If you watched my last video, you know what this is all about. I’ve been very critical of the status of the Salvator Mundi as an authentic da Vinci, mostly because of egregious amateur errors the master would never make. However, many of these errors and the overall fluffy, cream-puff aura the current incarnation of the painting has are the result of the extensive retouching that was necessary to create a viable while image (for auctioning in the hundreds of millions].
Below, on the left, is the Salvator Mundi after cleaning, and before being restored, retouched, and made into a seamless but mushy version. On the far right is the official restored version. In the middle is my digitally restored version that keeps the problems of wear and tear, multiple prior restorations, and possible residual over-paintings, but does not introduce the additional problems of the contemporary restoration. [Note that I’ve additionally recreated most the pattern on the fabric crossing his chest, because that could be logically deduced. This part is beyond cleaning and going into the next stage.]
There are still outstanding, red flag level problems with the painting, that for me call into question whether it was ever done by Leonardo [see below].
My project is to recreate what this painting would have looked like if it were indeed Leonardo’s creation. This is the first stage. I will need to compensate for the conspicuous flaws shown above. It is possible that the eyes were misleadingly compromised over the centuries of battering this painting endured, where we might be looking at an under-painting for one eye and a more finalized, but still highly compromised eye for the other. Problems with the nose and mouth are possibly also due to ageing, erosion, damage and tampering.
However, no professional artist would have the tip of the thumb touching the edge of the picture plane, or a blocky shoulder with an arm that shoots down at 90 degrees. This is only possible if somehow the panel the painting is on was cropped. Other versions of the Salvator Mundi, such as the Ganay Version, show more information on the left and right.
Below I’ve superimposed our version of the Salvator Mundi on top of the Ganay version, so we can see the extra imagery on the peripheries.
For the sake of assuming our Salvator Mundi really is by Leonardo, I will proceed as if the panel were physical cropped at some point in its history, and hence will recreate the areas outside of its extant margins.
I didn’t clean up absolutely everything because there are some areas that I’m going to have to completely recreate by digitally painting them. There are missing areas in the hair because there was no information, so now they are just dark rather than shockingly white or orange.
I may be extremely biased, but my own cleaning is inevitably going to be up my alley, or going to be my own cup of tea, whichever cliche you prefer.
The next stage is perhaps blaspheme, but I’m going to attempt to restore the image to an approximation of what Leonardo would have really created — as in the eyes would line up; the mouth would make sense; the shoulder wouldn’t belong to a robot, etc. Now, some would say that I don’t have the authority or pedigree to attempt such a thing, and they will tend to down-vote my content with a self-righteous click. They are the true authorities with the correct answers, and everyone should defer to them, or the dominant art narrative. While I do have an MFA in studio art; aced my college level art history and theory classes; have had at least 5 life drawing courses in addition to oil and acrylic painting classes; got the top fellowship awarded to only one student as a senior at UCLA based on a juried exhibition; have done at least 40 portraits in my life; and have published hundreds of articles on art on my blog; the real measure by me is always just that the proof is in the pudding. The quality of visual art is intrinsic and self-evident to the discerning eye, no matter what the theorists, various experts, and word-smiths who tend to dominate art discourse would have us believe. Everything else is gilded bullshit on a platter. Either I will be able to pull it off convincingly, or I will face-plant. Either way it’s a good exercise to tighten my Photoshop skills, learn about da Vinci, and hone my eye. That, and I wanna’ see what I come up with, and what the original da Vinci might have looked like.
In order to accomplish this feat, I’ve studied and complied a bunch of paintings, drawings, and studies by da Vinci. Quite obviously I could never nail precisely what he would have done. But I’m gambling I can do better than what has already been done with the physical painting. I covered my source materials, such as why a particular drawing by da Vinci is extremely instructive, in my last video [below].
I will not attempt — I don’t think — to make the painting look like it’s freshly painted. That’s a whole other magnitude of difficultly I don’t want to deal with. I’m still grappling with the enormous hurdles of there probably having been a beard (which I’d have to create almost from scratch], and of course there’s the issue of what can be seen in and through the crystal ball, etc. I will just endeavor to make an aged version that’s a bit smokey and yellowed.
And why the hell not? There are undoubtedly other digital artists who have more of the appropriate training and background to pull this off, but lets let your humble servant give it a try just for the flying F of it. I hope that’s OK with you.
And if you missed the first video, in which, among ther things, I show various experts endorsing and fawning over the, shall I say, botched restoration, behold:
Meanwhile, I’ve switched my video editing software from Filmora to PowerDirector 365, and am working on a video about a painting I love, for a change. If you like my videos, be sure to give them a like, and subscribe, as that helps me overcome the algorithmic bottleneck that is currently throttling my exposure.
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