The problem is that if a “random person on the internet” can substantially improve upon what is supposed to be a painting 100% executed by Leonardo da Vinci, than that is NOT a real da Vinci.
I should not be able to improve upon da Vinci, and I can’t. But what I can do is improve upon an overzealous retouching job performed on a severely damaged painting. And this is the crux of the matter. This retouched version does not look like a da Vinci, and is nowhere near his level of competence. It contains conspicuous amateur errors which are due to the restorer having to recreate missing and damaged passages. However, the painting was sold as if Leonardo painted that face, when in reality, the only parts that were well preserved, and convincingly of his skill level, are his right hand and some of the curls on his left shoulder. The rest is obviously fudged, and does not represent his vision or his hand. Au contraire, and in spades!
A lot of supposed experts who want to control the art narrative have egg on their faces, and they know that I’m right and can prove it. The solution is to censor me, insult me, and dismiss me.
I shared this image in the “art history” reddit forum yesterday. The initial reaction was very positive. It got 115 up-votes within hours, which represented 96% of the votes it received. There were over 30 comments, including a fair amount of interest and even praise. The post was very popular within the group.
You might want to know that at a prior stage I shared the same image, and explicitly stated my rather humble qualification to make such an attempt:
As an exercise, I’m attempting — with a lot of research into da Vinci’s drawings & paintings — to recreate approximately what the original Salvator Mundi might have looked like assuming it was painted by Leonardo… I guarantee no physical paintings will be harmed in my humble attempt to recreate something along the lines of the original. There are doubtlessly other digital artists and various experts more qualified and better trained for the task. Whatever they are waiting for, in the interim, I don’t see why not give it a try. I can later be embarrassed by a more consummate effort.
The moderators who would use a pretext to censor my further efforts, and to ban me, were aware that I wasn’t making any great claims for myself, nor trying to say my creation had any authority in terms of art historical significance!
Here are a few of the positive comments it received:
Then the head moderator pulled the plug. My post was removed.
Wait. Was I uncivil? Did I endanger the community? Was my post not about art history? The answers are no, no, and no. Usually a post is removed for being rude or abusive, or else for being off topic. I was having constructive discussions, and the group obviously was very interested in my content.
I messaged the moderators to find out why my post was removed. This was the response I got.
But there were only 6 rules.
I checked the right sidebar where they post the rules, and out of the blue there was a new one prohibiting “digital restorations”. Behold rule #7, created in my honor.
Even though the group has been around for at least a decade, and has over 90,000 members, suddenly there needed to be a new rule within hours after I shared my “digital restoration”.
Next came a public announcement about the new rule.
It had been posted within the hour. So, it wasn’t my imagination, and this definitely was a new rule suddenly enforced on yours truly. And in so doing, they indefinitely removed the possibility of anyone sharing a “digital restoration … of any kind” for tens of thousands of people. It’s safe to say the moderators are not digital artists, and have no idea how much skill and work is involved. On one level, it’s that rather reactionary anti-digital art attitude that we usually see in older, very traditional oil painters of still lifes and nudes. The mods have consigned the forum in question to being hopelessly antiquated in the digital age.
The underlying notion is that only an art historian is qualified to make a digital recreation of an art historical painting. Artists do not have the authority. Because art historians wouldn’t likely have the requisite skills to perform the task, thus digital restoration and recreation must be entirely dismissed as misleading and anathema to the official, sanctified, authority of the art world, it’s gatekeepers, and it’s parking lot attendants (see mods above]. In reality, if one dare confront it, the proof of whether a digital restoration or recreation is worthy of consideration is determined by looking at it. The proof is in the pudding. Keep in mind the context. My recreation only needed to be good enough for conversation purposes on a by all means unofficial and amateur internet forum.
And for such an internet forum the pudding was too good, so they needed to hide it away so others wouldn’t see it, because it threatened their own sense of authority and self worth, sadly, or some might even say, pathetically. Though, I still maintain that there are undoubtedly artists more qualified than I to make such an image, especially if they worked together, and perhaps with input from historians. Of course, I shared my image to get extra input, but it was forbidden by the intelligentsia.
Mind you, a reddit forum isn’t only for experts in the field, who quite likely wouldn’t get involved with them in the first place. It’s for anyone and everyone who has a genuine interest to discuss relevant topics. The mods try to pretend they are so professional that my content is simply too poor and misleading. I am characterized as “some random person on the internet” in order to position themselves as having automatic authority above me. My rendition is “particularly heinous” and “changing the entire style of the work”. It “misleads users”.
I didn’t change the style. My version is very carefully based on several depictions of the Salvator Mundi from the 1500’s, Leonardo’s paintings, and his sketches of fabric for the Salvator Mundi.
