Da Vinci masterpiece emerges in all its beauty

Updated 25 September 2014

Da Vinci masterpiece emerges in all its beauty

FLORENCE, Italy: If there is any mind an art restorer would die to get into, it would be that of Leonardo da Vinci, the master painter, architect, engineer and inventor whose genius epitomised the brilliance of the Renaissance.
That was the unique opportunity restorers in Florence have relished as they clean the “Adoration of the Magi,” a massive painting that Leonardo started in 1481 at the age of 29 but abandoned a year later, leaving it in various stages of conception and development.
The painting on wood measures about 2.5 by 2.5 meters (8.2 by 8.2 feet).
Done on 10 slabs of wood glued together, it has blank areas, areas with under-drawings, and sections in advanced stages.
“This is perhaps the most quintessential work-in-progress in the history of art,” said Cecilia Frosinini, one of the directors of the ongoing restoration of the work, which is slated to return to Florence’s Uffizi Gallery next year.
“Leonardo never wanted this to be seen by anyone at this stage, probably not even by those who commissioned it, probably not even his assistants. This is the phase in which he was still elaborating in his mind what the final work would look like,” she said, standing in front of the piece.
Leonardo received the commission to paint an altar piece depicting the Adoration from the monks of the monastery of San Donato a Scopeto, near Florence. He stopped abruptly when he left to take up an offer of steady income from the Dukes of Milan.
In the late 1500s it was acquired by Florence’s Medici family, whose restorers added layers of both clear and sepia-colored varnish to give it a homogenous, monochrome look when they put it in their collection.
The current restoration project, which began three years ago, has removed much of the dull, oxidized varnish as well as traces of past restoration attempts, revealing many previously hidden details, facial expressions and subtleties of light and shadow.
There are sections where the same horse’s head is drawn in various positions, where horses in battle still have three hind legs because Leonardo still had not decided which would go and which would stay.


Irish locals show their colors in Biden’s ancestral home

Updated 23 October 2020

Irish locals show their colors in Biden’s ancestral home

  • Biden’s family roots run deep in Ireland, with a heritage described as “roughly five-eighths Irish” by genealogist Megan Smolenyak
  • Ten percent of Americans claim Irish heritage — a 31-million-strong bloc vastly larger than the five-million population of Ireland itself

BALLINA, Ireland: Thousands of miles east of the White House in Ireland, a pop-art portrait of US presidential candidate Joe Biden towers over his ancestral hometown of Ballina, County Mayo.
In the town on Ireland’s rugged Atlantic coast, the Democrat’s distant relatives are thrilled to have one of their own bidding for America’s highest office.
“Obviously we’re 100 percent behind Joe Biden,” Laurita Blewitt, the former vice president’s third cousin, told AFP.
“We’ve got that family connection and we’ve got that friendship and relationship with him,” the 37-year-old said.
Biden’s family roots run deep in Ireland, with a heritage described as “roughly five-eighths Irish” by genealogist Megan Smolenyak.
She has traced his lineage to east-coast County Louth and Ballina — a town of 10,000 people, which is dotted with brightly colored shopfronts and bisected by the River Moy.
In 1851, Biden’s great-great-great-grandfather Edward Blewitt joined the legions of Irish fleeing famine and poverty for a fresh start in New York.
The mural was raised by a band of locals last month, and Ballina is twinned with Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Biden was born in 1942.
The 77-year-old politician has visited twice — first in 2016 when crowds turned out to see president Barack Obama’s deputy.
In 2017 he came back and turned the first sod for a new regional hospice — a cause near to his heart after his son Beau’s death from cancer two years earlier.
Biden wrote that when he dies, “northeast Pennsylvania will be written on my heart.”
“But Ireland will be written on my soul.”
He is mining a rich tradition of American statesmen touting Irish heritage.
In the 20th century, John F. Kennedy was most closely tied to the “Emerald Isle,” and had to overcome anti-Irish, anti-Catholic prejudice to win the White House.
But others including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama have all claimed ancestral links to Ireland.
Ten percent of Americans claim Irish heritage — a 31-million-strong bloc vastly larger than the five-million population of Ireland itself.
Those links helped give Washington an intermediary role in resolving the 30-year “Troubles” in Northern Ireland, a sectarian conflict that killed 3,500 in Ireland and the British province itself, before it largely ended in 1998.
Lately, Britain’s Brexit withdrawal from the European Union has threatened the cohesion promised by Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement.
US politicians have stepped in, warning London that a post-Brexit UK-US trade pact could be at risk if the peace is undermined.
Their alarm has reportedly been stoked by energetic briefing by the Irish embassy in Washington.
“The connections between Ireland and the US are incredibly strong,” said Ballina local councillor Mark Duffy.
“It is that soft power,” he added. “Ireland does definitely punch above its weight on the international stage.”