26 October, 2013

Leonardo Madonna of the Yarnwinder

Leonardo is documented as working on a small picture of The Madonna of the Yarnwinder in 1501, after his return to Milan from Florence, for the French Secretary of State, Florimond Robertet who appears to have received his picture in Blois in 1507.

The subject is known today from several versions of which two, called the Buccleuch Madonna and the Lansdowne Madonna, are thought to be partly by Leonardo’s hand. The underdrawings of both paintings show similar experimental changes made to the composition (or pentimenti), suggesting that both evolved concurrently in Leonardo’s workshop.

The version of this painting often regarded as the most likely to be by Leonardo is now in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, on loan from the Duke of Buccleuch. It hung in his ancestral home in Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, until it was stolen in 2003. It entered the Buccleuch collection in 1767, with the marriage of the 3rd Duke to Lady Elizabeth Montagu, the heiress to a substantial collection of works assembled by her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Montagu. This Madonna of the Yarnwinder was bought at auction in Paris in 1756 from a sale of the collection of Marie-Joseph duc d’Hostun et de Tallard, its earliest documented owner.

Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna_of_the_Yarnwinder

Wiki lists around thirty copies of this work.

Current Frame

"the Leonardo painting was taken out of its old (but by no means original) frame immediately following the theft, and the frame discarded by the fleeing thieves. It was recovered, but never reunited with the painting. The present frame is a much more important and appropriate one, dating from the sixteenth century. It was purchased by the Duke for the painting following its recovery ....  the inscription is the opening words of the Introitus of the Tridentine Common Mass of the Blessed Virgin:

‘Salve, sancta parens, enixa puerpera Regem qui caelum terramque regit’

‘Hail, Holy Mother who in childbirth brought forth the King who rules the heaven and the earth’"

Information provided by Aidan Weston-Lewis, Chief Curator and Head of the Print Room, Scottish National Gallery


Madonna of the Yarnwinder c1501-07  ( The Buccleuch Madonna)

This is one of two paintings of the same subject associated with Leonardo. The attribution of this small panel continues to be the subject of debate, with most scholars denying an attribution to the master himself in favour of workshop assistants. However, the results of recent scientific examination indicate that the overall design of the work is likely to be the work of Leonardo, as are some areas of the composition, such as the finely modelled head of the Christchild and the skilfully painted rocks in the foreground.

Infrared reflectography has revealed a range of pentimenti, or “small changes” in the underdrawing, which is characteristic of Leonardo and his compositional drawing practice. Minor adjustments have been made to the limbs of the Christchild and to the contours of the Virgin’s face and features. Originally the neckline of her dress was drawn marginally higher and her left foot included at the base of the panel.

The background of the painting is significantly different to the underdrawn design. To the left of the Virgin, a door or window was drawn together with a series of diagonal lines that appear to relate to a building and other forms drawn in perspective. Under the sky to the right of her head a series of curved lines perhaps relate to a mountainous landscape. The large scale of the Christchild is entirely characteristic of Leonardo as a means of emphasizing Christ’s importance as is the interest in transparent fabrics and the sfumato or “smoky” effect achieved in the fleshtones of the Virgin’s face. While the distant seascape is rather untypical of the artist’s work, it may be seen in this context as a reference to the Virgin as “Stella Maris” or star of the sea - a metaphor from the Song of Songs in the Bible.

source http://www.universalleonardo.org/work.php?id=312

Madonna of the Yarnwinder (The Lansdowne Madonna) 1501-07

This is one of two versions of the same subject associated with Leonardo. The artist was documented as working on a small picture of this subject in 1501, after his return to Milan from Florence, for the French Secretary of State, Florimond Robertet. It is not clear which of the two paintings went to Robertet, but he appears to have received his picture in Blois in 1507. The theme of the painting, which is likely to have been made for private devotional purposes, focuses on the mother’s love for her child, showing her gazing down at her son, and on the future passion of Christ. Jesus is completely preoccupied with a yarn-winder which, by virtue of its similarity to a crucifix, is regarded as a symbol of his death.

Mary with her right hand raised in protection, seems to want to draw the child back from the yarn-winder. But the child turns away from his mother’s loving gaze, as his entire attention is focused on the symbol of his future passion. The basic disposition and dimensions of the figure group in this painting correspond quite closely in both versions, but not so precisely as to suggest direct repetition. Technical examination has revealed strikingly complex and similar underdrawings in both these versions of the painting, indicating Leonardo’s direct involvement in the design of both pictures.

