Saturday, October 15, 2005



By Elaine Meinel Supkis

I come home after wrestling with shingles on a roof in between storms, the sky wild with Wotanish bluster, golden sunset in the wrack and ruin of disintigrating stormclouds, I come home to see a most wonderous thing, although through a very dim and grimy lens. From the BBC:
"Two previously unseen paintings by Leonardo da Vinci have gone on public display for the first time in Italy.
One is an alternative version of Da Vinci's famous painting known as Virgin of the Rocks, with the infant Jesus and the infant John the Baptist.

The other shows Mary Magdalene, thought to have been completed by Leonardo with the help of one of his pupils about 1515, shortly before his death.

Both are being displayed at Ancona's Mole Vanvitelliana museum.

The semi-naked painting of Mary Magdalene - on a wooden panel - has fascinated critics and has only recently been discovered and authenticated, says the BBC's Rome correspondent, David Willey.

Previously attributed to Da Vinci's pupil Giampietrino it has been in private collections for nearly all its recorded history in the past 100 years.
The photo of this wonderful, I would say, one of the greatest paintings, is beastly. Small, 72 pixels, dim, barely discernable. Of all painters, DaVinci needs to be see with maximum clarity for the delicacy, the fine features, the detailed backgrounds, the living flesh, the penetrating eyes, all this has to be seen in a gentle, fine light. But if you look at the picture at the BBC, if you know your paintings and how this great artist worked, or if you had ever seen in close up, the real things he painted in the past, you can imagine this painting. What I did, since I can't reproduce the Getty photo on my blog, I used it to draw my own rendition of the painting but changed the tonality of the colors so one can see the outlines better since the photo is pretty murky.

For example, based on my own analysis of both the splotches of pixels in the deeper end of the red spectrum plus what I know of Medieval iconography, there is a rose hedge behind her in the middle background. I have no idea what is directly behind her, it is in the darker brown/green spectrum, that is about all I can tell.

Her hair is lightbrown/blonde with darker tones in the thicker parts due to the fact that before the 20th century, women didn't wash their hair for weeks and weeks. Indeed, my hair turns quite dark if it goes without a shampoo for even one week.

The hair was braided but let down which is what loose women did back then, they released their hair which was not what you did in public. The dry ends of the wavy hair, released from tight braids, are, like my hair is when I let loose my braids, very light and feathery, screening her bare chest (I can't draw the probably lovely scrim of hair, it is all guess work on my part!). Her smile, well, I didn't do her justice at all. As usual, DaVinci, who painted her on wood (I paint on wood) rendered a very warm yet thoughtful smile. I wish there was a better photo! I would spend hours examining it!

Her eyes are interesting, too. In all, I would say, this painting rivals Mona Lisa on nearly every level. It certainly appeals to me.

The other painting, the Virgin of the Rocks, leaves me cold. It is too studied, the children, unbelievable, the women, detached.

But the Mary Magdalene damsel? Wow. I am agast it was hidden for so long. Just, wow.

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