Art News Headlines: July 21, 2010


A conservator at work on the Garima Gospels via The Art Newspaper

Hiding out in a remote Ethiopian monastery for what could have been over a millennium, a set of illuminated manuscripts called the Garima Gospels have been newly unearthed. Recent radiocarbon dating conducted at Oxford suggests that the Gospels were completed between 330 and 650 AD, making them the oldest surviving illuminated manuscripts in Africa. The isolated monastery that has protected the manuscripts for so many years is located in a remote mountainous region in Tigray. It is unclear how the Garima Gospels were successfully kept hidden for so long, as the history of the monastery itself is debated, and many such manuscripts have long been destroyed. The find is both astonishing and exciting to researchers and historians, who cite the early Byzantine-style manuscripts as an important key to unlocking the history of the production of early Christian manuscripts, and the spread of Christianity throughout Africa.

The Martydrom of St Lawrence: is it the work of the maestro? via Irish Times

Also in art news this week, another find has art historians chattering—a new Caravaggio painting may have been unearthed. In a year when the famous Baroque maestro’s name has been splashed across the headlines time and time again, and only a few days shy of the 400th anniversary of his death, it seems almost too good to be true. The painting, discovered by the Vatican and entitled The Martyrdom of San Lorenzo, depicts a semi-nude man about to be roasted by angry flames. Although it is indeed a beautiful composition and appears to the untrained eye no different than Caravaggio’s other works, experts remain dubious. Ongoing analysis will need to be conducted to prescribe the painting its true parentage, but in the meantime, the work is being hailed as authentic in the city of Rome, where Caravaggio celebrations run rampant this week.

Norman Rockwell (American, 1894–1978). The Tattoo Artist, 1944. via Brooklyn Museum

Well-recognized and beloved American illustrator Norman Rockwell will be honored in an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum entitled Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera. The exhibition follows a two-year project sponsored by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts, which carefully catalogued photographs, notes, and paintings assembled by the artist. Rockwell achieved huge notoriety largely through his many magazine covers for The Saturday Evening Post, painting often humorous and stylized scenes of everyday American life. The illustrator preferred to work from photographs, setting up entire scenes and using friends and family members as his models. The Brooklyn exhibition, which runs from November 19, 2010 to April 10, 2011, focuses primarily on the artist’s convention of painting from photographs, and features many original works.

Michelle Obama to Host Design Award Ceremony via Art Info

This week, first lady Michelle Obama will host the 2010 National Design Awards sponsored by the Smithsonian’s National Design Museum. The program bestows awards to design firms or artists that celebrate brilliant design as a vital humanistic tool in shaping the world. Obama is well known for her championed support of the arts, especially in regards to up-and-coming fashion designers. This year, nominations came from over 2,500 leaders from every kind of design field, ranging from fashion to industrial design. Winners are selected from a diverse jury made up of prominent figures in the design world. In addition, a teen fair will be held in Washington later this week, with highlights such as a keynote address by Bravo darling Tim Gunn.

Quantitative Chemical Analysis Sheds New Light on Leonardo Da Vinci’s Faces via Art Daily

For the first time ever, a quantitative chemical analysis has been done on several Leonardo Da Vinci paintings from the Louvre Museum—including the Mona Lisa—without extracting any samples. Findings published by researcher Philippe Walter show the many layers that compose each painting, including several minute coatings of glazes that helped create the “sfumato” technique for which the master is so revered. Walter and his team of scientists used a technique called X-ray fluorescence, conducted in the rooms of the Louvre, to determine the composition and thickness of each layer. Da Vinci’s paintings fascinate, largely due to their smoky lifelike appearances, as the artist was obsessed with achieving perfect realism. The results obtained in this study help to understand the master’s search towards making his art look alive.

Laura Lawson paints when writer’s block strikes and writes when painter’s block strikes. She has studied fine art at LCAD and is pursuing a degree in journalism. Recently diagnosed with the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, she strives to bring hope to those without vision through her blog. She is currently working on her first book about coping with vision loss.