBS “60 Minutes” recently aired a story of two journalists who believe Van Gogh may not have taken his own life. Instead, they believe) that the iconic painter may have been murdered.

They also published a book to advance their claim. Van Gogh: A Life by Gregory White Smith and Steven Naifeh, argues that the great impressionist painter, was probably murdered by two local teenagers. Before this book, most people believed that Van Gogh shot himself in a field before stumbling into her room, where he died more than a day later.

The book, which argues that Van Gogh had lied to protect his alleged attackers, because he wanted to die, raises some interesting questions. Why, for example, were the brushes and easel that Van Gogh had with him on the ground has never recovered? Why does not anyone find a suicide note? And why were unable to locate the investigators of the gun that Van Gogh would have been used on himself?

However, some experts remain unswayed by the new theory. Leo Jansen, curator of the Van Gogh Museum and the editor of the letters of the artist, noted that Van Gogh: A Life is a “great book”, but the authors of the lack of solid evidence in support of their thesis.

Jansen also noted that all we really need to go on what Van Gogh said while he was dying. Van Gogh was asked if he intended to kill himself, and he would have said, “Yes, I believe.”

You can watch the entire “60 Minutes” segment above and decide for yourself.

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Stunning amateur photos highlighted in National Geographic feature

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National Geographic

An image from one of the world’s most colorful festivals is among a magazine’s top reader submissions.

National Geographic is renowned for its professional photojournalism, but the photos that readers themselves shoot and submit are often just as amazing. Every weekday, the magazine’s editors choose their Daily Dozen favorites, and those that are rated highest by online visitors are made available for download in National Geographic’s Weekly Wrapper as computer wallpaper. The image shown here was shot at the Goroko show in Papua, New Guinea, which is one of the most colorful festivals on Earth.

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Chinese artist makes himself ‘invisible’ in photos

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Chinese artist makes himself 'invisible' in photos

A Chinese artist becomes a living sculpture by using paint to blend in with his surroundings.

You might say that Liu Bolin likes to blend in. But the Chinese artist does more than just wear camouflage pants and stand next to a bush. With the help of some assistants, Bolin paints himself, head to toe and unassumingly just stands there–in grocery stores, next to piles of coal, on staircases, you name it. And, unless you look really closely, you’ll miss him entirely–which is pretty much the point.

It turns out that the process of making oneself truly invisible is quite painstaking. According to a report in the U.K.’s Daily Mail, Bolin spends hours perfecting his poses to ensure that he’ll mesh with his background. Bolin then stands “in front of backdrops with a team of two assistants to paint the camouflage on his clothes.”

The “camouflage” can be anything, so long as Bolin segues seamlessly into the backdrop. Aside from looking cool, Bolin’s work does have a deeper meaning. Again according to the Daily Mail, the living sculptures are “designed to show how we all can just disappear in today’s mass production world.” And how! The photo of Bolin standing in front of a grocery store shelf full of soda cans and bottles is full of color, shading and shadow.

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Stunning trove of Picasso art uncovered

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Stunning trove of Picasso art uncovered

A retired French couple has come forward with 271 never-before-seen pieces.

A retired French electrician and his wife have come forward with 271 undocumented, never-before-seen works by Pablo Picasso estimated to be worth at least 60 million euros ($79.35 million), an administrator of the artist’s estate said Monday.

The electrician, who once worked for Picasso, and his wife for years squirreled away the staggering trove — which is believed to be authentic — inside a trunk in the garage of their home on the French Riviera.

The cache, dating from the artist’s most creative period from 1900 to 1932, includes lithographs, portraits, watercolors, and sketches — plus nine Cubist collages said to be worth 40 million euros alone, according to French daily Liberation, which first reported Monday on the discovery.

Pierre Le Guennec, a 71-year-old former electrician, and his wife showed many of the works to Picasso’s son Claude and other estate administrators in Paris in September, seeking to have the works authenticated, Picasso Administration lawyer Jean-Jacques Neuer.

Shortly after that meeting, Neuer filed suit on behalf of Picasso’s heirs for alleged illegal receipt of the works. Police investigators are looking into how Le Guennec and his wife, Danielle, came by the pictures.

“This was a gift,” Danielle Le Guennec told The Associated Press by phone from their home in the town of Mouans-Sartoux, near the tourist Riviera hotspot of Antibes. “We aren’t thieves. We didn’t do anything wrong.”

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