nkonstam

I have discovered a number of facts previously unknown to art history which need to be digested by the establishment if our understanding of art is to improve. I will be publishing them on this site. As a practical sculptor I have rather different criteria of what needs to be known to the profession than the art historians who tend to defend what they see as their private territory.

Aug 182019
The one big difference between my interpretation of Rembrandt’s character as an artist and the characterisation of modern scholars is that I see him as an observer and they insist that he was an imaginative inventor. Benesch writing in “Rembrandt Selected Drawings” (1947)   suggested that Rembrandt drew his biblical subjects from an “inner vision…as if he seen them in reality”. Whereas Houbraken (167 ) Rembrandt’s contemporary writes exactly the opposite he said Rembrandt “would not attempt a single brush stroke without living model before his eyes” and I have found massive evidence in the drawings themselves that 98% agrees with Houbraken. In fact all Rembrandt’s contemporaries say much same.
Benesch  was writing in the 1947 but today’s scholars seem in complete agreement inasmuch as they have stuck with his method of dating by style and savagely prune those drawings that dont fit in with his ideas; where I have proved over and over again that his ideas were founded on the erroneous assumptions oft repeated in his “Selected Drawings” of Rembrandt’s imagination. I gave ample evidence of this in my article “Rembrandt’s Use of Models and Mirrors” (Burlington February 77) and have added to that evidence with many videos on YouTube; nonetheless, the evidence has been neglected by the scholars.
My evidence backs up Rembrandt’s contemporaries who all described the character I have recovered through his works. My version of Rembrandt would expand the catalogue of drawings, perhaps 30% over Benesch’s “Complete Drawings” – Benesch believed in about 1500 of them. While P. Schatborn, once of The Rijksmuseum, more recently claims to believe in only 500 drawings by Rembrandt (in the Getty catalogue “Rembrandt and his Pupils”). I believe in approximately 2200 and  am scandalized by Schatborn’s judgments.
Though I have not had the lifetime of experience among the originals that Schatborn has enjoyed, I believe that successive generations of scholars have dismantled what better connoisseurship once upheld. My own research has largely been among reproductions. My advantage is my sense of Rembrandt has not been hampered by scholarly opinion. I studied art and haved had a lifetime of practice in sculpture and drawing. Rembrandt has been and remains chief among my household gods. I find it difficult to understand how the opinion of theoreticians should trump irrefutable evidence -  indefinitely.
Modern scholarship finds it difficult to believe Rembrandt could have gained anything from his study of Roman portraiture. He owned 30 Roman busts and filled two books with drawings of them, which must be a measure of his interest in Roman portraits. I believe his preference for truth to nature over idealised beauty and his use of three-dimensional geometry as a draftsman is due to his understanding of Roman geometric form; a clear preference over Greek idealization.
There are a number of other failures of recent scholarship which I will outline. But the last sentence of the paragraph above is the essence of my struggle with Rembrandt scholars since 1974. (I have recently experienced precisely the same disdain of evidence from archaeologists over a series of discoveries in Greek and Roman art; the new evidence is centred on The Elgin Marbles, I agree with Richard Payne Knight that the majority and the best are Roman restorations.)
Other misunderstanding in recent Rembrandt scholarship – G. Schwartz finds Rembrandt lacking in humour. But Baldinucci describes him “as first rate joker who laughed at everybody” I am amused considerably by some of his drawings – Rembrandt laughs at everybody in a final self-portrait.
More seriously, scholars want great masters to evolve consistently; and as Rembrandt rarely signed or dated his drawings they have had a field-day of arranging his drawings in a neat order that is absurdly mistaken (see YouTube of The Dismissal of Hagar, where we see that the changes in Rembrandt’s style are produced not by Rembrandt’s maturing but by his changing stimulus from reality to a mirror image). Rembrandt was once famous for his responsiveness, he is the least consistent artist I know; partly because of the wide variety of his responses and partly because he was responsible as a teacher – he believed that “one should follow only nature, anything else was worthless in his eyes” and he is the only artist I know who was prepared to demonstrate “worthlessness” in his own drawings when he could not follow nature (see YouTube “Isaac Refusing to Bless Esau” or any of his flying angels).
In his paintings one can see that he developed towards a looser style in the 1650s; the same is probably true of his drawings but the present system of dating by style is clearly wildly mistaken. I have shown evidence for a considerable loss in quality in those drawings made from mirror images (YouTube North Holland dress and “The Dismissal of Hagar”). This loss is almost certainly due to the lesser quality of the stimulus from a 17C. mirror. Plate glass was invented after Rembrandt’s death. His larger mirrors must have been made of either polished metal or composite mirrors made of small pieces mounted together, obviously a less precise image than life direct. I have suggested a spectrum of quality – the best -  from a stable stimulus: from life in the studio – a lesser quality from less stable life in the street – lesser still from mirror images and finally the least successful, when Rembrandt is obliged to construct or work from memory/imagination. These characteristics can be observed in action throughout Rembrandt’s life.
Contrary to the above idea that Rembrandt drew best from a stable stimulus – there are two feeble drawings from Roman busts which are included in Benesch’s catalogue but presumably excluded by Rembrandt from the two scrapbooks mentioned in his inventory, which sadly have been lost. Nonetheless, I would stick with my spectrum in a general way, writing off those two as examples of Rembrandt’s variability. A few of his drawings are truly great others much less so. Alas many of the greats have been dismissed by modern scholarship.
Fortunately the etchings are often dated on the plates, they are therefore a reliable source for examining Rembrandt’s variability. They speak  clearly of the same wide spectrum from infinitely painstaking, for instance in the shell of 1652, to remarkably crude in some of the earlier compositions, or fairly slapdash when drawing a golfer from life. My analysis of The Lion Hunt etchhings on YouTube makes a clear demonstration of the above.
We have to conclude from the etchings that Rembrandt was unreliable throughout his life. My own rule is – if there is any part of a work that could only have been drawn by Rembrandt then it is by Rembrandt; regardless of how awful the rest might be. For instance I defended “The Finding of Moses” drawing (YouTube) from Kenneth Clark’s de-attribution although I agree with his criticism; because this is a drawing about precarious balance that could only have been held by the model for limited time; it does not have Rembrandt’s usual sense of form. I think my comparison with the Virgin Mary with basket B     could confirm my interpretation with forensic tests showing both are done with the same pen and ink.
Further examples of Rembrandt’s drawings without visual stimulus – a drawing of Philemon and Baucis with Jupiter B     - a drawing so feeble it would never have been accepted as by Rembrandt without the little note he added explaining what it represented. He must have been reading his Ovid and thought the subject could make a painting but no models were available so he did his best without them. He did make a very different and successful painting of it afterwards. These examples should make it obvious Rembrandt needed visual stimulus to produce of his best either as a painter or as a draftsman; His student Hoogstratten advises “ take one or two of your fellow students and act out the scene, some of the greatest masters did the same”.
One last example the drawing of Job and his Comforters which experts believe is Rembrandt correcting a student drawing. Such an interpretations suggest that Rembrandt was a brutally destructive  teacher because he has ruined what was an excellent drawing. I describe it instead (on YouTube) as Rembrandt correcting Rembrandt, or more accurately Rembrandt trying a new interpretation over his own excellent drawing. The experts are unable to distinguish between the master and his students it would seem, I find no difficulty, Rembrandt was in an entirely different class. The best of his students were merely adequate.
One of the enduring lessons students can learn from Rembrandt is that he was unself-censoring, entirely self-accepting no matter what the outcome. He could not have foreseen the kind of scrutiny he gets in the analysis of his “Descent from the Cross” in The National Gallery’s “Art in the Making, Rembrandt” but there is not a hint of the hubris there that one finds in Michelangelo, for instance.
I have made a case for a new, more generous catalogue of Rembrandt’s drawings based on a new interpretation of his character as an artist. If you agree please signal your aproval below and ask for action from the scholars. Rembrandt was once the role model for art students.

