This episode is probably one of the most despicable acts that have ever been perpetrated by High Priests of Art, including particularly the famous art historian Bernard Berenson, and shows the wretched deviousness of this business; the clannish, Mafia-like behaviour and charlatanism that pervades it. This was the first and perhaps only time that the world’s art elite stood trial for competence. So it happened, as always in the art business, when someone from outside attacks the family, all will turn on him. It is "all for one and one for all". It is necessary to keep all disputes within the family! And nothing has changed since, the same steer manure is still being distributed, though perhaps now much better packaged.
This information is extracted from The Rape of la Belle by Harry Hahn (Frank Glenn Publishing Co. Inc., Kansas City, Missouri, 1946). And I will quote freely because the writer said it so much better than I can! Anyone involved in antiques and art should read this revelation. May I also note again that absolutely nothing has changed in the passing years. In fact the business has become more corrupt, concentrated within the big auction houses that are now the seat of the academic adherents and the proponents of the superiority of precious pretence and the so claimed phenomenal three ounces of instinct over modern physical science and pure common logic. And with billions of dollars a year in turnover they, the polished elite, are not going to relinquish this fat cat come hell or high water.
THE TURNING OF WINE INTO WATER
This incident was started in 1929, while Hahn’s wife was preparing to sell a Leonardo da Vinci painting called La belle Ferronniers to the Kansas City Art Institute for $250,000. A reporter heard of the deal and asked Lord Joseph Duveen, a renowned art historian and then-leader of the art elite, for his remarks. As Hahn relates,
“This times the Lord Duveen while thinking him untouchable and above consequences, he made the wrong comment, for he made the comment to a New York world reporter who asks him his opinion on the painting. Although never having seen the painting, he said "the painting in Kansas City is a measly copy of which there have been hundred made of this and other subjects by Leonardo da Vinci and offered to the world as genuine. Leonardo never made replicas of his works and the real original La Belle Ferronniers is in the Louvre."
As is still common today! Such snide remarks are still being made by auction houses, dealers and academics, but usually as jokes shared between the clan elite.
The deal fell through and Mrs Hahn the owner realized that Duveen, whose fame was such that he could make and break a painting, was to blame and most likely rightly so. And she sued for 500,000 dollars.
“Duveen answered her suit, in doing this he denied that the painting was by Leonardo, and he listed eleven elite European and American experts that agreed with him, and picked the works apart detail by detail. "The head does not show the consummate skill of the human structure that is fundamental and inherent in the works of Leonardo. The head is attached to the shoulders in a poor fashion, the plaits of flesh below the chin are not natural; the neck itself is a dummy cylinder of flesh, and the left hand profile of the neck is out of design: the moulding of the shoulders and neck is primitive."
This time they got the wrong person who was not impressed with the elitist jargon! Who had suddenly usurped the mantel of academic anatomists, as they do today; by taking the role of the objective scientist in exhibition committees!
Let me say this. As you can see by the reproduction on the plate, even an amateur that has seen other Leonardo’s will know that the Hahn painting, in comparison with the Louvre, is certainly more likely, no unquestionably in the style of Leonardo da Vinci! This includes the melodic, rounded gentle flow. As to the Louvre painting, it is a cold, hard, stiff copy! This is not Leonardo’s smile on her lips, it’s a thin, bitter frown. My God, what a monstrosity! This beats the turning of water into wine by a mile! It’s not even a good copy! As the reader can see there is no difference between now and then, it is the conning of the minions; a "jury" of arrogant charlatans!
The case went to court in the summer of 1933. Hahn listed the experts that were called to witness in Duveen’s defence, the first being the eminent art historian Bernard Berenson.
