SIRACUSA “MADONNA OF THE PINKS”
THE PAINTING FROM WHICH THE NATIONAL GALLERY'S “MADONNA OF THE PINKS” WAS COPIED
If an original Madonna of the Pinks exists, it is surely not the one London's National Gallery acquired for 65 million dollars (fig. 2). With absolute certainty it was the canvas painting I personally examined (fig.000 e fig.1), whose details are illustrated in order to describe their pictorial quality. This picture undoubtedly meets the original colour tones (fig. 000).
Firstly, let us not be mistaken by the limpidity of the London painting, the fruit of accurate restoration (fig. 2). The absence of any “dirt” gives it a clear but flat aspect. The Siracusa painting, being in the original condition, is greatly darkened. With the aim of making the original colouring more clearly visible, the painting has been brightly illuminated (fig. 000), which has given it a disturbing glare.
We must point out that we are not trying to prove Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks originality here. This different task will be left to a different type of analysis. In this text, we are concerned with rationally and substantially determinable and, above all, not contradictable matters. The aim is to try to prove that we are dealing with a picture which cannot be a copy of the National Gallery's one, as instead it would be natural to assume if the London painting were Raphael's original one.
Indeed, we will prove that the London painting was copied from the Siracusa one. From this fact it will be demonstrated that not only is it categorically impossible to attribute the National Gallery’s Madonna of the Pinks to Raphael. If anything, it is the Siracusa painting which should be attributed to Raphael.
Innumerable reasons lead us to the certainty that the Sicilian painting is the origin of all the known copies of Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks. These reasons will be listed further on, showing the due comparisons with the Madonna of the Pinks that is claimed to be Raphael's original by Dr. Penny, director of the National Gallery and by 30 of the major representatives of the world art history.
It must be remembered that the Madonna of the Pinks that we are going to examine was printed on the cover of James Beck's posthumous book “From Duccio To Raphael Connoisseurship in Crisis”(fig. 3). Dr. Beck, top expert in the Italian Renaissance at Columbus University New York, asserted the absolute absurdity of the attribution of the painting to Raphael. Dr. Beck, indeed, saw the original picture; he was enraptured and immediately recognized its superiority with respect to the London one and also to the other existing copies. It is also important to point out that, though he had numerous other copies of Raphael's work (three of which were published in his text) he chose the Siracusa Madonna for the cover of his book.
At that time I closely collaborated with Dr Beck. On many occasions he expressed his absolute certainty that the Madonna of the Pinks acquired by the National Gallery could not in any way be attributed to Raphael.
However, we can’t help but notice a very strange, if not incredible detail: although the Siracusa picture is published on the cover of Beck's book, it is not mentioned in the book at all. It has been left as just a fantastic ectoplasm which, though representing the wholeness of Beck's text through the cover image, has completely dissolved with no further reference being made to it.
Why did this happen?
What’s more, we are worried by the disappearance of the Madonna of the Pinks from the cover in the Italian version of Beck's text. It has sadly been replaced by the London picture, thus sanctifying the total disappearance of the Siracusa Madonna of the Pinks.
Why, we ask ourselves again, after exaltation beyond compare, has such scrupulous care been taken for it not to be mentioned anymore?
Now let us examine the Siracusa painting. The analysis will always be carried out in comparison with the London one.
COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF THE LONDON AND THE SIRACUSA MADONNA OF THE PINKS
We are immediately struck by the beauty of the Siracusa Madonna, whose superiority, compared with the National Gallery's one can be perceived at first sight from both a drawing and a pictorial point of view. This will be discussed further on.
THE MARGINS OF THE TWO PAINTINGS
We must first consider: we are not convinced by the fact in the London picture the margins are not painted (fig. 4, part. A-B-C).
(It is true that in small paintings it was common to leave the margins intact so that the frame would not hide parts of the painting. It is also true that, as Beck emphasizes, when Raphael followed this procedure, he defined absolutely identical unpainted edges, and not edges of different widths, as is the case here case).