The one big difference between my interpretation of Rembrandt’s character as an artist and the characterisation of modern scholars is that I see him as an observer and they insist that he was an imaginative inventor. Benesch writing in “Rembrandt Selected Drawings” (1947)   suggested that Rembrandt drew his biblical subjects from an “inner vision…as if he seen them in reality”. Whereas Houbraken (167 ) Rembrandt’s contemporary writes exactly the opposite he said Rembrandt “would not attempt a single brush stroke without living model before his eyes” and I have found massive evidence in the drawings themselves that 98% agrees with Houbraken. In fact all Rembrandt’s contemporaries say much same.

Benesch  was writing in the 1947 but today’s scholars seem in complete agreement inasmuch as they have stuck with his method of dating by style and savagely prune those drawings that don’t fit in with his ideas; where I have proved over and over again that his ideas were founded on the erroneous assumptions oft repeated in his “Selected Drawings” of Rembrandt’s imagination. I gave ample evidence of this in my article “Rembrandt’s Use of Models and Mirrors” (Burlington February 77) and have added to that evidence with many videos on YouTube; nonetheless, the evidence has been neglected by the scholars.

My evidence backs up Rembrandt’s contemporaries who all described the character I have recovered through his works. My version of Rembrandt would expand the catalogue of drawings, perhaps 30% over Benesch’s “Complete Drawings” – Benesch believed in about 1500 of them. While P. Schatborn, once of The Rijksmuseum, more recently claims to believe in only 500 drawings by Rembrandt (in the Getty catalogue “Rembrandt and his Pupils”). I believe in approximately 2200 and  am scandalised by Schatborn’s judgments.