In fact, the entire rationalization for rejecting all digital restoration is such an embarrassing conglomeration of logical fallacies that it serves as a self-indictment upon any close reading. Here are some of the fallacies employed.
- “some random person on the internet”. This is the “ad hominem attack”. Rather than providing any argument or evidence, it asserts that their opponent is automatically wrong because a “random person on the internet”.
- “they are NOT art history”. This is mere assertion. Digital restorations certainly have been used to contribute to art history, and have been done by professionals.
- “Some of the particularly heinous examples of ‘digital restoration’ posted here“: again, mere assertion without an actual example, and there is no opportunity for the digital artist to defend their position, as in my case I was banned.
- “Labeling ‘digital restorations’ in the same category as professional restorations or even art history in general misleads users, who may not realize that real restoration work is an entirely different process.” This is a strawman argument. Nobody is saying that a digital restoration is the same thing as a physical restoration on the painting in question, which it most obviously is not. Who doesn’t realize that using tools in Photoshop is a different process than applying chemicals, and working with brushes and pigment?! Merely putting the word “digital” in front of “restoration” should be enough for any sane, modestly education person to know that it isn’t posing as the same thing as a physical restoration.
- Just compare these to the mountain of “digital restoration” videos out there–it’s a totally different methodology, and only one is actually based on art history. Another mere assertion. My “digital restoration” is based on multiple versions of the Salvator Mundi, Leonardo’s drawings and paintings, and one sketch of fabric in particular, in addition to research on the painting in question and relevant history. The proof is in the pudding.
- labeling these as “restorations” is simply bad art history. Another mere assertion. Making a digital visual aid is quite likely helpful to art history, especially if it is done carefully and accompanies a well articulated argument.
- “Professional art conservators do vast amounts of research”. This is the logical fallacy of the “appeal to authority”. Educated adults can evaluate the research for themselves. Tucked in this is a competitive dismissal of artists as having any authority on art, and instead granting it to academics. Art historians generally will know more about art history than artists, but artists will on average know a lot more about art. And some artists have had university level art history courses, and did as well or better in them than the art history majors.
- No more digital/non-professional restorations. This is the logical fallacy of the “false equivalency”. Merely linking digital and non-profession with a backslash makes no argument.
It’s no surprise that the thinking behind the prohibition and opportunistic banning is shoddy, as evidenced in the examples above. That’s not just “bad art history”: it’s demonstrably inferior thinking (and closed-minded, and woefully uninformed on digital rendering].
And let’s just get this straight and see if it syncs with reality. My version, right below, is so bad compared to the Modestini version on the left, that they needed to remove it and permanently ban me.
And this is also because my discussion and analysis is not sophisticated enough? Really? I don’t think so. When I shared an earlier stage of this “restoration” a month ago there was an extensive discussion about the painting, it was 97% up-voted, had 138 up-votes, and 57 comments. The mods know who I am, and know very well that I can get into complex, lengthy, but polite conversations and debates. The problem was never that my content isn’t good enough. Oh, wait, yeah, it’s just that my version is obviously better and more true to Leonardo. Of course, it IS digital, and quite obviously not the same thing as working on the physical painting, as if that needed to be said.
Or, they actually take themselves that seriously and believe their own rhetoric. Hmmm. And as the weird belief in the art world that the Modestini/Dubai version of the Salvator Mundi is 100% authentic proves, some people are extremely learned about art, and yet kinda’ dumb when it comes to being able to really see it.
You know what a sane, non-competitive, non-petty, intelligent reaction from them would have been? They’d have at least thought, “that’s interesting”. Because it is. But they didn’t want to admit that, because it challenged their authority. So they had to find an excuse to shut it down, in the name of art and art history, mind you. The two moderators responsible are deputygus and kingsocarso. Someone privately messaged me that one of them is a douchebag, and while I can’t take his word for it, I”m not entirely disinclined to agree. It has crossed my mind what kind of people these gate-keepers of the narrative are outside of lording over internet forums. I wonder if I could “consider the source” of the anonymous authorities, would it all make so much sense. Sadly, a lot of this may be due to a rather severe case of Cartmanism:
So, I tried to resubmit my post, but saying it was an “interpretation” to see if they would remove it anyway, even though I downplayed it myself.
Now, nobody would be potentially misled. I further said it was “NOT a professional, museum restoration”. There is ostensibly no problem with having discussions about the merits of a historical work of art — otherwise the forum could scarcely exist — and merely adding a visual aid should not pose any problem, but be a bonus. My new post was, as I fully predicted, instantly down-voted, removed, and then I discovered I was also permanently banned from the group:
The real problem was not that I misled people with a digital “restoration”: the problem was the image itself, and the content. My argument and visual aid were too convincing, and I was arguing for the other team! I’m rather flattered they had to invent a rule for me to anachronistically have violated, and that they had to ban me to keep me from taking them to task. In reality, it’s not that my views, arguments, or scholarship are beneath the threshold of what they consider acceptable, but rather that they are too good, internet authorities lost the argument, and the proof is in the pudding. Who are these “random internet mods” anyway? It’s a job I would want nothing to do with. The amount of time they dedicate to participating on internet forums is truly mind boggling. One needs an incredible amount of free time to dedicate to such service, or disservice.
