The Golden Ticket: Leonardo Da Vinci at The National Gallery

Queues round the block on day one of the show that is 'Leonardo da Vinci: painter at the Court of Milan'.

The National Gallery has opened its doors  for their ‘blockbuster’ Leonardo Da Vinci show which features more than 60 paintings and drawings exploring his time in Milan (1482-1519) when he became court painter to the city’s ruler, Ludovico Sforza.

With Sky Arts broadcasting live from the party (an unprecedented broadcasting experiment at 80 minutes no less and shown cinemas nationwide); Rachel Campbell-Johnson on the front page of The Times describing how she was moved to tears, calling it ‘the best show ever’; others describe it as a ‘landmark’ show, ‘exhibition of the century’ and an ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ this certainly is a hot ticket.  In his effusive Sunday Times piece, Waldemar Januszczak was so taken by Leonardo’s depiction of women, he stated that should such a fine form of a woman fall into any of the canals Leonardo designed for Milan, he would happily jump in after her (note he’s a non-swimmer)…  The exhibition is deservedly drawing in the crowds and tickets are sold out well into the new year.

Art lovers wait patiently to see the works of the great master, Leonardo.

Leonardo clearly thrived under the patronage of Sforza and the period in Milan was the most productive period of his career.  The National Gallery writes of the artist: ‘His perfectionist and easily distracted nature made him ill-suited for freelance work’.   The Gallery has brought together nine paintings by Leonardo (some in unfinished states – like the best of us, he sometimes had trouble finishing his projects) out of 20 paintings attributed to him.  The show also features paintings and other works by Leonardo’s pupils.

Curators comparing two versions of Leonardo's 'Virgin of the Rocks' which are hung opposite each other. In picture is the version (uncleaned) from the Musee du Louvre behind perspex which is opposite the National Gallery's much cleaner (some say overcleaned) version. This is the first time in history that the paintings have been shown together.

Detail of The National Gallery's 'Virgin of the Rocks', the cleaning of which is said to have inspired the exhibition (1491/2-9, and 1506-8).

Portrait of Leonardo's patron, Ludovico Maria Sforza, known as 'Il Moro' ('the moor') for his dark hair and swarthy complexion (1496-9) Tempera on vellum. Archivo Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana, Milan.

Portrait of a Young Man (1490-1) by Leonardo's pupil Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio. On loan from Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

The Lady with an Ermine (1489-90), portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (she was 15 years old at the time of the painting), one of Sforza's mistresses. On loan from the National Museum, Cracow.

Portrait of a Woman (La Belle Feronniere) 1493-4. Portrait of Beatrice d'Este, the wife of Ludovico Sforza. On loan from the Louvre.

Portrait of a Young Man ('The Musician') 1486-7. On loan from Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan.

Virgin and Child (1491-5). On loan from the Hermitage, St Petersburg.

The recently discovered 'Christ as Salvator Mundi'. The painting changed hands in 1958 for £45 and is now valued at £126m.

Portrait of a man in profile, (1484-6) Lent by Her Majesty The Queen.

The works have been lent by galleries and private collections worldwide  – (Paris, Milan, Washington DC, New York, Cracow, Vatican City, Berlin, Madrid, Frankfurt, Vienna) and over 30 drawings are on loan from Her Majesty The Queen whose personal stamp appears at the bottom of the portrait.

'ER' stamped on the portrait showing clearly in whose private collection this resides.

‘The Madonna of the Yarnwinder’ which was famously stolen from the 9th Duke of Buccleuch’s Drumlanrig Castle in 2003  is also on view.   The painting, reputedly worth in the region of £50 million, was recovered in 2007, a month after the death of the Duke and has now been loaned to the National Gallery of Scotland by his son.

Don’t expect to see the ‘Mona Lisa’ (it wasn’t painted during the Milan period, not that I imagine the Louvre would consider letting it out of its sight) nor ‘The Last Supper’ which is too fragile to travel/stuck to the wall in Milan.  There is however a full scale nearly contemporary copy of ‘The Last Supper’ in oils, and a very good photographic reduced reproduction of the original, which can be seen alongside the  preparatory drawings in the Sunley Room where the exhibition continues;  giving one an opportunity to stretch ones legs and be reminded of the wealth of paintings the National Gallery has on permanent display free of charge.

