In October , a striking portrait of a young woman in Renaissance dress made world news headlines. How did cutting-edge imaging analysis help tie the portrait to Leonardo? NOVA meets a new breed of experts who are approaching "cold case" art mysteries as if they were crime scenes, determined to discover "who committed the art.
NARRATOR: He is, perhaps, the greatest artist of all time, a talent so unique, even his notebooks are worth tens of millions of dollars: Leonardo da Vinci, the genius who painted the Mona Lisa, whose rare finished works are among the treasures of the western world. So imagine getting your hands on a previously unknown portrait by Leonardo, a work like this, a profile of a mysterious young woman. If it really is a Leonardo, it could be worth a hundred million dollars. But first, you would have to prove it's authentic,….
They'll search for clues, probing deep beneath the layers of pigment, recreating the composition with original materials, and even digging into the mysteries surrounding the young woman and the creation of her portrait.
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It was an image that appeared out of nowhere, but it now may be worth a hundred million dollars. The reason is simple: this portrait may be a work by one of the greatest masters of all, Leonardo da Vinci. The story begins in New York, on January 30th, Christie's auction house holds its annual sale of work by Old Masters. One of the items is an unusual piece: a profile of a young woman, drawn in chalk, on stretched animal skin, known as vellum, and glued to an oak panel.
It's more like a painting than a drawing. Christie's lists it as a German work from the early 19th century.
He makes his living finding bargains and turning them for a profit, and he thinks Christie's might have made an enormous mistake. I don't understand why it's cataloged as 19th century. What it was, I wasn't sure, but I was sure it was not 19th century, and I was sure that it was either a fake, completely, or Italian.
Silverman leaves a bid, but he doesn't go high enough. Peter Silverman misses his chance. No, I didn't think so, because things disappear into collections or vaults and things like that. It's a second chance he's not about to let slip by. Things just exploded in my mind and my heart, and I said, "My God, I couldn't believe my luck. It's wrapped up in an envelope, and you put it under your arm, and you walk away with it, just like in the department store.
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Like a Vuitton bag or a pack of oranges. Some art experts who see it say the work is unusual and probably is genuine Renaissance. As they examine it closely, a radical idea begins to take hold: what if this portrait is not just a Renaissance work, but one by a great master like Leonardo da Vinci? Just breathing the name Leonardo is like lobbing a bombshell into the staid world of art. Perhaps the most intriguing figure in all of art, Leonardo da Vinci lived from to His boundless curiosity about science, natural history and the arts personified the Renaissance, but very few of his paintings survive.
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In all the museums in the world, there are only about a dozen paintings accepted as being from the master's hand. What he did was always so extraordinary: the manual gifts, the composition, the visual subtlety. They just have extraordinary presence, and we're only just understanding fully what he did. If he's right, he stands to pocket not just thousands, but millions of dollars. But first he's got to prove, beyond a doubt, that Leonardo himself drew the portrait. When it comes to a work of art, what does proof mean? The portrait is not signed.
There's no record of its existence anywhere. Proving it as Leonardo's work means making a case on three fronts: artistic, historical, scientific. But Silverman faces a formidable challenge; the art critics are deeply divided. He contacts Martin Kemp, one of the world's most influential Leonardo scholars. Kemp agrees to look at the portrait for no fee. NARRATOR: His expert eye is immediately drawn to details, like the headband and the ribbon holding back her hair, visible in this super-high-resolution image;….
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Leonardo always had that wonderful feeling for the stuffness of materials, for how they react under pressure. You can see these little tiny marks, which must almost be done with a one-hair brush or something like that. And that lower lid, just look at that, the two little lashes there. But others are much less impressed than Kemp. My personal hunch is that this one, over time, will, as they say, sink without trace. MARTIN KEMP: Having had this extraordinary sort of feeling that there's something very special about this, you keep resisting that, because you can get carried away, and then you start seeing what you want to see.
So, all the time, you're sort of pulling down and saying, "Hold on a minute," you know. Don't get there. And I said to him, "Look, are you joking? Are you feeling well? I mean, is everything okay with you? Why do you think that it's not 19th century? Why do you think that it's not a fake or a copy? In particular, what is the age of the animal skin, the vellum, the portrait is drawn on? All plants absorb carbon atoms from the atmosphere. Carbon comes in many forms, including a radioactive type called carbon Animals take in carbon by eating plants.
After they die, the amount of carbon in their bodies begins to decay at a predictable rate. By measuring how much carbon is still present in the remains, scientists can estimate how long ago the animal died. In Silverman's case, the drawing is on vellum, or animal skin, and this will give a good idea of how old the vellum is.
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When the results come back, they point not to the 19th century but to the Renaissance. They estimate there is a more than 95 percent probability that the vellum dated from the years to Leonardo lived from to So the age of the vellum overlaps Leonardo's life. But does that prove, scientifically, that the drawing on the vellum is by Leonardo da Vinci? Not by a long shot. Fakers routinely use old materials to fool both art experts and scientists into thinking something is genuine when it's not. Leo Stevenson knows all about such tricks. He makes his living by painting in the style of the great masters.
He's not a forger, but he knows all the secrets of their craft.
Stevenson's home looks like a museum. It's filled with art that seems to be from different eras and different artists, but Stevenson himself painted every one. Now, he prepares to sacrifice a recent purchase, worth about a hundred dollars, to create a new fake in the style of Claude Monet. If we are doing a late 19th century canvas, it has to be on a late 19th century canvas.
http://maisonducalvet.com/callosa-de-segura-citas-online.php This is a rather bad continental picture of the s, but what I want it for is mainly for the back. And this shows it has an authentic maker's stamp, authentic stretcher, authentic condition. So if somebody sees this…if you fool the eye, you'll fool the mind. And the idea is to repaint this canvas to represent something far more valuable than it is, and you've fooled somebody. It is sort of morally wrong. But if we're going to do this exercise correctly, this is what a forger would do.
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So, now we have a canvas as Monet would have expected it to look. Now we have to do the difficult bit. He is using a person's expectations. If somebody believes something to be real or they want it to be or they expect it to be, he's in there.