February 1, 2016

"It’s the same painting, and all of a sudden you see it with more affection."

"It’s like your child who just won the Nobel Prize. You love your child just as much, but you’re bragging more about it to your cousins and friends," said Julián Zugazagoitia, director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, the location of a small oil painting previously considered to be from the workshop or a follower of Hieronymus Bosch, has just been identified — based underdrawings, motifs, microscopic details, and brushwork  — as the work of Hieronymus Bosch.
“The Temptation of St. Anthony,” which is about 15 inches tall and 10 inches wide, had been cut down on all sides... and was probably part of a much larger panel that was once a wing of a triptych that was dismantled at some point in the last 500 years. It had been heavily retouched and painted over, and many details were murky and indistinct. The Nelson-Atkins bought the work from a dealer in New York in 1935....

“It’s everybody’s dream as a museum director that something as positive as this happens,” Mr. Zugazagoitia said. “And it is on the one side fortunate to be in this lucky situation, in which it goes from a workshop attribution to an original. But the work has not changed. What’s interesting is that the way we look at it will change.”
Isn't it interesting is that what's interesting to us is what happens inside our own head?

35 comments:

Michael K said...

They need Gabriel Allon to fix it.

rhhardin said...

This part of The Temptation of St Anthony need an illustration.

Bob Ellison said...

If it's not signed, then it's an anonymous Hieronymus.

tim maguire said...

What a great example of how unimportant the work itself is to the art world's assessment of its value and importance.

Laslo Spatula said...

You could tie this thinking in with an extrapolation of yesteday's Grace Kelly Post comments.

Say there has been a black-and-white homemade film floating around in circles over the decades, purporting to be Grace Kelly giving a blow-job.

The woman in the film is pale and blonde, and does kinda look like Grace Kelly, the furniture looks of the era, but the footage is a bit grainy and it all seems rather inconclusive at best.

So you watch it once, say "who knows" and go on about your life.

Now, however, Experts at the University of Advanced Grace Kelly Studies say they have conclusive proof that it is INDEED Grace Kelly, so: NOW you Officially have footage of Grace Kelly giving a blow-job.

And now everyone wants to see it (at least those who remember Grace Kelly, and some who don't, because: Famous is Famous), and they watch it over and over again, KNOWING that, indeed, that is Grace Kelly on her knees naked except for pearls, giving a blow-job to some man on a couch.

When it was just an era blonde blow-job: eh. When it is Grace Kelly giving that same blow-job... it is Hollywood Dreams and all the assorted Memories and Fantasies that come with that Era. There is Magic.

And there is that trying to explain to the wife why there is no longer any Kleenex in the house.

Anyway.

Authenticity and a famous name: just ask Paris Hilton.

I am Laslo.

Howard said...

Given how often art "experts" are wrong about the authenticity of the multitudes of forged master works hanging in museums, it is not a surprise that the recent proclamation results in a placebo effect. Does the name Pavlov make you drool?

Ignorance is Bliss said...


Isn't it interesting is that what's interesting to us is what happens inside our own head?

What's really interesting is the name Zugazagoitia. That's just a fuckin' awesome name.

CWJ said...

I had a comparable experience in the Uffizi. They did not provide English labels, and I was greatly enjoying the work of this Tiziano person, and then was doubly delighted when I figured out that we know him as Titian. It's so much more satisfying to appreciate an artist before discovering that you're "supposed" to appreciate him. I had the same only more intense reaction when I "discovered" El Greco in the Louvre.

Guildofcannonballs said...

As Bosch painted, what's inside our heads is terrifying, with time numbing the sensation to as a scene from an auto-accident still fresh: ugly and must-see but don't talk about it.

Evade.

Mislead.

Lie.

Whatever it takes to keep it all under wraps.

Laslo Spatula said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laslo Spatula said...

"You could tie this thinking in with an extrapolation of yesteday's Grace Kelly Post comments."

I'm going to extrapolate this extrapolation to consider the idea of a similar black-and-white homemade film floating around in circles over the decades, only this one is purporting to be Cary Grant giving a blow-job.

The man in the film is handsome and elegant, and does kinda look like Cary Grant, the furniture looks of the era, but the footage is a bit grainy and it all seems rather inconclusive at best.