Though I have not had the lifetime of experience among the originals that Schatborn has enjoyed, I believe that successive generations of scholars have dismantled what better connoisseurship once upheld. My own research has largely been among reproductions. My advantage is my sense of Rembrandt has not been hampered by scholarly opinion. I studied art and have had a lifetime of practice in sculpture and drawing. Rembrandt has been and remains chief among my household gods. I find it difficult to understand how the opinion of theoreticians should trump irrefutable evidence -  indefinitely.

Modern scholarship finds it difficult to believe Rembrandt could have gained anything from his study of Roman portraiture. He owned 30 Roman busts and filled two books with drawings of them, which must be a measure of his interest in Roman portraits. I believe his preference for truth to nature over idealised beauty and his use of three-dimensional geometry as a draftsman is due to his understanding of Roman geometric form; a clear preference over Greek idealisation.

There are a number of other failures of recent scholarship which I will outline. But the last sentence of the paragraph above is the essence of my struggle with Rembrandt scholars since 1974. (I have recently experienced precisely the same disdain of evidence from archaeologists over a series of discoveries in Greek and Roman art; the new evidence is centred on The Elgin Marbles, I agree with Richard Payne Knight that the majority and the best are Roman restorations.)

Other misunderstanding in recent Rembrandt scholarship – G. Schwartz finds Rembrandt lacking in humour. But Baldinucci describes him “as first rate joker who laughed at everybody” I am amused considerably by some of his drawings – Rembrandt laughs at everybody in a final self-portrait.

More seriously, scholars want great masters to evolve consistently; and as Rembrandt rarely signed or dated his drawings they have had a field-day of arranging his drawings in a neat order that is absurdly mistaken (see YouTube of The Dismissal of Hagar, where we see that the changes in Rembrandt’s style are produced not by Rembrandt’s maturing but by his changing stimulus from reality to a mirror image). Rembrandt was once famous for his responsiveness, he is the least consistent artist I know; partly because of the wide variety of his responses and partly because he was responsible as a teacher – he believed that “one should follow only nature, anything else was worthless in his eyes” and he is the only artist I know who was prepared to demonstrate “worthlessness” in his own drawings when he could not follow nature (see YouTube “Isaac Refusing to Bless Esau” or any of his flying angels).

In his paintings one can see that he developed towards a looser style in the 1650s; the same is probably true of his drawings but the present system of dating by style is clearly wildly mistaken. I have shown evidence for a considerable loss in quality in those drawings made from mirror images (YouTube North Holland dress and “The Dismissal of Hagar”). This loss is almost certainly due to the lesser quality of the stimulus from a 17C. mirror. Plate glass was invented after Rembrandt’s death. His larger mirrors must have been made of either polished metal or composite mirrors made of small pieces mounted together, obviously a less precise image than life direct. I have suggested a spectrum of quality – the best -  from a stable stimulus: from life in the studio – a lesser quality from less stable life in the street – lesser still from mirror images and finally the least successful, when Rembrandt is obliged to construct or work from memory/imagination. These characteristics can be observed in action throughout Rembrandt’s life.

Contrary to the above idea that Rembrandt drew best from a stable stimulus – there are two feeble drawings from Roman busts which are included in Benesch’s catalogue but presumably excluded by Rembrandt from the two scrapbooks mentioned in his inventory, which sadly have been lost. Nonetheless, I would stick with my spectrum in a general way, writing off those two as examples of Rembrandt’s variability. A few of his drawings are truly great others much less so. Alas many of the greats have been dismissed by modern scholarship.

Fortunately the etchings are often dated on the plates, they are therefore a reliable source for examining Rembrandt’s variability. They speak  clearly of the same wide spectrum from infinitely painstaking, for instance in the shell of 1652, to remarkably crude in some of the earlier compositions, or fairly slapdash when drawing a golfer from life. My analysis of The Lion Hunt etchings on YouTube makes a clear demonstration of the above.

We have to conclude from the etchings that Rembrandt was unreliable throughout his life. My own rule is – if there is any part of a work that could only have been drawn by Rembrandt then it is by Rembrandt; regardless of how awful the rest might be. For instance I defended “The Finding of Moses” drawing (YouTube) from Kenneth Clark’s de-attribution although I agree with his criticism; because this is a drawing about precarious balance that could only have been held by the model for limited time; it does not have Rembrandt’s usual sense of form. I think my comparison with the Virgin Mary with basket B     could confirm my interpretation with forensic tests showing both are done with the same pen and ink.

Further examples of Rembrandt’s drawings without visual stimulus – a drawing of Philemon and Baucis with Jupiter B     - a drawing so feeble it would never have been accepted as by Rembrandt without the little note he added explaining what it represented. He must have been reading his Ovid and thought the subject could make a painting but no models were available so he did his best without them. He did make a very different and successful painting of it afterwards. These examples should make it obvious Rembrandt needed visual stimulus to produce of his best either as a painter or as a draftsman; His student Hoogstratten advises “ take one or two of your fellow students and act out the scene, some of the greatest masters did the same”.

