Norms do… Da Vinci (or Boltraffio??)
My little Norms have parodied quite a few artists and their masterpieces now. Degas’ L’Absinthe, Goya’s 3 May 1808, Velazquez’s royal portraits and Robert Doisneau’s Kiss at the Opera to name but a few. I also featured a Norm parody of Da Vinci’s great masterpiece Lady with an Ermine back in December. Well now the Norms have returned to this great classical favourite, appearing in a pastiche of that great Da Vinci work, the Madonna Litta. The only problem is, was this sumptuous Madonna and Child, usually to be found in St Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum and most recently featured in the huge sell-out spectacular Da Vinci show at London’s National Gallery, a Da Vinci painting at all?
Rumour has it that the work, albeit based on ideas and primary sketches by Da Vinci, was actually completed by his pupil Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio. The Da Vinci-doubters attribute the Christ child’s apparently awkward posture to the lesser known artist, as well as a “formulaic” and “plain” landscape, and the “harsh” outlines of the characters. I’m no art history expert, and who am I to doubt these tell-tale signs. But for me the work is splendid in all its components, Da Vinci or otherwise. The landscape is fairly rudimentary, but this ensures focus is drawn to the protagonists of the tale, while providing colour balance to the piece. The sharp outlines of the characters are attributable to the dark interior background, but this is no different to the effective use of a black background in Da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine as well as La belle Ferroniere. To my mind, the problem with the Christ child is not so much his “awkward” pose as his direct gaze towards the audience, which seems at odds with the serenity of the moment as he breastfeeds from a caring mother. All in all the painting, bursting with colour, full of familial intensity, is a superb example of the Da Vinci school whether or not painted by the great master himself.
My Norm work is every bit a homage to the original Da Vinci inspiration. At 6″ x 4″, it is probably the smallest painting I have ever attempted which made the detail of the landscape and lavish fabrics difficult to paint. The reason for this size was principally to fit a very fine mock-vintage frame I found online. In fact I am completely obsessed with vintage frames at the moment, and now have a collection, filled with little Norm takes on classical paintings hanging upon dark scarlet flock wallpaper in my hallway. By far my favourite is a frame which is so grand, so utterly exuberant, that it needs to be shared on my blog. When seeking a frame for my Doisneau Norms, I wanted something as extravagant as I could find, to mark a satisfying contrast between the 1950s image and the Renaissance style framing. I love mixing up period design in this way, and in fact my flat here in London is a temple of mixed period design. The frame I eventually found fits the bill perfectly and is by far the most extravagant frame I now have in the house. Keep in mind, this is a fairly large painting – 20″ x 24″ so that gives you a sense of the overall frame size, a frame which is so utterly exquisite in its details that my partner and I have taken to staring at it for long periods of blissful admiration in the same way that the faithful may stare in awe at a beautiful baroque altarpiece. And the best bit – it was only £85 from ebay. But don’t tell anyone!
Ok, it’s officially snowing (a bit) in London so I’m off to seek warmer climes. See you there!
© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2005-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
- Da Vinci Season – Part 2: National Gallery exhibition review (normsonline.wordpress.com)