The Exhibition is staggering.  A great achievement for the National Gallery, much for scholars and art lovers alike.  Comforting to know that even the genius polymath that was Leonardo struggled at times with the freelance world and had trouble finishing projects.

‘That figure is most praiseworthy which best expresses through its actions the passions of its mind.’ Leonardo da Vinci.

Tickets cost £16 and the exhibition runs until 5 February 2012.

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Tacita Dean’s ‘FILM’ unveiled at the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern

Frieze week is off to a great start with the unveiling of British artist, Tacita Dean’s Turbine Hall commission for Tate Modern.

Giant egg from Tacita Dean's 'FILM', Turbine Hall.

This 11 minute silent film is projected on to an enormous 13 metre vertical screen in a blacked out Turbine Hall.  As well as being a fine work of art, meticulously crafted in camera on 35mm film it also pays homage to the dying medium of film (labs are closing at a dramatic rate and following the closure of the Soho Film Lab, Tacita had no choice but to take her production out of the UK).

Aside from the artist and her team, credit is due to a chap named Steve Farman who is possibly the last negative cutter in the UK.  Following a technical accident at the lab in Amsterdam, Steve came to Tacita’s rescue and only last week drove from her home county of Kent to recut the film in Amsterdam, delivering it safely back to the Tate in the early hours of Saturday morning (The Tate were expecting delivery in September of last year).

The sprocket holes which frame the moving images such as an escalator, snail, grasshopper, victorian waterfall,  giant egg and a stone, are a constant reminder of her chosen medium of which she speaks so passionately about.

The book that accompanies the show includes contributions from a wide range of cultural figures such as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Neil Young addressing the importance of film and analogue in the digital age.

In the press conference Tacita pondered on whether she would return to painting in the absence of film printing facilities but let’s hope the medium lives on and one can choose between analogue, digital or paint.

Nicholas Cullinan - curator, Tacita Dean, Gavin Neath - Senior Vice President of Global Communications at Unilever, sponsors of the commission and Chris Dercon - Director, Tate Modern (l-r) at the press conference.

Stone from Tacita's private collection representing the Paramount Films logo.

Victorian waterfall in Tacita Dean's 'FILM'

Escalator in Tacita Dean's 'FILM'

Waterfall in Tacita Dean's 'FILM'

The Times Newspaper's chief art critic Rachel Campbell-Johnson and BBC's arts editor Bill Gompertz in front of Tacita Dean's 'FILM'

The silhouette and finger shadow possibilities are endless. Fiona Campbell and Rodolph de Salis in front of Tacita's sprockets.

BBC art critic Will Gompertz interviewing Tacita Dean in front of her work 'FILM'. Traces of Doris Salcedo's 'CRACK' still visible (October 2007 Turbine commission).

Tacita Dean’s ‘Film’ is at Tate Modern, London SE1, from 11 October until 11 March.

Journey of the Busts – Somerset to Hackney Wick. ‘Sottoportego’ at the Schwartz Gallery.

On a recent visit to Somerset I had the pleasure of accompanying Rodolph de Salis to collect nine ancestral busts commissioned from Cliveden Conservation.   The marble originals from the studio of Antonio Canova are of Count Jerome de Salis (1771-1836) and his wife Henrietta (1785-1856), and were made in Rome in 1816.

Jeromes and Henrietta at Cliveden Conservation waiting to be put in the van for their journey to London.

Since their emergence from the Somerset studio, Jerome and Henrietta have had a busy schedule.  They appeared at a de Salis familiy gathering in Sussex,  and until the end of this week are installed as part of Rodolph de Salis’ installation / Label de Salis presents ‘Sottoportego’ at the Schwartz Gallery Project Space, Hackney Wick.

Label de Salis presents 'Sottoportego' at the Schwartz Gallery Project Space.

