Well, what do you know? The Dutch portrait head that surfaced at a small English auction sale in 2007 and was bought as a Rembrandt for £2 million has now been acquired by the Getty as the earliest known self-portrait by the master for an undisclosed sum. It now also carries the Ernst van de Wetering stamp of approval, which one should take seriously even if his and the Rembrandt Research Project’s track record is far from consistently convincing. (Check this video where van de Wetering talks up the picture).
I haven’t seen the picture in the flesh, but it still looks like a pastiche to me. Like somebody imitating Rembrandt, overdoing his signature paint application and stylistic flourishes — the impastoed facial modeling, the strong contrast, the patchy fill-in of the background. But I am no specialist and may of course be entirely wrong.
Links (it’s been a while!)
Du9′s annual Numérologie posting, analysing the French-language comics market, is back with coverage of 2012 and it’s bigger and better than ever. Xavier Guilbert has really grown with this feature and this is some of his most impressive work yet. Required reading for anybody interested in the field.
Music release of the week: Aesop Rock and Kimya Dawson’s second long-player — now under the name of The Uncluded — Hokey Fright, available for streaming here. I already like it better than the Hail May Mallon album, I think.
The picture above reared its head again last week when the foundation dedicated to its authentication as an earlier version of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo presented new “proof” by pointing out geometric similarities with the famous picture in the Louvre. Strangely, it did not seem to occur to them that such geometric consonance would happen quite naturally in a copy, which is clearly what this is. But don’t take my word for it, here’s Leonardo specialist Martin Kemp demolishing the spurious claim.
This week, it was announced that the late collector and art historian Denis Mahon bequeathed 57 of his pictures, primarily Italian works of the 17th century, to a series of British museums, unfortunately with rather problematic stipulation that they be deaccessioned if the owners start charging admission. Look at the pictures here.
Ryan Holmberg on Osamu Tezuka’s sources. Revelatory article on how the Japanese “God of Comics” Tezuka and his collaborator Shichima Sakai more or less swiped the imagery and storytelling of their famous introductory sequence to their milestone New Treasure Island (1947) from American Disney artist Floyd Gottfredson.
Donald Richie. We paid the late great film scholar, author, and Japanophile our respects yesterday, but just wanted also to share the following video of him talking about Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar. We got it from this touching tribute. Also, read some of his criticism for The Japan Timeshere.
Hip hop’s making bullshit headlines again. This time over the reaction to the murder, last month, of Chicago MC Lil Jojo. After news hit that the 18-year old had been shot in a drive-by, his rival Chief Keef — with whom he had been beefing, seemingly in a grab for quick fame — went on twitter to gloat. When the shit hit the fan, Keef — perhaps advised by his record company Interscope — started claiming his twitter account had been hacked and started posting “uplifting” PC boilerplate. He also claimed not to be responsible for threats of violence against his older colleague Lupe Fiasco, who had spoken out against his behavior on the radio.
Whether Lil Jojo’s death has anything to do with Keef or not, that’s just pathetic. Now, I know that violent rhetoric in rap has a lot to do with a violent culture, and is more a symptom than a cause — a symptom that occasionally proves to be a way out for people, and one that tells us volumes about the social breakdown of parts of American society. Attacking rap music for very real problems in society that are far bigger than hip hop is not necessarily productive, but on the other hand you sometimes miss the days when more people in the community did what Lupe, and fellow Chicago MC Rhymefest, just did and spoke out against the bullshit being perpetuated by a lot of hip hop artists, the vast majority possessed of no talent and lacking the intelligence to convert their rhetoric into hard truth. Player hating is now a bad word in hip hop, which has increasingly become a laissez-faire subculture impressed first and last by money. It used to makehiphopproud.
If you don’t believe me, check out Keef’s biggest hit “I Don’t Like” here. It’s basically a series of inarticulate grunts over a generic beat with a sort-of effective, repetitive hook. The most interesting part is the curiously homosocial video and what it tells us about how these guys want us to see them. This cut from Lil Jojo, which was part of his PR dis campaign against Keef, is just as telling. All the same: RIP.
In a week where I’ve dissedThe New Yorker, I feel good being able to recommend the magazine too, this time for a lengthy article on presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
Obama in Martha's Vineyard on 18 August 2011. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (used without permission, but hopefully fairly)
The week in review (kind of).
Haven’t done one of these in a while, and this is halfway through the week anyway, so it the timing is all wrong, but I have all these fine links that have been gnawing a hole in my drafts file for a while now that I figured I might as well share before we go into Angoulême mode here. Some are rather old and you might have seen them elsewhere, but if not here’s a chance to check them out.
The Obama memos. Following on from the State of the Union last night, one could do worse than reading this compelling examination of discussions had and choices made behind the scenes over the last three years in the White House. There are some revealing instances of Obama’s cynicism, as well as ample examples of his fetish for compromise, but also a very real sense of how difficult his job is. You could also do worse than supplementing it with Conor Friedersdorf’s sobering examination of the president’s transgressions of civil liberties at The Atlantic.
Ars Technica on internet piracy. Julian Sanchez examines and largely deconstructs the forcefully stated and strangely unquestioned arguments made in favor of fighting internet piracy by politicians and industry lobbyists — at the moment in favor of the highly dubious SOPA an PIPA bills (thanks Dirk!).
On Liu Xiaobo. This review at the NYRB of a recently translated collection of essays by the Chinese dissident and Nobel Prize-winner provides a compelling introduction to a clearly significant political thinker (now languishing in prison) and the country that fostered him.
Manga! Several excellent manga-related pieces have popped up online these past weeks. Yesterday jason Thompson examined smartly the decline in manga sales, in America as well as Japan. And Ryan Holmberg returned to his must-read but only intermittently updated column at The Comics Journal with a great essay on akahon manga, while the Hooded U republishes an excellent piece by Tom Gill on the great Tsuge Yoshiharu.
‘New’ old masters. This seems to be the season of sensational (and ‘sensational’) discoveries. Headlining is the long-lost Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci, which has turned up in an American collection and will be exhibited publicly for the first time at the sure-to-be-unmissable National Gallery show in London this fall. Several highly respected specialists vouch for its authenticity and it does looks like an extraordinary painting — look at the refinement of the right hand, the translucence of the sphere and the distant expression, the almost non-presence, of Christ. It fits well into the master’s modus operandi, better than, say, thatprettydrawing from a couple of years ago.
In other news, the Italian conservator, champion of the “Buffalo Madonna,” of which I wrote a while ago, has now made another find, this time in Oxford, which he also claims is by Michelangelo. And again, it seems obvious that his optimism knows few bounds.
Ryan Holmberg on Shimada Kazuo and Tatsumi Yoshihiro. This is a bit old now, but I would be remiss not to link to the latest, and in some ways most impressive installment in Holmberg’s series on the birth of gekiga, in which he unearths an important missing link with what went before.