Raphael (1483-1520), Portrait of a Lady with a Unicorn, ca. 1505-06, oil on canvas transferred from panel, 26 5/8 x 20 15/16 in. (67.7 x 53.2 cm), Galleria Borghese, Rome, inv. 371 1
Raphael (1483-1520), Portrait of a Lady with a Unicorn, ca. 1505-06, oil on canvas transferred from panel, 26 5/8 x 20 15/16 in. (67.7 x 53.2 cm), Galleria Borghese, Rome, inv. 371 1

A round-up of recent stories from the world of art, museums and art history.

A story from Tim Walsh in Apollo that asks whether Australia’s ‘coup culture’ in politics is hurting the arts.

“In the space of five years, Australia has seen five prime ministers attempt to take the reins of an increasingly erratic and jittery federal parliament. In tandem, Australia’s art world keenly felt each twist and turn; moments of optimism were eclipsed by fear and doubt with the election of the right wing conservative government led by Tony Abbott in September 2013.”

A report on Enfilade that the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library has catalogued, re-catalogued, and made available online 60,000 objects in their collection. While the Yale Center for British Art has just released more than 22,000 additional high-resolution images through its online collection (available here). To date, the Center has made more than 69,000 images freely available online. This supports the Center and Yale University’s ongoing commitment to provide open access to images of works of art in the public domain. The Center, as a museum and research institution, has led such efforts since May 2011, when it first made images of works in its collection available online for the public to download, free of charge.

On that note I have recently updated the links to digitised collections on this website. It isn’t exhaustive, but I have tried to include most major online collections from Australia and New Zealand, if you spot any glaring omissions please let me know.

A story on the destruction of art and antiquities in Syria and the efforts to safeguard them.

“Since the commencement of hostilities in Syria, the world has lost a raft of precious and priceless artefacts from the country’s archeological sites and museums. Illegal and clandestine excavation, systematic targeting by armed forces and mindless terrorist attacks have seen cultural treasures ending up on the black market, in private collections, or destroyed completely.”

A reflection by an “on-the-floor-interpretation assistant” on spending 320 hours looking at El Greco’s ‘Holy Family with Mary Magdalene’.

“I couldn’t remember the last time I stopped and looked for that long. Being in the gallery with the El Greco gave me the chance to challenge myself to the act of looking deeply. What turned out to be most remarkable about this challenge was that I didn’t have to go at it alone; being on the floor with visitors meant that I could look at the painting over and over again through many different lenses, and with a variety of different viewers and viewpoints.”

A review of an exhibition drawing on the permanent collection at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art shows how a rehang can tell new stories and challenge accepted narratives about art history. Chief curator, and the person in charge of the rehang, Helen Molesworth said that:

“This historical story that we tell, it begins with this idea that New York stole the art world after World War II, and that there’s a certain kind of Modernist described by critic Clement Greenberg and everything proceeds apace,” Molesworth says. “For many, many years, we were very comfortable with that story. But then, as a result of the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, gay liberation, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the rocking of our geopolitical boundaries and the rise of the Internet, we come to realize that the story we used to tell doesn’t begin to encompass the fullness of the world as we know it.”

A story on ArtsHub about the proposed ‘Australian Charter for the Arts’. The feedback period ends on 31 January.

“The Charter is envisaged as an advocacy tool to engage politicians and community leaders as well as artists with arts policy development.

It aims to enable a voice for artists, arts organisations, arts workers and supporters of the arts – across all art forms, locations and communities.”

Is Raphael’s ‘Lady with a Unicorn’ Laura Orsini, daughter of acclaimed beauty Guilia Farnese, mistress of Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI? A story in the Huff Post on the newly proposed attribution by Dr. Linda Wolk-Simon.

“I started looking at every detail in the picture for clues and certain things started jumping out,” says Wolk-Simon. To start, the sitter is blonde — like Lucrezia Borgia, Alexander VI’s illegitimate daughter and Laura Orsini’s probable half-sister. A tower in the portrait’s background is from a landmark in Urbino, the duchy ruled by the della Rovere family. Wolk-Simon also discovered that the sitter’s stunning ruby and pearl pendant necklace closely resembles a description of Guilia Farnese’s jewels from court documents; the mythical unicorn cradled in the young woman’s right hand turns out to be part of the Farnese coat of arms.”