The Gallery describes his work as such:  ‘Glittering in hyperspace, it is a carte-blanche melange of objects found, purchased and inherited; a festival of re-evaluation, appropriation and juxtapositioning. The installation blurs the boundaries between gallery, living and storage space. A cornucopia of objects ranging from paintings, antiques, flags, swords, boxes, books, furniture, exhibition catalogues, vinyl records and a myriad of collected items occupy an ambiguous territory whereby objects double as improvised household fixtures and collecting overlaps with personal domestic habits and hoarding tendencies. In short, we are immersed in a space rich in contradictions investigating the role of the viewer, the artist and the gallery as well as the value of art.’

'Sottoportego' detail. Busts, Versace 12" plate, 'Tresors de la Mer', Polaroid Swinger II camera, Arsenal flags, Tennis net belonging to Rodolph's grandfather, last used circa 1970.

Detail of 'Sottoportego' H.M. The Queen, Oil on Canvas by Vinny Reunov, tennis net.

Detail of 'Sottoportego' showing 'Let your imagination run wild', oil-on-canvas, by Vinny Reunov; a Francis Upritchard/New Zealand tote bag; the Lake of Nemi; corked Riesling as skirting board decorative device; rat collaboration piece in laptop bag; totem to my neighbours (eight Hebrew boxes stacked); Arsenal flags from a game they lost 1-3; a good copy of a Reynolds in the Tate; a tennis net last used in 1970; an ivory figure of a praying saint.

Mirror ball in silver plate disc, Jerome in balaclava.

Detail of 'Sottoportego'. Loutoff Mannequin.

Rodolph de Salis 'Homage to Richard Hamilton, Thomas Struth and David Shaw' from the A-L-L-O-T-M-E-N-T-S group show also in the Schwartz Gallery.

A visual cornucopia of intrigue, family history, personal and found items. My favourite being a stack of Hebrew hatboxes in the corner entitled ‘totem to my neighbours’,  meccano and silver forks displayed on the walls, a frying pan containing a rat nest (rat absent) from the house where Rodolph grew up, a collection of jelly moulds,  the self assessment device from the End nightclub (found January 2009 from a large pile of discards on its closure in 2009),  TOTE BAGS from Venice, a catalogue of treasures from Chatsworth and of course the busts who will soon take up their new home in Rodolph’s studio when the show comes down on Monday.

Alas, the fashion for busts seems to have resided.  If however you would like to have a bust made Cliveden Conservation will be happy to oblige.  http://clivedenconservation.com/

‘Sottoportego’ closes on Sunday 20th August 2011.  The show is open Thursday (12-6), Friday (12-6) and closing day / party Saturday (12-10pm).

Schwartz Gallery, 92 White Post Lane, London E9 5EN  http://www.schwartzgallery.co.uk

Cendrillon – The Royal Opera House

Auditorium, Royal Opera House.

To finish off the season at Covent Garden, The Royal Opera House presents the story of Cinderella in Massenet’s Cendrillon.  Production and fabulous costumes by Laurent Pelly. Conducted by French chief conductor of the Vienna Radio Symphony with the great name of Bertrand de Billy.

Quite charming, incredible singing and costumes made from the finest fabrics.  A highlight was of course the opportunity to see my sister, Margaret playing in the stage band – placed in a box with a spotlight.

Curtain Call for Cendrillon, Royal Opera House

Wonderful red and black costumes.

The next two performances are on 13 (when the production will be broadcast nationwide on BP Big Summer Screens) and 16 July.

View of Covent Garden from the roof terrace.

Masterpiece 2011

Adjoining concurrently with the fun and games built around the auction rooms’ main summer sales (as described in previous entry ‘Old Masters Week in London’) was Masterpiece (29 June-5 July 2011). This successor to the Grosvenor House antiques fair (once part of The Season) took place in a rectangular space-ship of a ‘marquee’ that had landed on splendid south lawn of the Royal Chelsea Hospital, a marked improvement on last year’s setting amidst the nearby demolished Chelsea barracks. A child of TEFAF Maastricht Masterpiece is thus both flashier and more Europeanised than its old school Piccadilly predecessor.