One last example the drawing of Job and his Comforters which experts believe is Rembrandt correcting a student drawing. Such an interpretations suggest that Rembrandt was a brutally destructive  teacher because he has ruined what was an excellent drawing. I describe it instead (on YouTube) as Rembrandt correcting Rembrandt, or more accurately Rembrandt trying a new interpretation over his own excellent drawing. The experts are unable to distinguish between the master and his students it would seem, I find no difficulty, Rembrandt was in an entirely different class. The best of his students were merely adequate.

One of the enduring lessons students can learn from Rembrandt is that he was unself-censoring, entirely self-accepting no matter what the outcome. He could not have foreseen the kind of scrutiny he gets in the analysis of his “Descent from the Cross” in The National Gallery’s “Art in the Making, Rembrandt” but there is not a hint of the hubris there that one finds in Michelangelo, for instance.

I have made a case for a new, more generous catalogue of Rembrandt’s drawings based on a new interpretation of his character as an artist. If you agree please signal your approval below and ask for action from the scholars. Rembrandt was once the role model for art students.

Apr 292019
“Verrocchio”  at the Strozzi Palace is a important exhibition because it sets Verrocchio  in his artistic tradition – his antecedents as well as his influence on future generations. Vasari describes him as having “a somewhat hard. crude manner” which is not untrue by the  standards of Vasari’s day but I would choose much more positive words such as classic, Roman, geometric, observant. Phrases like a meticulous delight in the volumes of nature, dedicated to visual truths, a great draughtsman. Verrocchio was trained as a goldsmith working on a small scale but his ambition grew in scale when in Rome fairly late. He had the misfortune to mature in the long shadow of Donatello and his reputation was later over-shadowed by his star pupil Leonardo da Vinci. But as a teacher he also had many other famous names as his students or followers.
As far as I’m concerned I would reverse the usual judgement and say that Leonardo’s greatest work, his curiosity and inventiveness was strongly influenced by Verrocchhio. There are very obvious influences and habits in common, both loved drawing complicated hair arrangements, both had a wide curiosity about natural appearances, about anatomy, about landscape and most of all about natural forces and how to master them. Both would leave works for a long time and come back to them with a fresh eye perhaps after years. Both found it difficult to finish their work to order.
Verrocchhio died while casting his great final masterpiece The Colleoni Monument in Venice; he was only 50. The great importance of Verroocchio is the seriousness and dedication with which he pursued the physical three dimensional likeness of his subject matter he was a great teacher and a great artist. Sadly the present catalogue follows the normal approach by calling the exhibition “Verrrocchio, Masterr of Leonardo”. This is a shame. The catalogue spends half a page trying to persuade us that his nick-name Verrocchio means winch rather than true eye, which is so much more appropriate. Added to which some of his most impressive works have been attributed to other masters: The portrait of his major patron Lorenzo the Magnificent (still in Washhington) is attributed to an imitator but what a magnificent job the ‘imitator’ made of it – infinitely better than the master himself in his portrait of Piero Medici (included in the exhibition), which is a fairly run of the mill production in a great age of portraiture; while the Lorenzo must be one of the greatest portrait busts ever made. The terracotta putto, an obvious by-product of the equally beautiful “Winged Boy with  Dolphin”is attributed to an anonymous student though it has all the hallmarks of the master himself. The high quality of his workshop is well represented.
In spite of these minor disadvantages the exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to re-evaluate a major master, presently undervalued, and to follow the methods of instruction of the leader of the greatest art school ever known. The catalogue admits “he shaped the style and taste of the age of Lorenzo the Magnificent like no other” what more need be said.

“Verrocchio”  at the Strozzi Palace is a important exhibition because it sets Verrocchio  in his artistic tradition – his antecedents as well as his influence on future generations. Vasari describes him as having “a somewhat hard, crude manner” which is not untrue by the  standards of Vasari’s day but I would choose much more positive words such as classic, Roman, geometric, observant. Phrases like a meticulous delight in the volumes of nature, dedicated to visual truths, a great draughtsman. Verrocchio was trained as a goldsmith working on a small scale but his ambition grew in scale when in Rome fairly late. He had the misfortune to mature in the long shadow of Donatello and his reputation was later over-shadowed by his star pupil Leonardo da Vinci. But as a teacher he also had many other famous names as his students or followers.

As far as I’m concerned I would reverse the usual judgement and say that Leonardo’s greatest work, his curiosity and inventiveness was strongly influenced by Verrocchhio. There are very obvious influences and habits in common, both loved drawing complicated hair arrangements, both had a wide curiosity about natural appearances, about anatomy, about landscape and most of all about natural forces and how to master them. Both would leave works for a long time and come back to them with a fresh eye perhaps after years. Both found it difficult to finish their work to order.

