The Adventures of the Remarkable Five: Great Pictures Before and After WWII (Part 1)
Sandro Botticelli, Primavera, 1482
This work of the magnificent Italian Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli is called one of the most famous paintings of Western art today (however, it is also one of the most frequently analysed and generally discussed paintings in the world).
In 1815, the painting was placed in the storerooms of the Florentine Uffizi Palace as "not particularly valuable", and in 1853, the Academy of Arts received it for studying by young artists. In 1919, the Primavera was returned to the Uffizi again, the gallery this time. In general, the picture moved through the storehouses for 400 years, until suddenly at the beginning of the twentieth century it became famous and popular.
During the Italian campaign of the Second World War, the masterpiece was transported to the Montegufoni castle near Florence to protect it from bombing. Subsequently, the painting was returned to the Uffizi, where it is now among the main masterpieces of the gallery. In 1982, the Primavera was restored: with the inexorable passage of time, the paints darkened and got covered with a layer of dust. The restorers have managed to return the painting to its original colours and vibrance, as art critics romantically call it.
Leonardo da Vinci, The Lady with the Ermine, 1489—1490
This is one of only four female portraits by Leonardo (including Mona Lisa, of course): the issue of the great artist’s relationship with women is still exciting the researchers' minds.
Leonardo’s authorship became clear quite late: The Lady with the Ermine is not even mentioned in the catalogue of his works of the 19th century. During both world wars, they tried to protect the painting from damage and destruction, to hide it as good as possible. However, in September 1939, Poland was nevertheless occupied, and the Nazis took possession of the masterpiece. In 1946, the long-suffering canvas was returned to Poland and is still kept in the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow.
Read on Part 2 of the material: Vermeer with a swastika, Manet in a salt mine… Amazing stories!
Despite the cultural modernity, the masterpiece "suffers" over time: the examination showed that the chestnut board on which da Vinci painted the picture became more fragile due to the fault of… bark beetles! Plus the entire image was covered with a web of cracks called craquelures. But, in fairness, thanks to Leonardo’s drawing technique the picture has survived to this day in a satisfactory condition. At the moment, a detailed examination of the painting and restoration is required. In the meantime, it has been decided not to take the painting out of the museum for ten years — because of its venerable age.