Yet we know that this kind of procedure is typical of the copyist who, having to copy a framed picture and not knowing exactly how much the picture extends in the (albeit narrow) areas hidden by the frame, paints only what is visible. He must also consider that his copy itself will have to be framed. If he painted on a canvas or on a tablet whose dimensions were identical to the visible part of the original painting, his copy, once framed, would not only be much smaller, but the details closer to the frame would disappear under the edge of the canvas. That is why the copyist utilizes a base support a little larger than the one he has to copy, and leaves the unnecessary edges white, as he does not have the possibility to see what is painted on them in the original work.
Instead, in the Siracusa Madonna, not only are the margins completely painted, but in them are numerous details completely absent in the London painting. Therefore, we can claim that, if one of those paintings is to be considered the original, it is definitely the Siracusa one.
PACKED AND AIRY RELATIONS IN THE TWO PAINTINGS
If we observe both paintings, it is easy to notice how the London one appears “packed” and the visual field too crowded, while the Sicilian one appears more airy and detailed (as James Beck had already noted in his work).
If the London Madonna were Raphael's original, the Siracusa one would obviously be derived from it. The same goes for all the other copies, as Dr Beck had repeatedly underlined. However, that implies a question Dr. Beck had already asked:
Can more detailed and spacious version (Siracusa Madonna), with un-crowded pictorial fields be regarded as having derived from a cramped and airless prototype (London Madonna)? Or putting it in reverse: Can a crowded and cramped version give rise to airy and spatially harmonious pictures?
Surely not. Instead, it must be assumed, with a wide margin of reasonability and conviction, that the opposite happened. The National Gallery's Madonna is derived from the Siracusa one.
THE NATIONAL GALLERY'S MADONNA: A COPY OF A COPY
If we consider that, as already seen, the margins of the Siracusa painting extend externally by several centimetres more than the London one (on the right side the National Gallery's board seems nearly 3 centimetres smaller) in size by a previous copyist..we presume that this last painting is even a copy of another copy which had been considerably reduced
Practically speaking, the London Madonna of the Pinks seems to have undergone two reductions.
The glaring evidence of this is visible in fig 6, where lines A-B-C-D have been drawn.
They trace the reduction undergone by the picture in the London copy, with respect to the Siracusa one.
In this case too, we can assert with a wide margin of certainty that the London Madonna has undergone two reductions, proving to be the copy of a copy of the Siracusa one, as already stated.
Now let us consider the details present in the Siracusa Madonna, and not in the London one.
THE CARNATIONS IN THE VIRGIN'S HAND
First of all, we notice that the carnations held in the Virgin's left hand are perfectly visible. The last one and the edge are 2-3 centimetres apart (fig. 7, part. A). In the London picture the outer carnation has disappeared and the one closest to it is hardly visible, almost touching the edge of the board and so destined to be hidden by the frame (fig. 8, part. A).
THE ARCHED WINDOW AND THE LANDSCAPE
An important fact is that in the Siracusa Madonna, the upper part of the window is completely visible (fig. 9, part. A), while in the London one the initial part of the arch is only just visible (fig. 10). On this point, we quote directly from James Beck's “From Duccio to Raphael”:
“The absence of the arch or even an indicative fragment produces an uneasy if not an intolerable passage.”
It is not only a matter of a “complete” arch: a much greater area of the landscape is visible out of the window in the Siracusa painting (fig. 9, part. B). A sloping area on the right of the hill and a tree are totally absent in the London picture.
FIG. 9 FIG. 10
Furthermore, Mary's head is much farther from the edge in the Siracusa painting (fig. 6) than in the London one. That is aesthetically more coherent, as it reduces the packing of the image.
MARY'S RIGHT LEG
It is fundamental that in the lower part of the Siracusa painting, besides the knee, part of the lower leg is visible. This is almost invisible in the London one.
THICKNESS OF THE BOARD ON WHICH MARY IS SITTING
It is of great importance that in the Siracusa picture the thickness of the board on which the Virgin is sitting is clearly visible (fig. 11, part. B), while in the London one only the upper edge appears (fig. 12).
