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Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper"

Image source ArtprintCollection.com; Used with permission

It was always popular but, ever since a certain novel was published, Leonardo's Milanese mural has become the most intensely scrutinized painting on the planet. Here are answers to 10 common questions about the Last Supper.

Art History Spotlight10

Guess the Artist

Monday November 5, 2012
Mystery Artist 64, November 5, 2012

Your clues this week are:
  • The artist worked as a manuscript illuminator and panel painter during the Early Italian Renaissance.

  • Giorgio Vasari, fount of suspect information, claimed the artist trained under a person who was beatified by Pope John Paul II centuries later. In reality, there is no documentation supporting Vasari's claim (I know! Try to recover from your shock!), but our artist clearly admired the future Blessed's work.

  • The artist came from a Florentine family that constantly battled with the Medici clan over who had the most wealth and power. At various times, over the course of 100 years or so, both parties sent rivaling family leaders (an ever-evolving cast of characters) into exile. When both leaders were in Florence, they competed to build the most imposing palazzo -- the artist's family won, by the way, which incited yet another de' Medici to confiscate their palazzo and not return ownership for 30 years. Naturally, all concerned kept marrying their daughters off to the other family thanks to the "friends close, enemies closer" philosophy.

  • And

  • This work is one of 17 illuminations the artist created for a Book of Hours commissioned by a third Florentine family. They were not nobility, but kept marrying up and acquiring more money by any means necessary. Wealthy, though not nearly as wealthy as the other two, they were known around town for acting like flashy nouveau riche types. This tribe also had a tendency to pick feuds with just about anybody over anything. The list of people they alienated in the late 13th- and early 14th-centuries includes the Guelphs, the Ghibellines and the Neri, as well as Dante Alighieri, who slammed them in the seventeenth canto of the "Paradise" portion of his Divine Comedy.

    I bring these plots and intrigue to light to illustrate the irony of the work above, in which a Saint serenely kneels in prayer. Money cannot save one's treacherous soul, but apparently it can buy a very nice picture of it.
Please email me your guesses over the coming week. I'll post the winner and correct answer with next week's guessing game. Good luck!

Last Week's Answer:

The set of clues didn't seem that easy, but nearly everyone knew that it was Picasso and his Mama. (Many of you were also winners of my top secret Pithy Picasso Comment award.) I can't single anyone out because Sandy knocked me offline for a while and all of the answers came in at the same time. So congratulations, All, and thanks for participating!

October Treats

Wednesday October 31, 2012
It is Halloween and I am costumed as that famous painting Functionally Literate Middle-Aged Woman with Bad Hairdo. Since you cannot ring my doorbell for your share of the Fun Size Kit Kats (don't worry about waste -- I will make the huge sacrifice of eating them myself), here are some new articles instead:
Treats just for you, and none contain refined sugar or HFCS because I care about your dental health as well as your pancreas. Happy reading!

Malcolm D. MacDougall III: Parallel Worlds (Updated)

Wednesday October 31, 2012
Rhizomes, 2010;© Malcolm D. MacDougall III

As everyone on Earth probably knows by now, the US Eastern Seaboard was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. I feel comfortable speaking for my readers in saying we hold all of those affected in our thoughts. Among many other locations, Lower Manhattan is gallantly trying to cope with the mess that evil witch left in her wake. Many of the galleries in Chelsea saw flooding (although their staffs had wisely moved art out of harm's way beforehand), and power outages remain -- in fact, the New Museum is closed until power is restored. Things are a bit better farther uptown; The Met Museum, for one, will reopen for its regular hours tomorrow.

In the midst of chaos and heartbreak, life does its best to go on. And to that end, please allow me to direct your attention to an upcoming exhibition by one of "our" artists: Malcolm D. MacDougall III. His show, Parallel Worlds, is scheduled to open on November 9 at 287 SPRING, a gallery and performance venue in the Hudson Square district. (I have no idea how 287 SPRING is faring, but it is many blocks *south* of the 14th Street Con Edison power station that exploded Monday night. Here's hoping that all is functional in Lower Manhattan soon.) If you have the chance and the inclination, treat yourself to Malcolm's show. It runs through Saturday, December 8, 2012. Oh, by the way: you know Parallel World's curator. It is our own, beloved Beth S. Gersh-Nešic, wearing her Director of the New York Arts Exchange hat.

Update (Monday, November 5): The opening of Parallel Worlds will happen this coming Friday as scheduled, and the New Museum is now open. Unfortunately, many galleries and artists' studios were not spared. If you can bear to look, Hrag Vartanian has been posting updates and photos of the unholy mess on Hyperallergic.

P.S. If you don't know of Hrag and his writing, you should.

Image Credit:

Malcolm D. MacDougall III
Rhizomes, 2010
© Malcolm D. MacDougall III

Guess the Artist

Monday October 29, 2012
Mystery Artist 63, October 29, 2012

Your clues this week are deliberately short:
  • This is an early work.
  • It was painted in the 19th-century.
  • You know who the artist is.

  • And

  • The sitter is connected to the least complicated relationship the artist ever had with another human being.
Please email me your guesses over the coming week. I'll post the winner and correct answer with next week's guessing game. Good luck!

The Last Answer:

The artist in question when last we met was Jan Matejko (Polish, 1838-1893), and the portrait was of Boleslaw III (a.k.a.: Boleslaw the Wrymouth; 1086-1138), Prince of Poland from 1107 to 1138. Yolanta from Toronto knew this immediately, and assured me that it was an easy challenge if one has a Polish background -- which, I discovered, many, many readers do. Congratulations to Yolanta, and thanks to all who participated!

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