Therein one could still find a few impressive Old Masters and some of the best Georgian silver, otherwise the chimera was stuffed with everything one needs from tiaras, Monets, suits of armour, £500,000 billiard tables, custom built Rolls-Royces (Asprey’s jewellery box in the glove compartment included in the price £400,000) to cocktail shakers, and even a sprinkling of Contemporary Art.  

The show featured more than 160 dealerships, some of whom had paid between £40,000 and £50,000 for their stands – not a great outlay for some such as Symbolic and Chase who sold a 1930s brooch with a yellow diamond for more than £1,250,000.

Prince Harry (did he stop for a bellini in Harry’s Bar I wonder?), Uma Thurman, Oprah Winfrey, Sir Elton John and Lord Lloyd-Webber were spotted at what was described by one dealer as ‘A shopping mall for luxury customers’.
A far cry from Westfield, Harry’s Bar provides a comfortable resting place to contemplate ones purchases.
Gallery ladies ready for action.

Peter Finer, Antique Arms and Armour had a fine selection of items on display.  His Gallery is in Duke Street, St James’s.

A North German Field Armour, Brunswick circa 1555.
Provenance. Historic Collections of the Duke of Brunswick
successively at Schloss Blankenburg and Schloss Marienburg.
Price £140,000.
Ciancinimo, specialising in 20th Century furniture and art.  Photograph on wall by Araki. 

The sumptuousness of some of the stands was mindblowing.  Wick Antiques Ltd (Lymington) and Billiard Room Ltd (Bath) shared a stand.  If you are after a canon or half a million pounds of billiard table this is the place to go.

A fine collection of canons available from Wick Antiques.
Rodolph de Salis with striking billiard table that was made for James Blyth, 1st Baron Blyth (1841-1925)
for 33 Portland Place, London. Cox and Yeman, circa 1890.
Gordon Watson (Pimlico Road, London) fine 20th Century furniture, objects and lighting.
Elle Sushan (Philadelphia), fine portrait miniatures.
Interesting display of late 18th Century Portuguese chairs, made in Brazil.
Fine paintings from Philip Mould (Dover Street, London).
Hamiltons Gallery (Carlos Place, London).
Rodolph takes a break.  Left couple making interesting fashion statement.  Shirt by Hermes.
These chaps were having a very busy week.
A quiet moment…

Old Masters week in London

Christie’s sales room, ‘Captain John Bullock’ portrait by Gainsborough (centre) 
est. £3,500,000- £5,000,000.  This beautiful painting remained unsold. 

This week, London is heaving with a host of finely attired art collectors and dealers from all over the world.  July 1-8 is Old Masters Week where 23 commercial art galleries in Mayfair and St James’ are showing off their wares in collaboration with Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Bonham’s where one has a great and brief opportunity to view some of the most spectacular old master paintings and drawings before they are dispersed at auction.

Christie’s was bustling with excitement and set a record with sales of the ‘Old Masters and British Paintings’ reaching almost £50,000,000.

A highlight at Christie’s was George Stubbs’ ‘Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath’, at a very long 40 x 76 inches – est. £20-30 million it sold for 22.4 million (including commission) which places Stubbs amongst the most valuable Old Master paintings in auction history.  [The most expensive Old Master painting at auction remains ‘The Massacre of the Innocents’ by Peter Paul Rubens which fetched 49.5 million pounds at Sotheby’s in 2002.]

George Stubbs, ‘Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath’

The painting was sold by the Trustees of the collection of the late Lord Woolavington, a whiskey magnate who bought it in 1951 for £12,600.  Christie’s state the the picture was sold due to the high cost of insurance which is disproportionate to the value of the other works in the collection housed at Cottesbrooke Hall in Northamptonshire which is occupied by Woolavington’s descendant, Captain Macdonald-Buchanan.  It is not known if the painting will stay in Britain, the buyer wishes to remain anonymous.