This also determines the sight of a conspicuous part of the chest and of the falling gown. In the London picture they are not visible at all.
THE DRAPERY ON THE LEFT SIDE
On the left side of the Siracusa picture the yellow drapery under Mary's right elbow is not only entirely visible, but its edge is actually almost 2 centimetres from the margin of the canvas. ( fig. 11, part. C).Instead in the London painting the extreme edge of the yellow drapery is mostly missing (fig. 12).
THE CURTAIN ON TOP LEFT
Again, on the left side of the Siracusa picture, we notice that even the zone near the edge of the curtain in the upper part is clearly visible (fig. 13, part. A), together with the whole knot, whose two ends are twirled (fig. 13, part. B). In the London Madonna, this zone is visibly much smaller, thus making a large part of the knot invisible in the lower part (fig. 14).
FIG. 13 FIG. 14
UNRESPECTED ICONOGRAPHY IN THE LONDON PAINTING
As the carnations are the essence the iconographic sense refers to, one may then ask: “How is it possible that those in Mary's left hand have almost been excluded in the London picture: one is not visible, and the other is hidden by the frame?”
Would a crucifix maker eliminate the top part of the cross where the Redeemer's hair and crown of thorns are?
This detail would be sufficient to completely exclude the possibility that we are dealing with the original picture. However, as regards the Siracusa painting, the question is quite different.
Let us now explain the other arguments that determine the absolute superiority of the Sicilian picture.
THE BABY'S HAND WITH CARNATIONS
The two carnations held in the Baby's right hand are fundamental. I have already observed how, in the London picture, the Baby's hand has an illogical attitude, as it should hold a single carnation stem between the forefinger and the thumb. This is contradicted not only by the posture of the hand that seems to be holding something more voluminous between semi-clenched fingers, but basically by what is revealed by an enlargement of the hand itself. ( fig. 18, part. F). The carnation stem is not positioned between the forefinger and the thumb, but, incredibly, behind them. The forefinger and the thumb do not hold anything and the stem seems to be supporting itself, miraculously or strangely, as you like, inside the hand, without anything to account for such suspension. James Beck himself writes: “... the treatment of his hands is hardly reassuring. They fail to convince the viewer that they are capable of holding anything.”
On the other hand, we notice how, in the Siracusa painting, things are completely different and howthey respond to faultless dynamic criteria: between the fingers there is not a single stem, but a much more voluminous mass, rich in leaves. This mass fully justifies the clench of the four fingers and the suspension of the carnations (fig.19, part. F-G)
FIG. 18 FIG. 19
Here nobody foolishly asks the thumb and the forefinger to hold anything! Again, this detail would be sufficient to acquire absolute certainty that the London picture derives from the Siracusa one, and not the opposite. Could an original Raphael be so drastically wrong in a detail as important as this one, and the “copy” be perfectly correct? I will avoid repeating this argument as the conclusion of all the comparisons between the two pictures that will be referred to hereon in. I’ll leave to the intelligence of the reader the task of returning mentally to this conclusion every time what I have mentioned above becomes evident.
MARY'S LEFT HAND
Again, in order to recognize the superiority of the Siracusa painting, the analysis of Mary's left hand is fundamental. In the London painting (fig. 8, part. B) the hand shows dreadfully long phalanxes (it is an abnormal copying mistake, indeed, if we could see the hand open, it would have fingers of an absolutely unnatural length) (fig.17).
In the Siracusa painting the phalanxes are much shorter and fall within the standards of a hand with “tapering fingers” (fig. 7, part. B).
THE TWO BABIES' EYES
We notice, then, that the eyes of the London picture have small, squinting pupils that foolishly gaze at an indeterminate point between the carnations and Mary's face (fig. 18, part. A-B ), while in the Siracusa picture the pupils appear of normal size, they are absolutely not squinting and they gaze coherently at the carnations the Baby holds in his hand (fig. 19, part. A-B))
Concerning this, we report Beck's note :
“ Another devastating element for the authentication of the Northumberland picture, which is unique to it, is the representation of the Child as walleyed. His right eye looks sharply to his right and upward while the left eye looks slightly to the right, and straight on.”
