Louvre gives Veronese lady two bad nose jobs

Art experts are accusing the Louvre museum of having badly botched the restoration of Veronese’s Supper at Emmaus, giving a key female figure not one but two hideous nose jobs.

The first time they made the classic mistake you see so often in cosmetic surgeries today: turning an unusual down-turned nose tip into a pert, straight, little button nose with ultra-thin nostrils. The second time they tried to repair the repair and the result is a weird, wide-nostriled nose which somehow manages to look both flattened and bulbous. The lips have suffered too. They went from thin to bow-shaped to pouty.

'Supper at Emmaus' nose jobs

Figure 1 is the original face of the mother in Supper at Emmaus. She has a lovely character-filled nose with a gentle bump, a down-turned tip, a slender upper lip and a full bottom one. In figure 2 the “repaints”, additions thought to have been made over the centuries by past restorers, have been removed. In figure 3, you see the first nose job with its button nose and completely different upper lip. Finally figure 4 is how the painting looks now, with its down-turned again but sharper nose tip, misshapen nostrils, amorphously swollen lips and disappeared filtrum.

Michel Favre-Félix, president of the Association for the Respect and Integrity of Artistic Heritage (Aripa) in Paris, said: “Veronese had pictured a noble family mother, as an echo to the Virgin Mary, and it has been turned into a caricature of a 21st-century adolescent, with bloated cheeks and a ridiculous pout.”

He accused the restorers of unnecessarily retouching Veronese’s original and of “falsifying the whole physiognomy and expression”.

More seriously, their “re-retouching”, as he put it, was a covert repainting without leaving any record of their actions in the museum’s files.

Describing the attempt to correct the first restoration as a “tacit admission” of “gross errors”, Favre-Félix said that the museum has refused to acknowledge the second restoration, despite photographic evidence showing how the painting has changed.

The French press went ballistic on the Louvre when they noticed the first restoration, so apparently the museum went in surreptitiously for a second round of Michael Jacksoning but without making a record of it in their own official files. Louvre officials describe the second nose job as a “bichonnée”, ie, a little “pampering”, so minor that there was no reason to add it to the painting’s dossier.

Restoration watchdog group ArtWatch UK will publish an exposé of the Supper at Emmaus nose jobs in their journal this month (available only to members, I’m sad to say), just in time for the Louvre committee’s June 18th meeting to decide whether to restore Leonardo Da Vinci’s Virgin and Child with St Anne. If they do go ahead with it, ArtWatch fears that the Mona Lisa will be next, since there are tons of big money sponsors who would love to throw cash at the Louvre if it meant they would get to be associated with the masterpiece.

"Supper at Emmaus" by Veronese  ca. 1559

Vladivostok roadworkers find Stalin-era mass grave

Researcher holds skull found in Vladivostok mass graveWorkers building a road outside of Vladivostok, Russia, have found at least 495 skeletons buried in what is believed to be a Stalin-era mass grave. They haven’t finished excavating the area yet, but so far they’ve uncovered 3.5 tons of bones.

Millions of Soviet citizens were executed or died in labor camps during Stalin’s rule from the 1920s until his death in 1953, but discoveries of mass graves became less frequent after a surge in finds that followed the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Experts were checking the hypothesis that the bodies were victims of Stalin’s purges.

“Practically all of the skulls have bullet wounds,” said Yaroslav Livanksy, the head of a group of volunteers who helped to excavate the site.

He said money and clothes from the 1930s had been found at the site. A crushed child’s skull was discovered close to a bead bracelet and a small slipper.

The variety of small personal belongings and the copious bullet holes in the head suggest that the victims were rounded up either without being told where they were going, or were told they were being taken to a work camp. Instead of going to the gulag where, dismal nightmare of a life though it would have been, those personal belongings would have at least been of use, all those people were taken to the outskirts of town and murdered.

There were large numbers of empty vodka bottles buried with the remains. Livansky thinks they were probably left behind by the executioners either rejoicing in a job well down or escaping the hideous reality of having just shots hundreds of men, women and babies in the head.

