Feature: ArtScene

ArtScene: Munch and Fra Angelico in Paris, Leonardo's La Bella Principessa

By , Columnist

Centre Pompidou

Edvard Munch: L'Oeil moderne 1900-1944 at Pompidou

PARIS. Guillaume is a fraud. Has to be. The lover who ran off with a priest is back.  Said the priest wasn’t sincere. Come again? We’re supposed to be looking at the Edvard Munch, l’oeil moderne 1900-1944 at the Centre Georges Pompidou.  But one half of me has the bleatings of lovesick Guilllaume (why he never accepted the offer from le boucher de Avignon, I’ll never know) and the other my Question of the Day: why did Munch do so many self-portraits? 

Munch self portrait.jpg

Guillaume starts a line with the droopy youth with the ear phones and I escape to the boulevard Haussmann for a quick peep at yet another Fra Angelico Masters of Light at the Institut de France’s Musee.  Both worth a look before they close in January but there are no longer surprises even in these geniuses 600 years apart.

Fra Angelico and the Masters of Light.jpg

Mind you, this is the first time that the French have devoted a whole space to Fra Angelico. We have here 25 paintings and that’s a lot when you consider the period and the complexity of gathering an exhibition like this.

Could be the equal attraction is in the supporting room of painters who would have known Fra Anglico - Lippi, Uccello, Monaco et al. All there until 16 January next year and well worth the ten euros. Rico, who always hangs round the Jacquemart-Andre says it’s still the worst coffee off the Champs-Elyees but he’s got a new place that no one we know knows.

The coffee smells good as soon as the door opens and Guillaume’s sitting in the corner with the droopy kid with the ear-muffs. G turns his back on us pretending we’re not there or something. Rico says don’t worry. Live in the skin. Everyone’s a fraud but maybe the fraud’s better than the real thing and do I think La Bella Principessa is the real thing? I say it could be? Then, why, isn’t it in the Leonardo exhibition at the National Gallery in London. (It opens November).  He’s right.

La Bella Principessa is a wonderful painting but, for years it has been argued over with a bunch of people saying it was not a Leonardo but a German pretend - probably nineteenth century. Now, Oxford’s Professor Emeritus, Martin Kemp, says that there are three stitching holes down one side that suggest it is from a book of paintings owned by Leonard’s patron, the Duke of Milan.

Just along the boulevard from us (or more or less) is one of the better fine art laboratories and Kemp and the lab’s chairman Jean Penicaut have been working on the book and have found…ta-ra-ta-ra!!! a missing page and, Poirot old bean, a dab on the canvas that matches Leonardo’s finger print found on St Jerome and, that has to be the real thing because it’s in the Vatican. (Am I really saying this?). 

This portrait with serene expression of the girl, the wonderfully detail of the elaborate pigtail and mostly, the eyes, tell me I want this to be La Bella Principessa. And it should be in the National Gallery’s exhibition.  Imagine putting it on a separate wall, all alone and beside it, the brilliant detective yarn that has produced it. Could be worth $100 million and could be the greatest art discovery (or forgery) ever.  Never mind the rest of the exhibition.  This is the one the public would want to see. The painter’s alchemy or gold.

So we leave for the Gare du Nord and maybe just in time for a wonderful bouillabaisse in the Nord Terminus. Another glass and maybe the next train.  That was it? OK. Friday will do. Just sit in silence. Just imagine it really could be a Leonardo. Very special. Tell the world.


ArtScene Quote of the week

Beyond a doubt truth bears the same relation to falsehood as light to darkness. Leonardo

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Fiona Graham-Mackay, is London's newest royal portrait painter. She is also recently back from painting in the Pakistan-Afghan border. She studied at London's Royal College of Art, had a studio in Paris before returning to the UK to paint and teach in London, Spain and Italy. Her next assignments areā€¦

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