Verrocchhio died while casting his great final masterpiece The Colleoni Monument in Venice; he was only 50. The great importance of Verroocchio is the seriousness and dedication with which he pursued the physical three dimensional likeness of his subject matter he was a great teacher and a great artist. Sadly the present catalogue follows the normal approach by calling the exhibition “Verrrocchio, Masterr of Leonardo”. This is a shame. The catalogue spends half a page trying to persuade us that his nick-name Verrocchio means winch rather than true eye, which is so much more appropriate. Added to which some of his most impressive works have been attributed to other masters: The portrait of his major patron Lorenzo the Magnificent (still in Washhington) is attributed to an imitator but what a magnificent job the ‘imitator’ made of it – infinitely better than the master himself in his portrait of Piero Medici (included in the exhibition), which is a fairly run of the mill production in a great age of portraiture; while the Lorenzo must be one of the greatest portrait busts ever made. The terracotta putto, an obvious by-product of the equally beautiful “Winged Boy with  Dolphin”is attributed to an anonymous student though it has all the hallmarks of the master himself. The high quality of his workshop is well represented.

In spite of these minor disadvantages the exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to re-evaluate a major master, presently undervalued, and to follow the methods of instruction of the leader of the greatest art school ever known. The catalogue admits “he shaped the style and taste of the age of Lorenzo the Magnificent like no other” what more need be said.

Jan 092019

Is Art History too big to fail?

As a sculptor I have fulfilled the ambition to leave some trace of my passage on Earth but in my activity as art detective, at which I seem to be uniquely able, I have made hardly any mark at all. Though I have discovered a number of holes in the web of art history and occasionally published them in learned journals my two major insights have gone unanswered and have had no discernible impact on professional opinion. They are of major importance and I’m writing this last blast to try and push them to public notice. At the age of 86 if I don’t manage it in the next few years I guess they will be forgotten forever.

Though my discoveries have been published in prestigious art historical magazines they have not dented the beliefs of the art historians, they are over confident of their knowledge and unquestioning of their authorities. My detective persona springs into action only when my disbelief is triggered. Fortunately, my life is full without my discoveries because academic historians have managed to block my passage to the normal reading public in a way that has surprised me by its efficiency in this age of the internet. They police so much of the art media I seldom get my foot in the door. My Rembrandt book was first accepted by Phaidon and then rejected as a result of a disgraceful hatchet-job from an anonymous, professional reader; no other publisher would take it on after that. My evidence has been available on YouTube for at least 10 years but has made very little headway.(see www.nigelkonstam.com)

The first discovery was a series of errors in the scholarship of Rembrandt, the most important of masters to generations of artists. My discovery of Rembrandt’s use of mirror images derived from three dimensional groups of live models confirms the unanimous verdict of his contemporaries that “he would not attempt a single brush stroke without a living model before his eyes”. Modern scholarship insists on exactly the opposite: that his narrative drawings came from “an inner vision” but the evidence in the drawings is of groups of recognizable models who worked for Rembrandt over a period of years, creating with their tableaux vivents the subject matter for him and his students for both drawings and paintings. My interpretation is confirmed by geometry and by the inventory of his belongings; we know Rembrandt owned rooms full of the costumes and theatrical properties necessary to create these tableaux. It is necessary to understand the difference between print reversal that reverse two dimensional drawing and mirror reversal which can only be derived from three dimensional objects. As I have pointed to nearly 100 examples of this in Rembrandt’s drawings (not including the self portraits) a jury would undoubtedly accept these examples as proof, not so Rembrandt scholars.

My evidence is more than enough to convince any open mind. The known facts corroborate my story but there is an army of academic theorists whose beliefs oppose the facts with no explanation. I’ve been surprised by the extent to which academic theories win a public and media following over the practical experience of artists. Most of my discoveries have come about because I believe that the art we admired most before modern times was the result of direct observation of life; where the art historians are trained to believe that great art is the result of imaginative invention. Rembrandt recommends the observation of nature “anything else was worthless in his eyes”(A.Houbraken). I follow Rembrandt.

Art history used to be written by the practitioners now it is dominated by people whose knowledge is garnered from books, second-hand, rather than direct experience. The Scientific Revolution started when that state of affairs was reversed by observation of the stars. Will there ever be a similar revolution in art history? I doubt it without pressure from the public. These two case histories should provide the stimulus for change but no sign of that yet. The intelligent rule for judging strong evidence must surely be that one accepts it until better comes along. Art historians like theologians seem to stick with ancient books regardless of the evidence – authority rules, OK!

If you are content to have a Rembrandt story that is entirely at odds with the known facts, which reverses his whole philosophy and reduces his output by over 70%, leave things to the experts. If you prefer common sense we need a revolution in art history – right now. (Pieter Schatborn, late of The Rijksmuseum and mastermind behind the Getty show “Rembrandt and his Students” believes in only 500 Rembrandt drawings, Otto Benesch, author of the Catalogue Raissone (1954) believed in nearly 1500, I believe in over 2000.)