Sticky rice mortar key to Chinese buildings’ strength

Archaeologists have known for a long time that sticky rice was mixed with lime to make a strong, long-lasting mortar during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) because it was mentioned in a Ming-era construction techniques book. Archeological investigations indicate that it was in use long before then, that in fact it was a mature technology during the South-North Dynasty (386-589).

Now a study published in Accounts of Chemical Research, the American Chemical Society’s journal, explains exactly how the rice works to produce a mortar that gets stronger and stronger with time.

The super-strong mixture is made by combining sticky rice soup with a standard mortar ingredient called slaked lime, or limestone that has been heated to a high temperature and exposed to water, said study researcher Bingjian Zhang, a professor at the Department of Chemistry at Zhejiang University in China.

“Analytical study shows that the ancient masonry mortar is a kind of special organic-inorganic composite material,” Zhang said. “The inorganic component is calcium carbonate, and the organic component is amylopectin, which comes from the sticky rice soup added to the mortar.”

The secret ingredient that makes the mortar so strong and durable is amylopectin, a type of polysaccharide, or complex carbohydrate, found in rice and other starchy foods, the scientists determined. The mortar’s potency is so impressive that it can still be used today as a suitable restoration mortar for ancient masonry.

The team experimented with several formulas of lime mortar combined with sticky rice and performance tested the end-results compared to traditional lime mortar. They found that the rice-lime mixtures was more able to withstand environmental stresses, less permeable to water, and far more compatible with historic structures than lime alone.

If you use contemporary mortar with historic masonry, the hardness of the mortar will destroy historic bricks which can be much softer than bricks made today. The mortar has to be softer than the brick, so recreating the original mortar used in the construction of the building allows you to preserve as much of the original structure as possible.

Ancient buildings made with rice mortar are known to have withstood centuries of powerful earthquakes and even modern heavy machinery. A bulldozer wasn’t able to budge a Ming dynasty tomb made from rice mortar.

Thousands of mint condition toys up for auction

Michael O’Hearn is a retired architect and restorer of Victorian homes who has spent 28 years collecting toys in the best possible condition. He never sold a single piece over those three decades. He just bought, so his immense collection was virtually unknown even by experts.

Micheal O'Hearn with his toy collectionThere are over 4,000 toys in his collection, from 46 different categories of toy collectibles. Two-thirds of them are automotive, plus sci-fi pieces, boardwalk things (carnival toys, clowns, animals, airplane), wind-up toys, cast iron, tin lithographs, you name it. Once he knew his way around, he made a point of collecting toys with their original boxes, and he treated those boxes with kid gloves, filling them with styrophoam and even shrink-wrapping them to ensure the colors stayed brilliant and the shape crisp. Now over half of his toys, 2,500 of them, come with their original boxes.

O’Hearn is 70 years old now, and he’s decided it’s time to move on from this part of his life and let his meticulously collected and preserved toys go to the next generation collectors. His entire collection, every last steel-pressed car, plastic robot, lithographed space station, will be up for auction on Friday, July 16, at Dan Morphy Auctions in Pennsylvania.

Tin Space Fuel StationThe Friday, July 16 session will open with more than 75 boxed robot and space toy lots. Highlights include boxed examples of a New Space Station (estimate $1,000-$1,500), a standard Space Station ($1,500-$2,000) and a friction Space Bus ($1,200-$1,800). A TV Space Patrol Car is expected to make $1,500-$2,500. […]

The panoramic sub-collection of Japanese toys spans the era from pre-World War II through the boom years of postwar toymaking, known for its colorful and imaginative designs. “It covers quite a range – celluloid, battery ops, tin airplanes, big ’50s cars,” said Morphy. A #58 Atom Jet racecar is estimated at $2,000-$4,000, as is a windup Harley motorcycle. A fleet of sleek cars includes a prewar Packard ($1,200-$1,800), 1954 red Alps Cadillac ($1,500-$2,500) and Lincoln Futura ($1,500-$2,500). A 1958 Buick Century has its cruise control set at $1,000-$1,500; while a newspaper delivery station wagon is expected to apply the brakes at $1,200-$1,800. A prized 1956 Haji Ford Sunliner with box could realize $4,000-$6,000.

