Sotheby’s to Offer La Belle Ferronnière Famous Painting Sotheby’s to Offer La Belle Ferronnière Famous Painting Sparked Debate That Has Endured for Nearly a Century Follower of
Leonardo da Vinci, probably before 1750
News-Antique.com - Jan 14,2010 - Sotheby’s to Offer La Belle Ferronnière Famous Painting Sparked Debate That Has Endured for Nearly a Century Follower of Leonardo da Vinci, probably before 1750, Portrait of a Woman, Called ‘La Belle Ferronnière’, 21 5/8 by 17 1/8 in., 55 by 43.5 cm (est. $300/500,000) Portrait of a Woman was at the center of a trial that nearly brought The world’s foremost art expert to his knees, And inspired a new book just last year On 28 January 2010, Sotheby’s New York will offer a painting that has been at the center of one of the art world’s most heated debates for over eighty years: Portrait of a Woman, Called “La Belle Ferronnière” by a Follower of Leonardo da Vinci
(est. $300/500,000*). Depicting a lady in three-quarters profile, the portrait is another version of a composition in the Louvre, now believed to be by either Leonardo or one of his pupils, depicting Lucrezia Crivelli, a mistress of Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan. Since the widely publicized 1929 slander trial of the art world’s foremost international expert, Sir Joseph Duveen, La Belle Ferronnière’s attribution has been fiercely contested, raising questions of connoisseurship, authenticity, and the role of science in art history in the 21st Century. The picture’s intricate story has fascinated readers for decades; the trial was closely followed by Time and New York Times readers in the 1920s and is today the subject
of a recently published book, The American Leonardo: A Tale of Obsession, Art and Money, written by John Brewer. After decades out of public view, La Belle Ferronnière will be exhibited at Sotheby’s Los Angeles office on 13 January and at Sotheby’s New York galleries beginning 23 January 2010.
La Belle Ferronnière was given as a wedding gift in 1920 to Harry Hahn, an American serviceman during World War I, and his French bride, Andrée. Given by Andrée’s godmother, the painting was believed to be by Leonardo, and had been authenticated by a French art expert, who was, however, not an Italian Renaissance expert. After returning home to Kansas City, the Hahns endeavored to sell the picture, with a supposed deal in place to sell it to the Kansas City Art Institute for the princely sum of $250,000. Sir Joseph Duveen was recognized as the art world’s leading dealer, and helped craft such famed American collections as those of Andrew Mellon, John Pierpont Morgan, Sr., and John D. Rockefeller Jr. When, on 17 June 1920, a New York World reporter, having heard of the sale of a Leonardo picture, phoned Duveen in the middle of the night for a comment, the venerable art connoisseur declared it was surely a fake. Thus began the battle over the ‘Hahn Leonardo.’ After the deal with the Kansas City Art Institute as well as others fell through, Andrée Hahn sued Joseph Duveen for slander and damages of $500,000, claiming that Duveen’s comments were not only false, but designed to drive the picture from the market in his quest for control