Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Weirder Artists Make 'Better' Art, Study Shows

The study, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, sought to unpack the relationship between art valuation and the perceived eccentricity of artists — something the authors call the "eccentricity effect." To do this, they ran a series of experiments involving works from both well-known and fictitious artists. In one experiment, they gauged viewers' reactions to Vincent Van Gogh's famous Sunflowers painting; one group of subjects was told that the artist had cut off his ear lobe and the other was not. "As predicted, the art was evaluated more positively when Van Gogh's eccentric behavior was mentioned," they write.

Three other experiments involved fictional artists, and the results were largely the same, with some important caveats. Viewers who were told of the artist's eccentric behavior held his work in higher esteem, as did those who were shown an image of the artist in a disheveled state — wearing a thick stubble and with "half-long hair combed over one side of his head." The final experiment involved Lady Gaga: viewers were shown either a photograph of the musician in a standard black dress, or one of her "in a crouched position, wearing a tight black suit, black boots, black gloves, and a large, shiny mask." Those who saw the latter image held a higher opinion of her music, except for those who were told that some critics see Gaga's weird persona as a marketing ploy, suggesting that the effect only takes hold when the eccentricity is perceived to be authentic.

The researchers also note that they only observed this effect with "unconventional" art, implying that the work must correlate to a certain degree with the artist's persona. Nevertheless, they say their findings underscore longstanding perceptions linking creativity with eccentricity, suggesting that artistic stereotypes at least partially influence art appreciation.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Small Madonna of Foligno: Previously Unknown Painting by Raphael Discovered

A previously unknown painting by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, an Italian painter and architect better known as Raphael, has been identified by Granada University researcher Dr Luis Rodrigo Rodríguez-Simón.

The Small Madonna of Foligno by Raphael, 1507
The Small Madonna of Foligno – which depicts the Virgin with the child Jesus, St. John the Baptist, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Jerome, the camerlengo to Pope Julius II, Sigismondo de’ Conti who commissioned the work, and an angel in the center – has spent many years in a private collection in Cordoba, Spain.

The scene is identical to that of the Madonna of Foligno and was probably a preliminary version of the famous Raphael’s painting, which is exhibited in the Vatican Pinacoteca.

Dr Rodríguez-Simón has combined advanced instrumental techniques with analytical methods to reliably attribute the painting to Raphael (April 6 or March 28, 1483 – April 6, 1520).

According to Dr Rodríguez-Simón, the Small Madonna of Foligno (93.5 x 66.5 cm) arrived in Cordoba from France in the late 19th century.

The work was transferred from wood to canvas in the second half of the 19th century. A preparation of several layers of lead white over a set of three canvases has been found. This corresponds to the way in which paintings were transferred from one support to another at that time in France.

The researcher discovered two hidden fragments of paper, stuck to the frame, which confirm that the change of support happened in France. The first is written in French, in iron-gall ink, and gives the date as 16 April and the year, 1888. The other is part of a page from a printed catalogue of art works to be sold through the Hotel Drouot auction house in Paris and dated in 1872.

Using infrared photography, Dr Rodríguez-Simón identified Raphael’s preliminary sketches for the painting, as well as a combination of different graphic techniques in the underdrawing.

 “The practice of working with different drawing instruments, ranging from chalk to brush, has been found in many of Raphael’s works,” the scientist said.

Moreover, Dr Rodríguez-Simón found a direct correspondence between the underdrawing of the Virgin’s head in this painting and a drawing on paper in the British Museum, London, known as the Study for the head of the Virgin, proving that both were created by the hand of Raphael himself.

In the Small Madonna of Foligno, two letters decorate the cuff of the Virgin’s tunic: the capital letters R and U – the initials of Raffaello de Urbino.

“Raphael stamped a similar rubric in the decoration that is part of the brocade adorning the same cuff in the major work, held in the Vatican Pinacoteca, with the same theme,” Dr Rodríguez-Simón said.
Similarly, he has also discovered the first letters of the name Raffaello or Raphael and the year 1507, which have been incised, when the paint was fresh, in the flesh color of the Virgin’s right hand.

Infrared photography has also led to another discover of major importance: the existence of numbering on both the upper and right sides and short hairsbreadth lines all around the edge of the painting, about 2.9 cm apart.

“These graphics can be explained by the use of the method of squaring to transfer this composition to a larger scale, as shown by the number of squares and the fact that they are so small,” Dr Rodríguez-Simón said.