So you probably don't even watch it once, because: Not Your Thing, and you go on about your life.

Now, however, Experts at the University of Advanced Cary Grant Studies say they have conclusive proof that it is INDEED Cary Grant, so: NOW you Officially have footage of Cary Grant giving a blow-job.

Now, the can of worms is open.

Does NOT watching it make you homophobic?

Does maybe wanting to watch it, just once, mean you might be just a little Gay-Curious?

Does Cary Grant sucking one cock make HIM Gay? What if he sucked TWO cocks in the movie? What if -- while Cary Grant was sucking cock -- he ALSO had his penis in Grace Kelly's vagina?

Would you not watch Cary Grant fucking Grace Kelly just because he was also incidentally sucking a cock?

Does it change things if he swallows?

Does this now change everything about Cary Grant?

Can you watch 'North by Northwest' and NOT think about him sucking a cock?

Does this change Cary Grant's 'Authenticity'?

I think you see my point.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

"Does Cary Grant sucking one cock make HIM Gay?"

To those that answer "Yes" does Grace Kelly licking a woman's vagina, just once, make her a Lesbian?

Because that could make a good film, too.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

An artist creates a painting of a man sucking a cock. It is rather abstract, but you get the picture, as it were.

However, the artist names the painting "Cary Grant Sucking Cock."

Does this add layers of subtext to the painting?

Can a Provocateur still make a Legitimate Point?

If I were to make this painting would I become rich and famous in the Art World?

Because I wouldn't mind being Rich and Famous.

I need to buy a new paint brush.

I am Laslo.

Char Char Binks said...

That painting was made when art was art, not just the deranged output of the mentally ill. Now, more than ever, the art world needs Laslo.

Smilin' Jack said...

Isn't it interesting is that what's interesting to us is what happens inside our own head?

That's all we have.

Char Char Binks said...

Smilin' Jack said...
Isn't it interesting is that what's interesting to us is what happens inside our own head?

That's all we have.

Sure, now that Cary Grant is no longer with us. RIP

Paddy O said...

It's so much more satisfying to appreciate an artist before discovering that you're "supposed" to appreciate him

Yes, totally agree with this. I was walking through the Getty about 12 years ago and saw this smallish painting that grabbed my soul and spoke deeply to it. Had an art appreciation class in college but never covered this artist. Stood looking at it a while before reading the label nearby. Caspar David Friedrich, "A Walk at Dusk." I've since started collecting prints of his other works, most more famous than that one. I'd like to be sophisticated and say I appreciate it because of key artistic elements, but it really comes down to how it made me feel. I felt a yearning for contemplative life. Left living in the city and moved to the mountains for a few years in large part because of that painting.

But reactions to our inner state aren't all the same. Some are driven by celebrity worship, we like something because someone famous is part of it. Some reactions are driven by what the artist was trying to evoke.

Though anything in a museum is saying, "Appreciate me!" it's nice to find something that resonates without being told we are supposed to adore it. I always wonder how many people would care about the Mona Lisa if they weren't told they were supposed to marvel at it.

Laslo Spatula said...

(Preliminary sketch: "Cary Grant Sucking Cock").

I particularly like the Cuff Link.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

Laslo Spatula said...
(Preliminary sketch: "Cary Grant Sucking Cock").

I would love to know the thoughts going through people's heads as they hover, unsure, over that link.

What can I say?

I am Laslo.

T said...

Robert Hughes, the late critic for Time magazine identified this internal component years ago. In his book/series The Shock of the New, he noted that "It has become more important to have seen Michelangelo's David than to see it."

Now, he was being derisive and criticising the appreciation of art as a fad-ish cultural status symbol, but his comment was directed at our (internal) perception of the work. So too the current idea of how we will now look at the Temptation of St. Anthony knowing(?)/thinking that it is an original Hieronymous Bosch and not some lesser artist.

This is a fact of the human condition though. Don't we appreciate our grandfather's pocketwatch as more than just a watch? Isn't our great-grandmother's brooch more than just a brooch? Isn't anything once owned by a notable person more than what it is just because so-and-so owned it?

CWJ said...

Paddy O,

"I always wonder how many people would care about the Mona Lisa if they weren't told they were supposed to marvel at it."