“The accomplice and employee of Duveen the world-renowned greatest expert on the Renaissance. Of course no one knew he was working for Duveen at the time for a 10 percent kickback and a retainer. He did admit it in court under oath. Obviously this most highly respected art historian did not consider this as being biased”
Others were: Maurice Brockwell, art critic and writer , London; Sir Martin Conway, Director of the Imperial War Museum,; Sir Herbert Cook, owner of the Doughty House London; Capt. Robert Langton-Douglas, an art critic and writer and former director of the Irish Free State Museum; Roger Fry, formerly attaché at the Metropolitan Museum in New York; Sir Charles Holmes, director of the National Gallery, London; Professor Arthur Pillans-Laurie, Professor of Chemistry at the Herriot-Watt College in Edinburgh (he was the only true academic, a scientist who did not claim to have that extra sense and that Duveen after all wished he had not invited); Leonce Marie Nicolle, former attaché at the Louvre museum, Paris; and Professor Schmidt-Degner, chief director of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Hahn noted that the prevailing opinion on the supposed "real" Belle in the Louvre was one of scepticism:
“Before this court case not one expert or art historian or even the Louvre itself ever believed or voiced the opinion that the Louvre painting known as La Belle Ferronniers was an authentic Leonardo. Even Duveen himself in the year that he made the statement, when writing to his London manager about the painting, even Duveen himself did not believe the painting to be authentic. And so were the opinions of every other authority or art writer or critic of note”
A sudden reversal of opinion within such short space of time was nothing less than miraculous; of course these gentlemen created such miracles many times a year, sometimes twice in a day! They were so used to the poor ignorant minions like you and me to believe with great awe in this, their extrasensory perception, that some of them actually believed in that myth themselves. It is as power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely! You believe your own BS, so to speak. But remember the 600 or so Rembrandts and the ones who owned what they thought were Rembrandts. Never once were they given an apology, in fact there is a great movement in process to discredit the committee and turn the clock back to the good old days of fairy-tale-telling. It will certainly fail, for one cannot dispute facts and science forever, they are by their very nature unassailable. We are still seeing in other schools of Old Masters, millions spent in trust of this extra sixth sense, without even the smallest rudimentary scientific test. Absolutely amazing! Well, they say, there is one born every minute. Sucker, that is.
Now let me give you some of the answers that the cream of art historians gave. Remember the trial was not only on the autograph character of the two paintings. This trial was on the competence of the elite art historians.
Unfortunately the expert witnesses wasted plenty of breath contradicting each other on the subject of the priming used in the two paintings.
In questions in the court trial on the colour of the priming that is used on the Hahn painting, Sir Charles Holmes. Answer was that he could definitely see that the colour is red. He testified: "Leonardo starts as we all can see on white ground! And on that basis the Hahn painting with red priming could not possibly be by Leonardo."
Roger Fry, the American art critic, thoroughly agreed with Sir Charles that the priming in the Hahn painting was red. As to the color of the primer of the Louvre painting, he stated "It is white because the peculiar quality of color in that face is the kind which I believe can only be produced by allowing a white original ground to show through subsequent layers of color."
Question: "You mean that white counts in the total result all the time?"
Question: "Do you seriously contend that the priming causes the color of the flesh of the picture?"
Answer: "Most assuredly in Leonardo’s case"!
That asserts again the contempt of academia for the intelligence of common man! If it were not so serious one would have thought it were the Three Stooges or the Marx Brothers entertaining.
Adolphe Venturi, a world-renowned expert and author on Italian art, made astounding pronouncements in the demonstration of his special sensibility:
"The flesh in da Vinci paintings always has a golden glow. It is flesh enveloped in a golden veil and you can see it in the Louvre. You will see a flesh almost bronzed a sort of golden bronze that is peculiar to da Vinci. He obtained this color effect by placing beneath his pictures priming or first coat of sepia or reddish brown and with this first coat the lighting took on certain warmth that is not to be seen in the Hahn picture."
When asked about the color of the priming in the Louvre painting he had this to say:
"The red is in the priming of the Louvre painting, and the color of the first coat permeates the color of the flesh in the whole of the face and in the tint of the face. Even the shadows have something golden about them."
Believe it or not, Venturi was examining the painting for two hours, and later it was realized that at the time he wore thick dark blue glasses that he did not remove! Even children would give a better account of themselves, how can one explain such drivel, were they high on something? Such arrogant contempt for the reasoning ability of common man is disgusting.
Maurice Brockwell, the known British critic and art writer had not seen the Hahn painting but volunteered his learned opinion from a photo which the Duveen attorneys provided. Asked as to his opinion on the color of the priming of the Hahn painting? "Risking an opinion from looking at a photo, I would say that the priming of the Hahn painting is black."
This kind of gall is unbelievable! Now that is what one calls extrasensory perception! One can also suggest that this man is a first-class charlatan, or I would say more a fool. Imagine, from a photo? And this in the Thirties, the age of black and white!!
Regarding the fabulous golden glow, Sir Charles Holmes and Martin Conway conceded that it might have been caused by old varnish and that they did not see it in the Mona Lisa, and Captain Robert Langton-Douglas testified that he could not swear as to the color of the priming in any Leonardo.
Who is Who ?
La Belle I
La Belle II