Too, the “bad copying” made by the London one appears evident.
THE BABIES' CHEECKS
Again we notice how the right cheek of the London Baby seems exaggeratedly and unaesthetically swollen. (fig. 18, part. C) In fact, concerning this, James Beck expresses himself
“ Its deformities include the bulging contour of the side of the face...
We can see, instead, how in the Siracusa painting (fig. 19, part. C) the cheek has smaller and more realistic dimensions (less full and rounded).
THE BABIES' RIGHT EYEBROW
The same happens as regards the Baby's right eyebrow: in the Siracusa one it is absolutely normal (fig. 19, part. D), while in the London one it is so swollen that it seems tumefied (fig. 18, part. D). I just happened to say (see “National Gallery Madonna of the Pinks is not a Raffaello”, A. Cottignoli, ediz. J. Landoni Ravenna- ArtWatch International Italia 2011) that the London Baby looks like a little groggy boxer who desperately tries to locate an opponent he is not able to see any more.
THE KNUCKLES OF THE BABIES' HANDS
Not of secondary importance are the knuckles of the hand of the Baby who holds the carnations : in the London one the knuckles draw a straight line (fig.18, part. E), while anatomy would require them to draw a slightly curved line, as we can see (in very small, but perfectly assessable differences) in the hand of the Siracusa Baby (fig. 19, part. E)
THE BABY'S MIDDLE FINGER
First of all we must specify an anatomic situation that those who are not very familiar with drawing may not know: when we hold something in our hand, like happens in the Baby's right hand, the middle fingertip, which is much more advanced than the one of the third finger when fingers are extended, in this position it is less advanced or, at most, at the same length of the third finger. It will be sufficient to bend one's fingers to realize that personally.
After specifying this, we notice how in the Siracusa painting the middle fingertip is at the same length as the third finger (fig.19, part. H), while in the London picture the third fingertip is erroneously more backward than the middle fingertip. (fig.18, part. H)
THE BABY'S CRANIUM
We notice the enormous dimensions of the London Baby's cranium (fig. 20). In the Siracusa one they are absolutely normal. (fig. 21)
FIG. 20 FIG. 21
THE RECEDING HAIR-LINES
The Siracusa Baby's receding hair-line is moderately determined, both in the area we can clearly see (fig. 21, part. B), and in the less visible one, where we can see the hair come to the limit of the profile (fig. 21, part. C). In the London Baby the receding hair-line in the visible area prolongs exaggeratedly and foolishly backwards with a tip which seems to intend to circumnavigate the whole cranium (fig. 20, part. B). On the other side, it is no less so, with the result that the forehead is exposed, enormous, with no hair at all above it and miserably bare and lumpy (fig. 20, part. C). James Beck describes the London Baby's head thus :
“ Christ’s head, with an exaggerated extension at the top... raises other doubts.” And “ Its deformities... unconvincing hair with the exaggerated receding hairline of the Child on the left side of his head.”
THE BABIES' DIMENSIONS
It is not difficult to see that the Siracusa Baby is infinitely slimmer than the London one, above all in what concerns the dimensions of the hips and of the pelvis: the London one seems enormous, from the navel downward, repeating the same copying error that has produced, above, the immense backward protrusion of the cranium. If we want to specify the reasons for the difference in dimensions, we can point out that in the National Gallery's Madonna it was derived from the copyist's wrong direction of the line hip-left buttock of the Baby (fig.23, part. A): he has moved this direction to the right, thus obtaining an enlargement of the hips and moving the junction point thigh-hip too much to the right. That has led to a major (I should say almost abnormal) enlargement of the Baby's left thigh which therefore appears so puffed up and oversized. Please compare the direction of line A in the Siracusa Baby (fig. 22, part. A) and the London one and you will soon realize that the enlargement has led to over-sizing
FIG. 22 FIG. 23
The detail concerning the London picture we have mentioned above must be associated, as we have already asserted, to the one related to the out-of-proportion dimensions of the Baby's cranium. Considering the identical issues they are concerned with, they both lead us to the certainty that, as usually happens to unskilled copyists, the “painter” of the National Gallery's Madonna has followed incorrect reference points in reproducing the exact dimensions of the figure (the Baby) in the painting he was copying
THE BABY'S RIGHT FOOT
It’s impossible not to notice, then, how the Siracusa Baby's right foot (fig. 11, part. D) is better drawn than the London one (fig. 12). A marked bending in the sole remains there, but not certainly in the abnormal way that characterizes the London one. James Beck describes this bending with these words: “... and the feet of the Child represent problems, particularly the right foot which appears broken in the middle.”