My evidence is beyond reasonable doubt and was published with the acknowledged support from Prof. Sir Ernst Gombrich in the most prestigious art history magazine, The Burlington, (February 1977) and has been ignored or snubbed ever since. (for details of how this was achieved see my article “Barriers to Academic Discussion” in The Journal of Information Ethics, fall 2015. For a brief introduction to my evidence see YouTube, Nigel Konstam BBC, plus many more). The historian/philosopher Y.N.Harari is fond of telling us not to underestimate the stupidity of our species; here is a thriving example of it on a grand scale and in public view for 100 years. How many young minds are brainwashed per annum by departments of art history? Moreover, generations of artists have been deceived about the modus operandi of their chief hero.

ELGIN ARGUMENTS

My recent discovery disturbs the tap-root of European art history and art criticism. The essence of this discovery is that the Romans restored most of the sculptures in the British Museum known as “The Elgin Marbles”. The evidence for this is as clear as day when viewed with the new knowledge of where the smoke pollution came from and how it was trapped by the Parthenon building. The discovery is based on two previous discoveries I made and published in The Oxford Journal of Archaeology in 2002:- a chimney on the Acropolis rock in Athens, and the use of life-casting in ancient Greece (OJA 2004).

The evidence is available to all, no special training is necessary and it is on permanent display in the museum at all times. Furthermore, it is a strong argument for retaining the collection not sending the sculptures back to Greece. Instead the marbles become the best place to study the relative merits of the two great civilizations of the past that have most strongly influenced subsequent art. This discovery is a promotion for Rome and a reversal of orthodox opinion since Winklemann.

I recently published the full evidence in a booklet “Elgin Arguments” (2018) now also available as an e-booklet. There is every reason to believe that its reception is going nowhere; the establishment has no wish to be disturbed. There is a video on YouTube which is an introduction to the whole idea there is also the illustrated e-booklet, which elaborates on the ideas. (see www.nigelkkonstam.com) Please look them up and add your voice to mine demanding a proper discussion of these important facts that have been misunderstood for 300 years during which Phidias has enjoyed the adulation chiefly earned by the restorations done over 500 years later with superior tools and greater sophistication.

An art expert, Richard Payne Knight, made the same point about Roman restorations at the time parliament was buying the marbles from Elgin but he was disgraced for his heresy. The chimney on the Acropolis provides the evidence that restorations were needed which Payne Knight lacked; he relied on style for his opinion now we have soot colour, texture and weathering to add to style. You will need my Guide below to appreciate this to the full.

A Guide to how to distinguish Greek from Roman work in the Elgin Marbles, I put no copyright on this description so please send it to anyone who might be interested and take it yourself when you next visit the British Museum. This description goes somewhat further than the original booklet as it compares and contrasts the South Frieze of the Elgin Marbles with the casts of the North Frieze which Elgin brought back leaving the originals in place, clearly because they were not so good. I now believe that the South frieze is mainly Roman restoration as well as the west pediment, both were most probably commissioned by the Emperor Hadrian (117 – 138 AD) that is 570 years after Phidias designed the originals. They are not restorations in the modern sense because they are better than the original work on the east pediment as judged by a series of connoisseurs.

The horse of Selene being the one exception on the east pediment, that horse is Roman it is easily distinguished because the original work is blackened by smoke and the Rome is clean shiny marble, furthermore it is in much better condition as it has not been subjected to 570 years of weather and smoke. Compare the horses of Helios with the horse of Selene, both on the east pediment but they could not be by the same author or from the same date; Selene is markedly better and has become the icon of the Elgin collection.

This reassessment of the relative quality of Greek and Roman work matters because many of the great masters of the past are much more reliant on Roman geometric form than is now acknowledged – Masaccio, Mantegna, Holbein, Rembrandt, Degas and Giacometti for example. All are based on Roman three dimensional geometry and their achievement cannot be properly understood by present critical methods. Geometric relationships are not read by sensitive lines but by relationships on the page. Art historians have paid little attention to the important Roman contribution to European art though Rembrandt owned thirty Roman portraits and filled two books with drawings of them. Clearly they were a major influence on him.

This is why I need public support. It is difficult for archaeologists to admit to centuries of failure to see what is now so obvious. Rembrandt scholars have no such excuse for their continuing denial of what must be clear and proven to the rest of us.

A NEW TOUR OF THE ELGIN MARBLES

by Nigel Konstam, (sculptor & art detective) no copyright

This tour is designed to demonstrate that European Art History is based on an error: the greater part of The Elgin Marbles, all of which were taken off The Parthenon, are nonetheless Roman not Greek. Furthermore, connoisseurs have regularly preferred the Roman work to the Greek. This idea was first proposed by Richard Payne Knight when Elgin was selling th sculptures that he had saved from the ruins of The Parthenon to the government. Payne Knight was disgraced for his heresy but Konstam brings new evidence of an industrial chimney 150m downwind from the west facade, the pollution from which could have so damaged the sculptures that they needed to be restored by Hadrian (117-138 AD). The chimney was discovered by Konstam in 2000 and in spite of his efforts no carbon test has been done on its soot and tar. Such tests could confirm or deny his theory as there is still plenty of black on the original Greek sculpture to compare.