Don’t let those price tags intimidate you. There are some very reasonably priced items for the new (or broke) collector, and you can bid online.

If you prefer your antique cars full-sized and souped up, O’Hearn is selling two insanely awesome hot rods as well.

The first, which he has owned for the past 26 years, is a 1927 Model T with green body, black fenders and black tonneau. Its original all-steel body has a new undercarriage, Ford Cobra engine and Jaguar front and rear end – which hot rodders love. Described by O’Hearn as “a deluxe mini racecar in an antique body,” the car has air conditioning, power steering and a 50-gallon gas tank in its trunk.

“At first glance, it looks like a Model T, but it’s deceptive,” said O’Hearn. I would take it out for a spin and have a little fun when people would drive by, pointing at the old Model T. I’d hit the gas and leave them in the dust.”

The second hot rod, which O’Hearn has owned for 30 years, is a 1929 Ford Roadster convertible pickup truck in two-tone brown with chrome accenting and pinstriping. The all-original steel body accommodates a big-block Chevy engine, and its full truck bed has alternating wood panels. It has power steering, a wood dashboard and removable convertible top. Like the Model T, the powerful pickup truck has always been garaged in California, avoiding wet or cold winters. Both are licensed for the road, have been scrupulously maintained and are offered at auction complete with service records and protective covers.

Behold the awesome and despair:

Pimped out 1927 Ford Model T

Rare picture of slave children (EDIT: OR NOT) found in attic

EDIT: It turns out that the AP story, Keya Morgan and the other experts cited in this article were totally wrong. It’s not a Brady print; it’s not of slave children and it’s not even rare. Here’s a copy in the New York Public Library
where you can see the photographer was Jerome Nelson, the picture was taken ca. 1870 and is charmingly entitled “Plantation Scene; Happy Little Nigs.”

I actually think the truth is even more compelling that the falsehood. That’s what passed for “happy” for black kids in the post-Reconstruction South. Many thanks to Linda Rowan for alerting me to the bullshit in a comment below.

* * *

Slave children found in attic, courtesy of Keya MorganA Civil War-era picture of two slave children was found in the attic of a Charlotte, North Carolina home. The homeowner was collecting things for a moving sale and found the picture along with a document describing the sale of one “John” in 1854.

In April, the photo was found at a moving sale in Charlotte, accompanied by a document detailing the sale of John for $1,150, not a small sum in 1854.

New York collector Keya Morgan said he paid $30,000 for the photo album including the photo of the young boys and several family pictures and $20,000 for the sale document. Morgan said the deceased owner of the home where the photo was found was thought to be a descendant of John.

A portrait of slave children is rare, Morgan said.

“I buy stuff all the time, but this shocked me,” he said.

Art historians think the picture was taken in the early 1860s, either right before or right after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. The picture is from the Brady studio, however this photograph was most likely not taken by Matthew Brady himself, but by his apprentice Timothy O’Sullivan. Matthew Brady, the famous Civil War photographer, and his apprentices took many pictures of slaves around that time. They were used by abolitionists to drum up support for the war in the North.

Most of those pictures were of adult slaves who have been severely physically abused and had visible scars, though. Children, even incredibly sad-eyed ones like the boys in this picture, were not so obvious symbols of the violence and degradation of slavery.

Keya Morgan has a well-known collection of Civil War photographs, including the world’s largest collection of original Abraham Lincoln photographs. He’s keeping the picture and document in his personal collection right now, but he’s already received a sales inquiry from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Other photographs in his collection have found permanent homes in the collections of the White House, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian and even the Louvre.

Document of sale of slave named "John", courtesy of Keya MorganMorgan is also considering collaborating on a documentary about John. From the article it’s clear that Morgan thinks the John described in the sales document is one of the boys in the picture, but I’m not sure how they know that. Perhaps there’s an age reference in the document that I can’t read (there are no high resolution pictures that I could find), or maybe it’s just an assumption or even symbolic shorthand.