Art News Headlines: July 9, 2011

Nicolaes Maes, Sleeping Man Having His Pockets, (c.1655), oil on panel, 14 x 12 in

One of the world’s best private collections of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings, including masterworks by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Gerrit Dou, Jan Steen and others, is on view at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor starting today and continuing through October 2, 2011. Organized by the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, where it debuted earlier this year, Dutch and Flemish Masterworks from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection presents paintings exceptional for their quality, superb condition and impeccable provenance. Premier examples by the most talented artists of the Dutch Golden Age, many of these works are distinguished by a glowing quality of light reflecting Holland’s proximity to the sea and the swiftly changing weather patterns that sweep across the flat countryside. As exemplars of an unsurpassed period of artistic, cultural, scientific and commercial accomplishment, the paintings in the Van Otterloo collection provide a rich overview of one of the high points of Western European art.

Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, (c. 1500), oil on walnut panel, 25 13/16 x 17 7/8 in

A long-lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci has been identified in an American collection and will be exhibited for the first time this November. Titled Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World) and dating around 1500, the newly discovered masterpiece depicts a half-length figure of Christ facing frontally, holding a crystal orb in his left hand as he raises his right in blessing. One of some 15 surviving da Vinci oil paintings, the work will be included in “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan,” to be held at the National Gallery in London from November 9, 2011 through February 5, 2012. The last time a da Vinci oil painting was discovered was in 1909, when the Benois Madonna came to light. Salvator Mundi was long known to have existed, but was presumed to have been destroyed. The composition was documented in two preparatory drawings by the artist, and more than 20 painted copies by students and followers of the artist, as well as a meticulous 1650 etching made after the original painting by the Bohemian artist Wenceslaus Hollar.

In other art news, a 2,000-year-old ossuary, discovered following the robbery of an ancient burial cave, may contain the bones of the daughter of Jesus’ crucifier, experts are saying. The small stone chest housing burial bones is decorated with a stylized floral motive and an Aramaic inscription from the time of the Second Jewish Temple, which reads, “Miriam, Daughter of Yeshua, Son of Caiaphas, Priests [of] Ma’aziah from Beth ‘Imri.” Researchers ascribe this ancestry to the family of Yehosef Bar Caiaphas, most famous for his involvement in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The thieves removed the ossuary far from its original location, taking it out of its archaeological context and making it difficult to trace its entire story. Since it wasn’t discovered in a controlled archaeological excavation, it underwent microscopic examinations using an environmental scanning electron microscope to evaluate its authenticity. Researchers have since determined that the inscription on the ossuary is genuine and ancient.

Con gaudeant catholici, f.214 (detail)

A priceless collection of 12th-century religious manuscripts was stolen from a cathedral in the northwestern Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela, police reported Friday. Galicia regional police inspector Benigno Roca said a special unit has been set up to try to recover the Calixtinus Codex, which went missing from a strongbox in the cathedral’s archive room last week. He said there were no signs of a break-in, and mentioned that European police forces had been alerted. Cathedral dean Jose Maria Diaz said the richly decorated tome was of incalculable value. He said whoever took it knew this and knew where to find it. The codex is considered the first guide for people making the ancient Christian pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago, the Spanish name for the Way of St. James. Francisco Singul, an art historian and expert on the pilgrimage, said the theft “was comparable to stealing Las Meninas,” in reference to painter Diego Velazquez’s masterpiece in Madrid’s Prado Museum.

The Gagosian Gallery in London presents a set of recent paintings and sculptures by Takashi Murakami in a new exhibition. In his distinctive “Superflat” style, which employs highly refined, traditional Japanese painting techniques and formats to depict a charged mix of historical subject matter, Pop, animé and otaku content within a flattened representational picture-plane, Murakami moves freely within an ever-expanding field of aesthetic issues and cultural inspirations. Parallel to his distinctive “toonish” formulations of utopian and dystopian themes, he has recollected and revitalized religious and secular narratives of transcendence and enlightenment favored by non-conformist Japanese artists from the Early Modern era, commonly considered to be counterpart to the Western Romantic tradition. By situating himself within their legacy of bold and lively individualism in a manner that is entirely his own, he revealed himself to be an artist in dialogue with history and very much of his time. The artist currently lives and works in Tokyo, New York, and Los Angeles.

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.

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