1. Start at the east pediment viewed from afar. Note how all the sculptures are grey with some black in places. The black is mainly coming from below but the black is also in deeply carved pockets where more bruising of the stone has taken place due to the use of iron or bronze tools at right angles to the surface which bruises the marble. This bruising allows the black smoke to enter so deeply into the stone that no cleaning can shift it. This is genuine Greek Classical work. The exception is the horse of Selene on the extreme right which I believed to be Roman and carved with steel tools at an angle to the surface which does not bruise the finished stone. The Selene Horse really looks like marble and is most admired. All are the same Pentelic marble though they do not look it. Note also that the quality of the art is superior to that of the Helios pair (Greek).

2. Move closer to the two horses of Helios on the left. Note the one behind has lost his muzzle, note how weathered and soft the break is. This is because the break is very old. (We will see the west pediment damage is much newer.)

3. Look under the knee of Dionysos, the next figure to the Helios horses, you will find areas of black particularly where it overhangs the parapet. Look very carefully and you will find a declivity where the smoke has eaten away the stone under the actual knee bones, note also how narrow the knee has become, possibly because the underside has been reworked as a makeshift repair of the smoke damage.

There is also evidence that this figure was copied from a life-cast in hollow wax such as was used to cast the Bronzes of Riace (see The Oxford Journal of Archaeology 2002 “Sculpture the Art and the Practice” for details): the carver has copied so accurately the crude modification made to bend the figure to this new pose that this use of life-casts as lay figures is strongly indicated.

4. Note the black on the lower skirts of the two ladies next to Dionysos. All you have seen so far would have received the smoke collected by the south colonnade as it is in line with these sculptures and is where the smoke would naturally escape. The rest of the pediment is somewhat less blackened because farther from the main stream of smoke.

5. Continue to note grey colouring until you reach the horse of Selene, far right; clean and quite clearly of Roman origin. Although the original Greek version would have been furthest from the source of smoke it would have received that smoke direct in its mouth and nostrils which overhang the parapet and would have been extra vulnerable because of the extra bruising caused by excavating those hollows with iron or bronze tools.

6. Round the back of the east pediment you will note the extra blackening in the deepest holes or valleys explained as above. If this amount of damage was done by smoke here think how much more was done to the west pediment much closer to the chimney plus more direct rain. An early photo shows most blackening on the west facade.

7. As you walk towards the west pediment note the sophistication of the relief carving where sometimes the depth of 3 figures overlap. Some of the horses heads do not work that well because they have not sufficient depth of stone but the bodies are very well adapted to the varying depth of space they occupy. This is Roman, if you wish to see the true Greek relief of the classical period go next door to the Xanthos room there you will see very beautiful reliefs but much simpler. Between these major displays you will see the plaster casts of the northern frieze which Lord Elgin chose to leave in Athens; these are less good Greek reliefs. I have called them naive because the awkward art of relief is no longer following the earlier rules and has not yet worked out the new ones. Block 4 is a particularly crude example of this. Where the Roman horses in the main gallery are remarkably uniform, real cavalry horses, these horses vary from overblown roundabout horses to rather deer-like forms, nor is the anatomy well understood. Opposite this room you will find an excellent video of the arrangement of the south frieze in cavalry ranks indicating yet more sophistication (of Roman work).

8. At the west pediment note all is clean and the surface marble-like because carved with steel tools. The steel tools held at an acute angle to the surface when cutting, does not bruise the stone. The earlier crumbling method (Greek) with iron tools uses the tool at right angles to the surface that bruises the finished stone as well. The bruising allowed the soot to enter so deeply into the stone that even the brutal cleaning of 1938 could not shift it. The finished surface of this earlier carving would have been polished with abrasives but could not have reached the shiny surface of the Roman work. It is probable that Hadrian closed down the foundry if it had not been closed before. Any dirt on the west pediment is the result of ageing. The grave damage is much crisper than that of the Helios horses probably because it was caused by Venetian canon during the bombardment of 1687.

Thse numerous anomalies seen in the colour, texture, style and weathering can be best explained by severe damage done by the Phidian chimney before 117 AD and subsequent restorations probably ordered by Hadrian.

When you have seen the evidence please leave comments on the YouTube presentation. There is also a colour illustrated e-booklet available “Elgin Arguments” where you can award stars. For yet more detail “Sculpture, the Art and the Practice” second edition, with the Riace Bronze supplement, both are by Nigel Konstam.