THE “CHEST” AND THE ROBE
We cannot help but notice how the “chest” Mary is sitting on in the London picture is in a colour which bears no resemblance to wood (fig. 24), while in the Siracusa one it is in a much more realistic colour (fig.25). Not only the colour, but the very structure of the thickness of the wood that probably determines the cover, appears much more realistic in the Siracusa Madonna and shows a slight chipping that is totally absent in the London one (fig.25, part. A).
We can see, then, how in the London painting the part of the gown lying on the chest follows slavishly the surface and the edge of the wooden board that acts as a cover and how it flows in an absolutely linear way on the above-mentioned edge. (fig.24). In the Siracusa painting this part of the robe keeps its own wavy movement, relatively independent of the edge of the table, extremely more realistic and pictorially more valid (fig. 25, part. B).
It is not hard to notice that in the Siracusa picture the cushion on which the Baby is sitting (fig. 26) appears infinitely more soft and flexible than the London one (fig. 27). More precisely, the Siracusa one shows softness and adaptability totally absent in the London one, which appears, instead, like a contemporary rigid foam rubber cushion.
Five details allow us to appreciate the above-mentioned characteristics in the Siracusa Madonna:
a) The bottom right corner of the cushion that softly bends downward (fig. 26, part. A), while in the Londonpicture it stays rigidly higher.(fig. 27)
b) The recess that interrupts deeply the right side of the cushion (fig. 26, part. B) which, instead, is just sketched in the London picture (fig. 27)
c) The edge of the cushion that, receding to the left, follows the pressure of the Baby's calf (fig. 26, part. C), while in the London picture (fig. 27) the lower edge of the cushion continues incoherently rectilinear until it impacts on the calf.
d) The marked protrusion of the cushion upwards, between the Baby's legs (fig. 26, part. D) which in the London picture appears much lower and flat.(fig. 27)
e) The marked bending of the lower part of the cushion on the left of the Baby's knee (fig. 26, part. E)which appears less determined in the London painting, so that, differently from the Siracusa one, this part of the cushion does not even cast a shadow.(fig. 27)
It must be added to all this that the folds in the cushion, caused by the weight of the Baby's body (fig. 26, part. F e G), which are numerous and incisive mainly in the area F, are practically non-existent in the London picture (fig. 27).
So far, an enormously relevant detail has been neglected, not out of forgetfulness, but for not being concerned with an absence or imperfection in the London picture compared with the Siracusa one, as we have previously treated. Rather, the question is of a different nature:
in the Siracusa Madonna the halos are totally absent
This is not an irrelevant detail, if we consider that such halos, are not only present in the London picture, but also in all the other known copies of the Madonna of the Pinks, of which there are as many as 55!
As the Siracusa painting (even granted that it is a “copy”) has greater dimensions than the London one and the fact that it exhibits an amount of detail not present in the latter, we could legitimately think that the version without halos is correct, since it is proposed by the most perfect picture:
considering the aptitude of the Siracusa painter to paint in a much more determined and detailed way, we would not understand why he would have omitted to paint the halos, if they were present in the original one.
Such considerations lead the Siracusa painting (again even granted that it is a “copy”) to the acquirement of a sort of unquestionable supremacy in the determination of the features that were the basis of Raphael's work.