Given the disparity of the painting technique employed in the background, it seems likely that this picture was completed in the master’s studio by another artist sometime after the other Madonna of the Yarnwinder (Duke of Buccleuch) painting under Leonardo’s control, perhaps with his active participation in the final execution of the figure group. The production of multiple versions of the same theme in Leonardo’s studio may have been a regular practice in response to the demand for images of this popular type.

source http://www.universalleonardo.org/work.php?id=313
The Theft

The room from which the painting was stolen (BBC) The painting hung in the staircase hall of the castle, an area open to the public. 

In August 2003, two men dressed as tourists taking a public tour of Drumlanrig Castle, Scotland, overpowered a young tour guide and stole Leonardo Da Vinci's, Madonna with the Yarnwinder. Accompanied by two accomplices, the men escaped in a white Volkswagen Golf, abandoned nearby.

Recalling the day of the robbery, tour guide Alison Russell, 25, told the High Court in Edinburgh how two men had come into the castle shortly after opening time. "One of them put his hand over my mouth and asked me to get down on the ground," she said. "He came from behind, put his hand over my mouth and told me I had to lie down on the ground or they would kill me."

Sarah Skene, 73, a shop assistant at the castle, described hearing a "commotion". "I went into the Staircase Gallery to see what was happening," she said "There was a male standing in front of the painting with an axe in his hand."It was just threatening, I think." The court heard how another man then pulled the painting from the wall and the raiders escaped through a window as alarms sounded. The jury was also shown CCTV images of the two robbery suspects.

John Chrystie, 50, was weeding in the grounds of the Drumlanrig estate when he saw three men with Leonardo da Vinci's the Madonna of the Yarnwinder. Mr Chrystie, who had worked for the Duke of Buccleuch in south west Scotland for 20 years, said he heard "banging and then alarm bells" on the day of the raid. He told the High Court in Edinburgh he then saw a man wearing a white sombrero-type hat carrying something square. The gardener said that from the colours he recognised it as the Leonardo da Vinci painting. "When I realised what was happening I was going to have a go at one of them and he pulled an axe from his jacket, a small hand axe," he said. "I veered off and just ran up the banking."

The Recovery

Robbie Graham and Jack Doyle from the Liverpool area ran two businesses called Crown Private Investigations and Stolen Stuff Re-United. Stolen Stuff Re-United had a dodgy-sounding name but was legitimate. It was internet-based: a kind of posting-board for information aimed at getting stolen goods back to their rightful owners in return for a reward or finder's fee.

Graham and Doyle had been approached in a pub by a man called "J" who knew a man called "Frank" who knew people with possible access to the painting. J told them it had been given to someone as security on a £700,000 loan for a property deal which collapsed. The person stuck with it wanted his money back. The Scouse pals did not know if it was something they could get involved with legally so they went to their solicitor Marshall Ronald, who practised in nearby Skelmersdale.

The crime involved a picture stolen in Scotland from a Scottish owner and was being investigated by a Scottish police force. Ronald decided to seek Scottish legal advice and phoned David Boyce, a solicitor. Ronald, Graham, Doyle, Boyce and a fifth man, Calum Jones, attended a meeting in Glasgow on 30 July 2007. Jones was a fellow partner of Boyce at Boyd's solicitors which, a few days later, was to merge with a much bigger law firm, HBJ Gateley Wareing. His advice to Marshall Ronald was to make contact with Mark Dalrymple, the man known to be the loss adjuster acting for the painting's insurers. At the time of the theft Dalrymple had publicised a "substantial reward" for information leading to its return. The first question Ronald needed Dalrymple to answer was: Would any reward be more than the £700,000 needed to acquire the painting? If not, it wasn't viable to become involved.

Ronald wrote to Dalrymple requesting a meeting but, instead of agreeing, Dalrymple went to the police who put in place a pre-arranged ruse. Ronald was phoned by a man calling himself "John Craig" who said he had taken over the case from Mark Dalrymple and was acting as the direct representative of the Duke of Buccleuch. Craig was, in reality, an undercover policeman whose story was a complete fabrication. By Ronald's own admission he fell for it "hook, line and sinker". In a series of taped phone calls he went on to negotiate a payment of £2m: £700,000 for the possessor of the painting and the rest to be split between himself, Graham, Doyle, J and Frank. Later, Ronald negotiated a further £2.25m all for himself which no-one else was to know about. That cash was to be paid into a Swiss bank account.

