News comes today that the somewhat controversial “La Belle Ferronnière”, a painting most likely from the 18th Century and once questionably attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci, has sold through Sotheby’s auction house at the princely sum of $1.5 million, about twice what it was expected to garner. Beautiful as it is, “La Belle” has been through the critical ringer over the last century as contrasting estimates of its provenance had it being the work of the master, a fine example from a student of his school, or an out-and-out knockoff produced hundreds of years after the artist’s death—perhaps on a par with the master Vermeer forger, Han van Meegeren, a man so talented at “working in the style” of a master, that we just had to give him and his bootlegging peers a column of their own in “Art + Travel”. Lawsuits have gone back and forth over the issue and now the lion’s share of academic study places the work well after Da Vinci’s day. Nonetheless, analysts say, the decades-long controversy has been good for the profile and value of the painting, driving its price up in an arts market that is regaining its health. Like the best Marc Jacobs knock off purse, a thing of beauty, even if it doesn’t have a real designer’s imprint, is a joy forever.
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“Mona Lisa She Is Not, But Coveted Nonetheless” [NYT]
Image (left to right): “La Belle Ferronnière”, Unknown, (c. 1750), privately owned, image courtesy of Sotheby’s, “Mona Lisa”, Leonardo Da Vinci, (c. 1503–1506), visit it at The Louvre, Paris, France.