MARY'S RIGHT BREAST
We cannot help but notice how Mary's right breast has poor volumetric effect in the London painting. It appears notably flat, while in the Siracusa painting it shows a more concrete and tangible volume, aesthetically more valid, the consequence of a more accurate and rational drapery. Let us see more specifically what the differences in the painting of the pleats have produced: the flattening of the breast in one picture and its right volumetric emersion in the other.
In the London picture, long horizontal pleats run under the breast, parallel to the girdle, inconsistent with its spherical nature (fig. 28, part. A), while in the Siracusa picture such pleats are fragmented and contribute to underline the round mass of the breast above. (fig. 29, part. A).
We notice a similar error in the pleats near the armpit: in the London one the pleats point inconsiderably upwards (fig. 28, part. B). Moreover, even the pleats in the area above the breast protrude onwards and are more directed downwards in the Siracusa painting (fig. 29, part. B), aiming at joining those by the armpit, thus underlining the roundness of the breast underneath (fig. 29, part. C).
There is something that rather worries us: in the Sicilian painting it is noticeable that in the centre of Mary's right breast the protuberance of the nipple is visible. (fig. 29, part. D). This detail, besides confirming that the London Madonna is a copy of the Siracusa one, since, again we notice the presence of a detail in the latter which is absent in the former, though it seems to suggest unknown sceneries concerning the iconographic interpretation of the work.
It is impossible not to notice how Mary's nose ends, in the tip, in a rather strange manner and the perception is that of a nose, if not exactly, or aquiline, of a quite similar shape. What determines this strange shape that makes the nose tip slope downwards? It is very simple to explain: the copyist has made another blunder, or rather three blunders in one: instead of conscientiously constructing the dark area, fitted to characterize the cavity of the nostril, as he should have done, painting a dark longitudinal spot, perpendicular to the vertical axis of the face, with a very slight inclination upwards, he replaced that area with a simple thin line (fig. 30, part. A), which is not only too short and thin, but also too inclined upwards (3 errors in one). The copyist has thus reduced and wrongly directed the dimensions of the cavity of the nostril, producing an over-sizing in the area before and under the nostril itself which should have been occupied by the cavity. This area, integrating with the nose tip, determines its lengthening and its protruding downwards.
FIG. 30 FIG. 31
I think it is superfluous to point out that in the Siracusa (fig. 31, part. A) picture the dark area that characterizes the nostril appears in the optimal length, thickness and inclination to render the nose shape perfectly normal. I cannot conclude without remarking what someone should have noticed long before me:
When have we ever seen a Madonna with a nose of such a shape, not only in Raphael's paintings, but also in any other painted image of Mary?
THE BABY'S EXPRESSION
It is almost superfluous to state that the Siracusa Baby's face and expression are of a beauty unknown to the copies of the Madonna of the Pinks associated to it, and even more to the London one, which appears to us like a squinting, tumefied little monster that has trouble in supporting the bulbous shape of the immense cranium which protrudes behind him.
The evaluations we have supported so far are more than enough to make the infinite superiority of the Siracusa painter evident, compared with the London one, which now appears no more than an amateur painter totally lacking both in aesthetical sense and in physiognomic and anatomic knowledge. This last fault emerges in all
he continuously refers to a model he is copying, but without knowing the anatomic-physiognomic rules this model is subject to, as Mary's hand, nose and breast and the Baby's eyes, hand, cheek, eyebrow, hair, nape, foot and pelvis clearly show.
We do not want to omit to take into consideration our imitator's pictorial technique whose comparison enhances once more the ability of the Siracusa painter.
The London picture, as the lack of volume in the breast has already emphasized, has I should say, an exasperating flatness: the volumetric perception is made extremely approximate by the dark areas (they lack precision and reveal the absence of a final glaze that brings them to the correct level), and by the near non-existence of the highlightings in the London Madonna, while in the Siracusa picture such highlightings have been performed with great skill to cleverly enhance the relief areas (we just need to see the enormously more volumetric effect of the robe that covers Mary's right arm) and the dark areas in the picture have undergone an accurate final glaze which enhanced the darker areas.