Friday, December 9th, 2016

Case closed on ‘da Vinci’ art mystery?

September 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Education & Research

A Santa Fe art historian says he has solved an international art mystery by identifying the actual artist whose drawing has been falsely attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.

La Bella Principessa (The Pretty Princess), a 13- by 9.5-inch ink-and-colored-chalk-on-vellum drawing, depicts a young woman in profile, her reddish-blond hair braided and bound behind her.

Santa Fe art historian Fred Kline believes the same model who posed for Julius Schnorr von Carolsfelds Half Nude Female is the model for La Bella Principessa 178x300 Case closed on da Vinci art mystery?
Santa Fe art historian Fred Kline believes the same model who posed for Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld’s Half-Nude Female is the model for La Bella Principessa

After a Canadian art appraiser living in Paris found the unframed drawing in a drawer belonging to a Swiss collector in 2007, an Oxford art historian championed it as the first da Vinci artwork discovered in more than a century, worth $150 million.

Appraisers were skeptical, suspecting a fraud. Some said the drawing likely was produced by one of a group of 19th-century German painters called the Nazarene Brotherhood who emulated the Italian Renaissance masters.

The real-life art mystery, reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code, has been widely reported, including by David Grann in the July 12-19 edition of The New Yorker.

Now art historian Fred R. Kline of Santa Fe says he’s narrowed down the artists who could be responsible for Principessa to Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872).

Kline, who ran a gallery on West San Francisco Street until about four years ago, said he determined Schnorr had drawn Principessa by comparing it to his Half-Nude Female in the collection of the State Art Museum in Mannheim, Germany.

The Mannheim drawing, reproduced in at least three books, depicts the same woman who had posed for Principessa, with her hair braided similarly, he said.

Kline said most art experts who have studied Principessa have concluded it is not a da Vinci, mainly because it is on vellum, a type of parchment da Vinci was not known to use.

“Everybody is in this for the carrot at the end of the rainbow,” Kline said. “It’s all a sham, big time, with manipulated science. Everybody knows that Leonardo didn’t do it, and the question has always been, ‘Who really done it?’ “

Some art historians claim that La Bella Principessa a drawing in ink and colored chalk on vellum is the first Leonardo da Vinci artwork discovered in more than a century 211x300 Case closed on da Vinci art mystery?
Some art historians claim that La Bella Principessa, a drawing in ink and colored chalk on vellum, is the first Leonardo da Vinci artwork discovered in more than a century

Kline said he is the first to suggest who actually drew Principessa — although, so far, he’s had no response to his theory. He recently posted a news release on PRNewswire.

A twist of fate led to Kline’s interest the Nazarene Brotherhood. He said he was looking through “a very second-rate ‘antique’ shop in another state” in 1989, when he found a landscape depicting women ironing outside a lodge in the Swiss Alps.

Kline bought the unsigned drawing in a dirty frame for $50, then began researching who might have done it based on stylistic clues suggesting it was Swiss, German or Austrian. He said he eventually determined it was by Anton Koch, an 18th-century German artist who was the godfather of the Nazarene Brotherhood.

The Nazarenes were German Catholics or converts to Roman Catholicism who lived in Rome, wore monkish robes, lived ascetic lives and “were considered eccentrics even among the expatriate community of artists in Rome,” Kline said. Although they did not exactly copy the Renaissance masters, he said, they carried on their traditions in style and subject matter. They were particularly devoted to Raphael, Michelangelo and da Vinci.

One way to prove Schnorr, rather than da Vinci, drew Principessa would be to test its vellum with that of Half-Nude Female to see if they match. But the unidentified owner of Principessa has not allowed such scientific testing except by his associates.

Such testing might be ordered via a lawsuit filed in New York federal court by the artwork’s former owner, who sold Principessa in 1998 for $21,850 via a Christie’s auction, accusing Christie’s of failing to “exercise due care” to determine its true artist, thereby allowing it to be sold for a fraction of its true value.

“The value of the Principessa if accepted as Schnorr, and because it is now very famous and a very beautiful and authentic work of art as well, could possibly soar to a realistic $250,000 at auction,” Kline said. “However, in this case, there would probably be a true believer or two with a billion to spare that could push it to what they would consider a steal at $2 million. This could very likely happen. Anything famous being sold at auction can be expected to exceed realistic expectations. … Somewhere, Herr Schnorr is also smiling.”


3 Responses to “Case closed on ‘da Vinci’ art mystery?”
  1. peter silverman says:

    this Kline fellow is quite a piece of work. First he asks prof. Kemp to authenticate a drawing of the head of a young child which he tries to pass off as a Da Vinci,,offering him a large payment for doing so,and then,having been refused, he turns around and attempts to smear prof. Kemp’s reputation!!I have the e-mails to prove it and they will be published in my forthcoming book, ‘the lost princess’-history of a discovery.Moreover,even a child can see, if he examines Mr Kline’s comparison with the German artist he attributes La Bella Principessa to,that they come from different periods and different worlds. Mr Kline,already ridiculed in serious art circles, will soon be a laughing stock of derision.A pity that journalists have nothing better to do than publish such rubbish. Peter Silverman

    • Ann Madison says:

      Are you really Peter Silverman? If you are behind you all the way with La Bella Principessa, I don’t even like art that much and I absoloutely fell in love with her. If you aren’t actually Peter Silverman at least you don’t believe this Kline dude, he seems to be pretty confident about a drawing that he hasn’t actually ever seen.

      • Cory says:

        The women are not the same in my opinion. The facial features show this clearly and the women are also from 2 different time periods. I think this guy Kline is just wrong and should in my opinion be thrown out of the art arena. This guy Kline hasn’t even looked at or held La Bella Principessa in person. and I personally wouldn’t let him touch it unless he has the money to pay for it!! This is a beautiful portrait regardless and I would love to see it displayed to the public at an art show. I think it deserves that much!!


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