Rumors abound that new Leonardo da Vinci painting has been found in Boston
By Sarah Kaufman
Thursday, December 31, 2009; C01
Is the world about to gain another Leonardo da Vinci painting?
The multitasking Renaissance genius who produced the most famous portrait in the world — Mona somebody — left us only 10 to 20 other paintings. Yet if current whispers bear out about a picture in Boston, that number may increase by one more. Art experts say it’s the equivalent of stumbling upon a surprise Shakespeare play or a lost Homeric epic.
At this point, we have only a tantalizing mystery — perhaps the unspooling of a new Da Vinci code — dangling on the slender thread of secrets and a handful of clues that emerged this week:
— The Washington Post receives a tip from a source who wishes to remain anonymous that the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has in its possession a painting believed to be by the Italian master, and is in the process of authenticating it. Were it deemed a true Leonardo, such a painting would be only the second one in all the Americas. (The first hangs here, in the National Gallery of Art.)
— We put a call in to Frederick Ilchman, the Boston museum’s Renaissance curator. Does he have such a painting? “Can’t tell you anything about it, sorry,” he says, before hanging up. (Do we detect a yes in that click?)
— We try Katie Getchell, the museum’s curatorial deputy director, who says through a spokeswoman: “We don’t comment on works that the MFA may be studying or considering for acquisition.” Asked if this meant that the MFA is, in fact, studying a possible da Vinci painting for purchase, spokeswoman Dawn Griffin says she can say nothing more.
— We ask Renaissance painting expert Miguel Falomir Faus if he knows anything about the painting. He tells us in an e-mail that he had lunch Tuesday with New York University art history professor Alex Nagel in New York, “and he talked [to] me about the new da Vinci.” Faus adds, however, “I have not seen the work (I don’t even know its subject).”
— Nagel, for his part, further stirs the pot with his own e-mail to us: “How can I comment on a painting I haven’t seen? Do you have a photo?”
No, we don’t have a photo. We have an imagination, though, and it’s taken off for some beautifully lit marbled hall, where we stand before a swirl of pigment — a plump infant? another half-smile under almond eyes? — from the enchanted left hand of da Vinci himself. The man who changed the course of Western painting with his exquisite skill, warmth of feeling and boundary-pushing. We didn’t need Dan Brown’s breathless bestseller “The Da Vinci Code” to cast this artist in tantalizing shadows. They were already there.
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