Surprisingly, that's how I discovered El Greco. I was trying to appreciate the Mona Lisa when, disgusted by the crowd of photo snapping Jappanese around me, I wandered away only to be stopped dead in my tracks by the handful of El Greco's in a nearby hallway. It was the same reaction as you had to "A Walk at Dusk."

Sella Turcica said...

"It’s the same painting, and all of a sudden you see it with more affectation."

FIFY

Scaramouche said...

I just saw an episode of BBC's "Fake or Fortune" that illustrates this phenomenon. Two paintings in question might or might not have been by Gainsborough. The art museum that had one of them apparently had no interest in it, and had had it stored in a closet for years. As soon as it was proved to be a Gainsborough they were delighted with its brilliance and declared their intention to display it immediately. "But," I thought, "it was exactly the same painting, and looked exactly the same, before you knew it was a Gainsborough, and you couldn't have cared less." Pure celebrity worship trumping art perception and appreciation, even among experts.

CWJ said...

"I just saw an episode of BBC's "Fake or Fortune" that illustrates this phenomenon."

But what you describe was not the attitude of the Nelson-Atkins. They didn't hide it. They liked it enough to display it when they thought it was only the work of a "follower." Finding out it was an original didn't change their behavior. It only made them happier.

They appreciated it before they discovered they were supposed to appreciate it. Just the opposite of your example.

Paddy O said...

CWJ, thanks for sharing that. I've never been inside the Louvre (only outside) but I strongly suspect I'd wander to different halls as well. Finding what grabs us rather than what we're told is important is such a wonderful experience. I don't remember exactly, but I likely spent a fair amount of time in the room with Friedrich because it was less crowded than the room with Van Gogh's Irises.

Scaramouche said...

It's not the opposite of my example; it's merely a difference of degree.

The director of the Nelson-Atkins said "But the work has not changed. What’s interesting is that the way we look at it will change." Perhaps they hadn't stuck it away in storage as in my example (the article actually does not say whether they had it on display or not), but by Mr. Zugazagoitia's admission they regarded it with much more enthusiasm after they found out it was by a celebrated artist: "It’s the same painting, and all of a sudden you see it with more affection."

As a previous commenter (Tim Maguire) pointed out, this thinking is "a great example of how unimportant the work itself is to the art world's assessment of its value and importance."

CWJ said...

Scaramouche,

I live in Kansas City. I have seen this piece at the Nelson. So they have not hidden it away as much as the NYT article suggests. But point taken. We'll see how much the museum's behavior changes, if at all.

CWJ said...

Paddy O,

I've commented too much here and elsewhere on Althouse, but you made my day.

The Godfather said...

Why should we be surprised that a museum has greater interest in (or affection for) a painting by an acknowleged master than a painting by someone who copied that master? One doesn't learn as much by studying the work of a copiest than by studying the work of the Master himself. We, as individual but uninformed art lovers, may enjoy the copy as much as the original, but that doesn't mean that we are right not to appreciate the difference.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Have you ever seen Wells' "F for Fake," Professor?

Ann Althouse said...

"That painting was made when art was art, not just the deranged output of the mentally ill."

Yeah, but St. Anthony... he was deranged, right?

David said...

Isn't it possible that the underdrawings were by Bosch but the final surface was a "school" painting. In other words, this was a discard?

mikee said...

If you really want to see a rollercoaster of art appreciation, expectations of value overturned, and desire for art that has nothing to do with appreciation of the work, watch the Bravo channel show "Untying the Knot" where divorcing couples go through evaluation of their prized possessions and arbitration over ownership after the split.

Divorce is oft messy but even more oft entertaining to those not personally involved.

Zach said...

The Nelson is an excellent museum, well worth a trip.

Zach said...

My own artistic discovery was Winslow Homer's "The Veteran in a New Field"

http://images.metmuseum.org/CRDImages/ap/original/DP102298.jpg

It's also one of the few pieces of art whose meaning legitimately changes when you read the title. It's very good just as a harvest painting, but when you read the title you realize it's about the Civil War and is deliberately invoking images like this

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-9NsyT-Nzg5I/Td7YIMeQD1I/AAAAAAAABWk/M2zrnHNpYB0/s1600/ARTSTOR_103_41822003005822-782710.jpg