Sep 182018

Konstam will demonstrate evidence that the Parthenon was damaged by pollution from the Phidian foundry.  This evidence radically alters both the arguments for the marbles return to Greece and the aesthetic assumption that Greek originals are vastly superior to the Roman copies. On the contrary, the Roman copies from the Parthenon have been more widely praised than the Greek originals. There are four ways in which the layman can tell Greek from Roman (colour, texture, style and weathering). The experts have chosen to ignore this disturbing news.
For this and other relevant discoveries see www.nigelkontam.com
In photograph one can confuse shadows with soot. To be fully convinced you need to see the primary evidence at the British Museum with your own eyes.
It is hoped that doubters will enliven the debate on Nov. 4th.2018

Your comments and support on YouTube may promote truth in art history by bring  these discoveries to a wider public.

Sep 182018

British historian Nigel Konstam (correction Nigel is actually a sculptor and teacher and founder of the Verrocchio Art Centre) has published a booklet arguing that many of the works stolen from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin in the 1800s are in fact Roman reproductions of the Greek originals.

His theory is based on the recent discovery of a chimney near the Parthenon used by the great 5th century sculptor Phidias to cast his giant bronzes.

Konstam suggests that the originals had been eroded by acid rain caused by chimney effluent.

He argues that the Roman statues were carved differently and look much cleaner than the Greek ones, which were etched (carved) with fragile iron and bronze tools, causing bruising and microcracks which allowed the smoke to penetrate deeper.

The British Museum’s senior curator Ian Jenkins described Konstam’s theory as “radical”.

“I have never heard before the connection between Roman replacements of the west pediment sculptures of the Parthenon and smoke…Nobody been so radical as to suggest that the entire west pediment is a Roman replacement,” he was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

Lord Bruce a descender of Lord Elgin is not convinced. Speaking to the British tabloid he said he can’t believe there was that much pollution caused by the chimney.

“His theory is at least not as ridiculous as one currently doing the rounds that the Parthenon was a burial ground for young maidens,” he added.

Oct 222015

To become a Rembrandt scholar you need to pass out top of a prestigious course in art history. They are the crème della crème; but they are gravely mistaken about Rembrandt and resist correction no matter what the evidence for revision. This article is designed to convince you they need to be replaced. They will not renew themselves.

They have in fact stood Rembrandt on his head. Reversing his significance of perhaps the world’s most perceptive observer. They seek to persuade us that he worked largely from imagination. I believe that I have demonstrated this to be a fundamental mistake, yet they will not budge. As a simple example see my “Isaac Refusing to Bless Esau” on YouTube. I expect you will agree with me that Rembrandt was at his best as an observer.

Esau and Isaac

Click to play video

This disagreement as to whether Rembrandt relied on observation or invention is a fundamental error, which invalidates large areas of recent scholarship. An error from which Rembrandt scholarship is suffering and has suffer since 1922 at when this important drawing was dismissed – important because it shows us Rembrandt’s strengths and weaknesses. Because I accept the weakness I can believe in over 2,000 drawings by Rembrandt but the scholars’ refusal leads them to accept only 500! His position as a culture hero has fallen proportionately in my life time.

I find it very easy to win the observation argument, so I well understand why the scholars refuse to debate the point in public. Choosing instead to undermine my examples in their private world of scholarly publications so they can continue with their folly undisturbed. I have described the scholarship of Rembrandt drawings as “an unmitigated disgrace” for the following reasons:-

1. My paradigm changing discovery of Rembrandt’s Use of Models and Mirrors in 1974 has been neglected. These findings were published in the Burlington under that title in Feb.1977 (two eminent art historians, Prof. Sir Ernst Gombrich and Dr J. Montagu were thanked for their help in presenting my findings in that article). A similar article was published in Rembrandthuiskroniek vol.1 1978. In both I believe I proved, beyond reasonable doubt, that Rembrandt used groups of live models for himself and his students to work from. This idea is anyway corroborated by contemporaries of Rembrandt; what was all that theatrical wardrobe for if not to produce his groups? (an extensive wardrobe and props is seen in the inventory of his belongings taken in 1656.)
2.Recent Rembrandt scholarship has neglected the historical record, indeed reversed the known facts.
3. Over a period of 90 years they have apparently unanimously accepted this reversal, neglecting an abundance of evidence that should have warned them off. They do this in order to maintain their mistaken ideas of Rembrandt’s development as a draughtsman and his relationship with the school production; they have  substituted theoretical iconography where practical observation explains the school works better. These sins have suffocated the educational atmosphere of art history. The Rembrandt catastrophe could not have happen without unquestioning acceptance of the professor’s dictate.
4. The scholars refuse to discuss and continue with the destruction of Rembrandt in the face of overwhelming evidence of their folly – or worse.
5. As a sculptor of 60 years experience, I find their judgments often outrageous.

Sep 242015

inventory1

Aug 212015

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Aug 192015

BURLINGTON

Enlargement of newspaper column

Aug 192015

GOWING