Posts Tagged ‘Caravaggio’

Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Revisited or Caravaggio Tart Art

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Collection in Madrid continues to qualify ever more as a misguided cultural and financial ‘investment’ for the State of Spain.

Every day that passes, the art becomes more of a tourist attraction and less of a cultural statement, with a corresponding reduction in quality and authenticity.

Meanwhile treasury budgets have sored, fundraising activities become ever more ambitious and competitive, while the original owners, on the other hand, continue to exploit tax advantages inherent in the business of art collecting.

The Thyssen-Bornemisza collection has always been at the forefront of such mirages, ever since, in 1993, the Thyssen family sold half of Heini Thyssen’s highly questionable collection to the Spanish state for what the gullible Spanish public were convinced was a bargain price of some $600 million.

By now they must have begun to realise that the purchase price and cost of housing the museum was only the tip of the iceberg. For then you have to constantly invest more money in such necessities as staff, insurance, the cost of mounting one-off exhibitions, whose purpose is to encourage the public to revisit and, finally, the black art of restoration.

The latter being, of course, a contradiction in terms, for the more paint that is added to the surface, the less of the original work can legitimately be attributed to the artist in question. This is particularly relevant in the case of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, which has often been accused of already suffering from over-restoration.

But as the restorers are the same people as those who advise on how much restoration is needed, it rapidly becomes an ever increasing financial burden, to the point where the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum has even had to resort to crowd funding and sponsorship to raise the finance needed to undertake such activities!

The latest example of this artistic vandalism is Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Caravaggio, originally commissioned by Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, which, according to the Thyssen-Bornemiza Museum’s restoration ‘team’, had already suffered from ‘aggressive’ restoration at some unspecified earlier point in time.

Ironically, considering the rumours surrounding Heini’s widow Tita Thyssen-Bornemisza’s colourful past history, the model for the picture was anything but saintly and was in fact Fillide Melandroni, a leading courtesan of the time.

Originally attributed to Orazio Gentileschi, the painting was ‘re-attributed’ to Caravaggio when scholars began to realise that they could make more money from confirming rather than denying the authenticity of art.

For this claim to be accepted by other ‘scholars’, it was also necessary to re-establish the status of a remarkably similar work, owned by the Prado and deposited in the church Iglesia de los Jeronimos, as being a mere ‘copy’.

There can now be little doubt that like many similar national institutions, the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum has become, as I warned them it would, more of a financial tread-mill than a cultural asset.

Fortunately, due to the fact that the Spanish agreed to sign a contract that prevents them from ever selling or disposing of any of the works that make up the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, the value of the works is somewhat academic.

Thus they might be best advised to get rid of their costly restoration team and follow the example of my late mother, who used to add sparkle to our artistic family treasures by giving them an annual wipe with a diluted mixture of toilet cleaner!

 

see this article by Natividad Pulido in the Spanish ABC newspaper of 21.10.2018:

https://www.abc.es/cultura/arte/abci-retrato-cortesana-como-santa-paso-manos-cardenales-201810210128_noticia.html

CARAVAGGIO (Michelangelo Merisi) Saint Catherine of Alexandria, ca. 1598 (photo copyright Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid)

A representative of the ASISA charity funding the restoration (middle), with two representatives of the Thyssen Museum Madrid (photo copyright: Guillermo Navarro, ABC newspaper, Spain)

The ‘restoration’ team at the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum in Madrid, Spain (photo copyright: Giullermo Navarro, ABC newspaper, Spain)

 

 

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