Detail of the Stubbs painting featuring Gimcrack winning a race (R) and his jockey (L).
Jean-Marc Nattier (1685-1766), portrait of Marguerite-Francoise-Bernard de Reims. 
Est. £350,000-450,000.   Unsold
George Romney (1743-1802), portrait of Francis Lind with flute, est. £100,000-£150,000. Unsold.
Then to Bonham’s
Giacomo Ceruti, called il Pitochetto (active Lombardy, 1724-1757) detail of Portrait of a lady, Est, £50,000 – 70,000.
Old Master taken off the wall for closer inspection.

And Sotheby’s

Head Porter with table, Sotheby’s.
Old master being inspected with glasses / ultraviolet light torch, Sotheby’s.

After the auction houses closed their doors to prepare for the evening sales the dealerships of St James’s and Mayfair welcomed art lovers with canapes and champagne for further perusal of artistic offerings as part of Old Masters Week.

Art lovers take a break in the window of Robert Bowman Gallery, Duke Street.
Jean-Luc Baroni, Mason’s Yard.
Arty canapes at Baroni.
Stanley at the door of Åmell’s Gallery, Ryder Street.
The Weiss Gallery on Jermyn Street, specialising in Tudor, Stuart and North European portraiture had a stunning selection of paintings immaculately displayed and lit.
Detail of painting by Jan Claesz (1570-1636), Weiss Gallery.
Portrait of John Wyndham Dalling (1769-1786) by  Philip Reinagle, Weiss Gallery.
Provenance: by descent through the Wyndham Dalling and Meade families of  Earsham Hall, Bungay, Suffolk.
This portrait was commissioned as an aspirational hope for the sitter’s (aged no more than 6 or 7) future military career.  Sadly the boy did not live to fulfil his father’s dreams as in 1786 he died aged 17 of fever in India.  This picture sold at Bonhams for £50,400 including 20% buyer’s premium.  The ticket on the picture at the Weiss Gallery is £150,000.

Last stop on the tour was the Colnaghi gallery on Old Bond Street.  An impressive viewing space indeed.

Colnagi Gallery.
Let’s hope that some of these stunning paintings will remain in Britain.  There is increasing concern that many of these Old Masters being sold are being taken abroad as British titled families offload their treasures to raise funds for repairs to their estates or to meet demands from Revenue and Customs.  Last year Earl Spencer sold £21m worth of art from Althorpe House and in 2010 the Duke of Devonshire raised £6.5m (inc. commission) from his ‘attic sale’ of 20,000 items at Chatsworth House.  It is thought that much of this treasure is going to the Middle East and Asia.  


Overheard in one of the galleries was a middle eastern chap whose criteria was for paintings that were large and old with no nudity. “Don’t show me anything small” he said. 



On the way home some street art by Ralph Lauren who were changing their window display.  Excuse the nudity.

Fiona Campbell with Ralph Lauren mannequins, wearing Victoria Grant hat.
Someone commented that the hat would be worthy of an Old Master.
Photograph by Rodolph de Salis.

Barfleur with Campbell de Salis chez Artmonger JH

Coat of arms, Barfleur

This weekend, Campbell De Salis (aka Fiona Campbell and Rodolph de Salis) had the pleasure of a weekend sojourn to Barfleur, Normandy at the kind invitation of artmonger JH who resides in a beautiful house on the harbour front packed with curious treasures and artworks.  


A charming and dare I use the word ‘unspoilt’ harbour village that was the principal port of the medieval Anglo-Norman Plantagenet Kingdom. Point of departure in 1066 for the Normans to the Battle of Hastings and in 1120, The White Ship carrying Prince William, the only legitimate son of Henry 1 of England went down outside the Harbour causing chaos in the monarchy.  According to reports (possibly from the only survivor, a butcher from Rouen named Berold, the crew had imbibed rather alot of Calvados).


Artist, Paul Signac(1853-1935) had a house in Barfleur.  In a letter to his friend and art collector Gaston Lévy, Signac wrote: ‘The port has enough hustle and bustle about it, and is lined with houses of a handsome and pure architecture. The countryside around is magnificent and very wooded, and the terrain is rolling. It’s one of the high spots of France: the sea is beautiful and the gardens are full of flowers’.