Ronald raided his firm's client account for £350,000 required as an upfront payment to get possession of the painting. He last saw it disappearing into the boot of Graham's Jaguar as he drove off to retrieve the picture from J in the car park of The Child of Hale pub on Merseyside.

Robert Graham, 57, of Lancashire, told Edinburgh High Court that he met an underworld figure in a Liverpool car park and paid £350,000 for the canvas. The arrangement led to him travelling to the pub car park in Hale with £350,000 in the boot of his Jaguar to hand to an underworld figure who was in touch with the people who had the painting. Some hours later the man known to the trial only as Karl returned with the painting, covered by a white sheet, in a sponge-lined container.

Next day, 4 October 2007, Graham and Doyle delivered the painting to the boardroom of HBJ Gateley Wareing in West Regent Street. They handed it over to John Craig, posing beside it for photographs. Minutes later, the room was raided by police who took possession of the painting and arrested those involved in its return. Ultimately, the key to the whole case was the interpretation of John Craig's actions. The police said he was briefed to infiltrate and play along with an existing conspiracy. The defendants insisted that no conspiracy existed before Craig got involved and that he led five well-intentioned men, by the nose, into a trap.

A jury took eight hours to deliver its verdict after a trial lasting more than seven weeks. The case was found not proven against Marshall Ronald, Robert Graham and John Doyle, all from Lancashire. Glasgow solicitors Calum Jones and David Boyce were found not guilty.

Speaking after the verdict, Mr Graham said the case should never have gone to court. "I do believe we are entitled to a reward," added his business partner Mr Doyle. "What we did was to bring back a culturally-significant masterpiece, which is something neither the police nor the insurers could do."We brought it back and we have been through two-and-a-half years of hell since."

Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary also said they accepted the decision of the court. Det Supt Kate Thomson added that the theft of the painting remained a live investigation.


Catching the theives

POLICE probing a £50million Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece heist have a DNA clue to one of the suspects. Police say it matches a sample recovered from a break-in bid at Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow two years earlier. And there could be links to the theft of a £3million Cezanne from an Oxford art gallery at the millennium. Police hope the breakthrough will lead them to the gang behind the theft of the Madonna Of The Yarnwinder from the Duke of Buccleuch's Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfriesshire in 2003. A police source said: "This is a really positive development. We are working throughout Europe to try to identify the DNA profile."It is clear the gang involved are serious organised criminals and that they targeted both Kelvingrove and Drumlanrig."Undoubtedly they have been involved in other art thefts.

The Law Case  February 2013

Marshall Ronald, 56 of Skelmersdale, in Lancashire, is suing the Duke of Buccleuch for £4.25million. He has launched an action against the Duke and the chief constable of Dumfries and Galloway. Ronald and four others were cleared in April 2010 of conspiring to extort £4.25million for the painting’s return.

The duke and Mr Shearer are both defending the action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh. The court heard that Mr Ronald was struck off as a solicitor in England after his trial. A discipline tribunal said he had allowed himself to become involved in "a dubious transaction" and had withdrawn money from a client account without authority.

He has now resorted to the civil courts to pursue a compensation claim. In it he claims that under the terms of an alleged contract between him and an undercover officer, known as John Craig, it was agreed he would arrange for the return of the painting in return for sums totalling £4.25m being paid. He maintains that some of the money was being paid to people who could assist in the recovery of the painting and that it included a sum of £2m being transferred to a Swiss bank account in the name of Mr Ronald.

Andrew Young QC, for the Duke of Buccleuch, called it "a rather bizarre attempt" to fix a contract on the duke for something an undercover officer did in the execution of his normal investigatory role.

Maria Maguire QC, for chief constable Patrick Shearer, said "It is patently obvious that John Craig was an undercover officer who was acting at all times within that role." She added: "It cannot be possibly held with any degree of credibility that he was at any time acting as an agent of the Duke of Buccleuch or that he was entering an agreement on behalf of the chief constable of Dumfries and Galloway with this individual."She said the summons was "plainly irrelevant and quite frankly nonsense".

Alan Cowan, for Mr Ronald, told the court that a legal aid application had been made but a decision was not expected until March and sought to have a stay put on proceedings until then. Lord Doherty said he was not prepared to exercise his discretion to put a stay on the action and awarded expenses against Mr Ronald.


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