I don’t really care about being shut out of the group. There are many other art-related forums, and reddit tends to harbor pits of vipers. What interests me is why, and that my version of the Salvator Mundi is so threatening to them that they had to eliminate and silence me, fully knowing I did nothing wrong. Perhaps they had endorsed the Dubai Salvator Mundi as authentically by Leonardo themselves, and risk losing face in a community they lord over. Or perhaps some other members of the community have done so.
The truth, the evidence, and the better arguments are all on my side. This is not me bragging, it’s just a perfect example of the Emperor’s New Clothes. You can’t pass off that ridiculous mug as the work of Leonardo, and it’s an insult to his legacy, and the intelligence and connoisseurship of the international art audience to try.
There are politics involved because of who the painting was auctioned off to – the second most powerful person in the country he comes from [I’m staying out of the politics for now, so you can look up who bought it yourself if you are interested]. Let’s just say he’s not someone you want to piss off. The reputation of the auction house is at stake, as are those of the experts who endorsed the painting as 100% by Leonardo. Those experts know very well that the restoration does NOT look as if Leonardo painted it, but is just a way to showcase the parts he likely did paint.
Martin Kemp himself has stated that both of the thumbs in the cleaned painting (one is a pentimento) are “better than the one painted by Dianne”. This is the fact laid bare. The restorer made changes that do not reflect Leonardo’s hand, and are patently inferior! This is as true of the face as it is of the thumb. Here’s the quote as presented by art critic Jonathan Jones in the Guardian:
Martin Kemp is probably the strongest advocate for the authenticity of the painting as 100% autograph Leonardo, but has said himself that at least one painted-over portion is inferior to Leonardo’s underlying work. Let that sink in. I am not saying anything different from that. I painted the thumb better myself to illustrate this. That is my crime.
This is the simple truth that they are trying to hide. While the painting may very well originally have been made by Leonardo, and even 100% of it, what we see now is largely a fudged patch-up job done by a restorer, with a few passages by his own hand. It’s as if the Venus de Milo were given clumsy arms and passed off as a complete work.
You might be able to say, that’s 100% the original marble, and it came from such and such quarry, and this is scientifically proven. You could say that the head and torso are absolutely from 150 BC or earlier, and so on. But you could not say that the arms were by the original sculptor, or that the resulting figure was in its entirety representative of the original artist. And this is precisely the case with the Salvator Mundi. Leonardo did NOT paint that pathetic face! And you are not allowed to say that, even though it’s obviously true. One art historian has come out and said that experts who refused to authenticate the Salvator Mundi as authentic have not presented their arguments for fear of being sued. If the painting is NOT 100% by Leonardo, he said, the value could go down from $450,000,000 to a couple hundred thousand.
And that’s why I was banned. My arguments are correct, and my visual aid helps hammer home the truth and reality of the situation. My version of the Salvator Mundi makes the shortcomings of the supposedly authentic da Vinci painfully evident, and in plain sight. And that upsets a lot of people who can’t admit they were wrong. Further, the posers who lord over the group can’t hold their own in a debate with me, which is why they had to resort to characterizing my content as “heinous” in their public statement about the rule designed specifically in order to censor me. They gave themselves the last word.
I will explore the truth about the Salvator Mudni, and provide more evidence, including from various experts who happen to agree with me, in my upcoming video, along with my finalized color version of the painting.
Art and the art world also belong to artists, and some of us are articulate enough to stand our ground and stand up for art. In case anybody didn’t notice, I’m defending Leonardo against being smeared with an overly restored, and inferior painting being attributed to his name.
Leonardo would be on my side, absolutely. I dare say so would the Salvator Mundi himself. I suppose it would be amusing to trot out, “What would Jesus say?”
I don’t care what they may say
i don’t care what they may do
i don’t care what they may say
Jesus is just alright, oh yeah
Jesus is just alright
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
doo doo doo doo doo doo
~ Lyrics from The Doobie Brother’s song, “Jesus is Just Alright”
Time to move on. Now I’ve lost interest in the whole situation, except for why my version is so dangerous. Its all a bit too negative. I’ll have to find a way to turn that around. After all, I’m making a positive contribution to art and art history, no matter how much that may piss off people who want to confine art to fit their beliefs and agendas.
The less people know about art, the more they think they know, and non-artists have taken it upon themselves to decide artists aren’t qualified to be experts on art, and to censor them.