Indeed Barfleur was to provide a cornucopia of delights, from the glorious residence and inside knowledge of our host and his trusty companion Clemmy the sheepdog, to the flea market, fishermen, medieval buildings, fruits de mer,  the ferry journeys (of course) and visit to the Chevalier in Cherbourg… 


The ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg provided plenty of entertainment before we were picked up by our host, JH and Clemmy for the short (25K) journey to Barfleur.

Departure from Portsmouth, a passenger ferry crosses our wake.
Rodolph sporting a fine tabard.  He takes his health and safety on board seriously.
Barfleur harbour.
Clemmy (r) and chum

JH taking photograph of Campbell de Salis from outside his residence.
JH collection of crucifixen (jcs carved out of bone hence upright arms) with stapled
together plate in background ‘Dans un amoroux delire. On peut tenter, tout dire’…

JH residence
JH residence
Saint de Salis (r) in JH residence
As luck would have it, the Barfleur ‘Vide Grenier’  (literal translation ’empty attic’, flea market, car bootie) set up on our doorstep.  The next Vide-Grenier is on Sunday 24th July 2011.
Vide-Grenier on the harbour front.

Campbell de Salis in Action.


The Belgian,  Jacques Brel wrote and recorded his songs almost exclusively in French.
The item on the right was on sale for 1 euro… 
Barfleur’s principal resource is its fishing.  The Barfleur white mussel is one of the most sought after in France.
‘Mini cuisine vapeur’… 
Le vendeur.
Les chapeuxs.
Rodolph looking resplendant in French chapeu.
Chopin, the bassett hound.
Bassett hound, name unknown.
Le chat.
Les moines.
L’amour.
Le mur.
The church of St Nicholas, Barfleur.  It took 223 years to build starting in 1650.

Once the grenier-vide finished there was time to explore the local environs.

Clemmy, our trusty companion.

Before the war this used to be a sandy beach.

Entrance to the harbour.  
Les bateaux.
A handsome potter resides in Barfleur which is renowned for its house plaques and roof tiles known as ‘epis de faitage’ or roof statues.  If you are favoured by said potter you may be lucky enough to have a custom made statue often a bird on your roof.
No 26.
No. 26. This one bears a striking resemblance to our dear Prince Philip…
Les fleurs de Barfleur.
Crustacean.
The pink house.
Back at the residence…
JH and Rodolph discuss preparation of the fish purchased from  the harbour.
Sole on mosaic table, creation by JH.
The aftermath of the artichokes.
On the way to our return ferry JH kindly took us to the Chevalier where I purchased some horse steak and horse sausage on order from my friend Craig Hunt who has a superb food blog.  Here’s a link to his entry which has a good explanation of the history of horse eating.   http://maddogtvdinners.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/horse/   

Fiona outside the horse butcher.  Photograph by Rodolph de Salis.
Certificate awarded to the Chevaline de Cherbourg by the Confrerie Cassine des Chevaliers de Saint-Jacques.
The steaks are cut by our friendly butcher.
We were kindly offered some of the red horse sausage, a bit like liver sausage .  Just in case you’re in doubt of the provenance of the meat there’s a picture of a horse on the label.
Horse sausages or chipos / short for chipolatas.
Rodolph was rather envious of this couple with their travel scrabble, very practical for those bumpy journeys.   
We did however have plenty of things to keep us occupied on the sea voyage.
Rodolph found himself a prime seat with a superb view.
Rodolph masquerading as commuter back in the smoke.  Waterloo Station.

On return to London I took one of the horse steaks and sausages to my chef friend Charles Merrington who was celebrating his birthday with a barbecue.  Hot debate ensued and some party goers thought I was ‘taking them for a ride’… Alas I did not get to try the horse as Charlie’s fellow chef, Ruben put it to one side for concentrated degustation the following day.  He had never tried horsemeat before.