Is it or is it not a Masterpiece? That is the Question.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
I've written before about the problem of attribution in art.  Is that new painting at the Kimbell by Michelangelo?  What about the painting found in that guy's attic?  And that crucifix?  Museums all over the world stand to lose or gain notoriety and money when a work of art is attributed to a well-known artist -- or reassigned to a lesser-known talent.

It's a complicated process, and I thought this article from The New York Times explains how it happens and why with some striking clarity.  So enjoy!

Published: December 20, 2010
In 1973, a 1624 image of Philip IV was found to have been made by Velázquez’s studio, not the artist. A reassessment has reversed that conclusion.

Caravaggio's Remains Identified

Caravaggio: The Calling of St. Matthew
Michelangelo Merisi -- aka Caravaggio (1571-1610) -- was an artist in Italy during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Now according to scientists in Italy, they have found his remains, centuries after his controversial life and lonely death.

Caravaggio spent his childhood near Milan and was orphaned at the age of eleven at which time he was apprenticed to a painter.

By the time he was 17 years old, however, Caravaggio had ventured south to Rome where he lived an impoverished life, looking for work as a scrapping artist near Campo Marzio. Over the next decade, however, he attracted some attention and started to earn commissions for his paintings which started Rome with their energetic compositions and striking use of chiaroscuro -- a contrast between light and dark.

While his fame increased, so did his encounters with the law. He was arrested on several occasions for violent behavior until in 1606 he murdered his opponent in a tennis match and was forced to flee Rome.
Caravaggio: Medusa
He spent the next few years in hiding in Naples and places in southern Italy. Influential friends in Rome pleaded his case before the Pope asking for a papal pardon, but the wheels of justice were too slow. The pardon arrived just three days after Caravaggio died.

Though he was not a prolific painter, Caravaggio's influence on painting -- both in composition and in the use of light and dark -- has been profound. And his work is a popular museum draw. Last winter the Chicago Art Institute hosted an exhibit of his "Last Supper at Emmaus." And just last weekend a large show of his works closed in Rome at the Scuderie del Quirinale.
Caravaggio: The Crucifixion of St. Peter

That Caravaggio died in obscurity on a beach does not overshadow his genius. And now that his remains have been identified using DNA analysis and comparing them to remains of his relatives, it is easy to imagine a surge in interest.

Read more: 
Where to See Paintings by Caravaggio:
  • San Luigi dei Francesci (on Via Giustiani in Rome, Italy): this church houses three of Caravaggio's masterpieces ("The Calling of St. Matthew," "St. Matthew and the Angels," and "The Martyrdom of St. Matthew").
  • Santa Maria del Popolo (on Piazza del Popolo in Rome, Italy): here you'll find two paintings by Caravaggio ("The Conversion of St. Paul" and "The Crucifixion of St. Peter").
  • Galleria degli Uffizi (in Florence): the Uffizi hosts Caravaggio's "Medusa," "Bacchus," and "The Sacrifice of Isaac."
  • National Gallery of Ireland (in Dublin): owns the most recently-discovered work by Caravaggio, a painting called "The Taking of Christ" which was attributed to Caravaggio in 1990.

    Is that a Da Vinci in your bathroom?

    Imagine discovering that the painting you bought for a mere $19,000 just might be worth a cool $150 million -- all because a fingerprint was found in the paint. That's what may have happened to the owners of "Profile of the Bella Principessa." For years the painting has been in private collections. It was purchased at auction in 2007 for $19,000 by a Swiss art collector. But then things got very interesting...

    Leonardo da Vinci not only used brushes when he painted, but he also utilized his fingers and hands, often leaving behind fingerprints in the process. When examining "Profile of the Bella Principessa," art experts found a fingerprint which, upon closer examination, matches fingerprints found in another da Vinci painting.

    Fascinating! Later this month I'm interviewing Dr. William Wallace, one of the art world's foremost experts on Michelangelo and author of a new biography. You can bet I'll be asking him about the intersection between art and technology in our ever-changing world.

    Read more and watch a video about da Vinci:
    Possible New Da Vinci Painting Found : Discovery News (view on Google Sidewiki)