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Artcuts: 10 paintings cut by someone, but this did not prevent them from being masterpieces

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The history of art is full of examples when paintings were ravaged with fire and sword. They were cut into parts by the artists themselves, the sellers, the circumstances or the elements. But the surviving fragments (at times — very tiny ones and, of course, with new titles) continue to attract, excite and impress to this day — even more than many unscathed canvases, that weren’t even touched by a beetle, do.

1. Da Vinci: as if handless

This is a chest-high portrait: we can’t see the hands of Ginevra de' Benci, a Florentine beauty and poetess. But her hands are among the most famous ones in the history of art; they even had an effect on other artists.
There is Leonardo’s sketch
A study is an exercise painting that helps the painter better understand the object he or she paints. It is simple and clear, like sample letters in a school student’s copybook. Rough and ready, not detailed, with every stroke being to the point, a study is a proven method of touching the world and making a catalogue of it. However, in art history, the status of the study is vague and open to interpretation. Despite its auxiliary role, a study is sometimes viewed as something far more significant than the finished piece. Then, within an impressive frame, it is placed on a museum wall.
So, when does a study remain a mere drill, and when can we call it an artwork in its own right, full of life and having artistic value? Read more
of woman’s hands at Windsor Castle that may have served as a preliminary drawing for painting Ginevra’s portrait. Almost 500 years later, inspired by this sketch
A study is an exercise painting that helps the painter better understand the object he or she paints. It is simple and clear, like sample letters in a school student’s copybook. Rough and ready, not detailed, with every stroke being to the point, a study is a proven method of touching the world and making a catalogue of it. However, in art history, the status of the study is vague and open to interpretation. Despite its auxiliary role, a study is sometimes viewed as something far more significant than the finished piece. Then, within an impressive frame, it is placed on a museum wall.
So, when does a study remain a mere drill, and when can we call it an artwork in its own right, full of life and having artistic value? Read more
, Maurits Escher would create his famous Drawing Hands.
Leonardo da Vinci. Sketch of hands
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Drawing hands
  • Leonardo da Vinci. A Sketch
    A study is an exercise painting that helps the painter better understand the object he or she paints. It is simple and clear, like sample letters in a school student’s copybook. Rough and ready, not detailed, with every stroke being to the point, a study is a proven method of touching the world and making a catalogue of it. However, in art history, the status of the study is vague and open to interpretation. Despite its auxiliary role, a study is sometimes viewed as something far more significant than the finished piece. Then, within an impressive frame, it is placed on a museum wall.
    So, when does a study remain a mere drill, and when can we call it an artwork in its own right, full of life and having artistic value? Read more
    of Hands, 1474
  • Maurits Cornelis Escher. Drawing Hands, 1948
And here are two works by Leonardo da Vinci’s contemporaries. Both of them could have been created under the impression of Ginevra’s portrait. And both of these women are depicted with their hands.

Lorenzo di Credi quite accurately reproduced Leonardo’s work — even painted the juniper in the background, but mirrored the composition.

It’s more complicated when it comes to a sculptural portrait by Verrocchio: the exact date of its creation remains unknown. Verrocchio was Leonardo’s teacher. Perhaps, da Vinci borrowed the idea of hands from his mentor. But the reverse is also possible: the student had already surpassed his teacher by that time — and it could be Verrocchio who was inspired by Ginevra’s hands from Leonardo da Vinci’s painting (at the time of creating Ginevra’s portrait, the girl was about 17 years old, and the artist — about 23).
Lorenzo di Credi. Portrait of a young woman
Andrea del Verrocchio. Woman with bouquet of flowers
  • Lorenzo di Credi. Portrait of a Young Woman, 1490s
  • Andrea del Verrocchio. Lady with a Bouquet, ca. 1470s – 1480s
There is no doubt that Ginevra de' Benci’s portrait was half-length instead of shoulder-length, i.e. the girl was painted with hands. And there are a lot of arguments proving that.

In his Treatise on Painting, da Vinci wrote a lot about how to depict hands. In particular, he instructed his colleagues: "Represent your figures in such action as may be fitted to express what purpose is in the mind of each; otherwise your art will not be admirable." He himself followed that rule: hands in his works always attract attention (1, 2, 3, 4).

Those were not only the artist’s own artistic principles that would not let him ignore the hands of the girl portrayed. The thing is that those were remarkable hands: at least two poets who wrote poems dedicated to Ginevra, berhymed the beauty of her hands and fingers.

Another proof that the bottom of the painting (9−10 centimetres) was cut off, can be found when looking at the reverse side of the portrait of Ginevra de' Benci.

Leonardo da Vinci. The reverse side of the portrait of Ginevra de Benchi

The reverse is decorated with a juniper sprig encircled by a wreath of laurel and palm and is memorialized by the phrase "Beauty adorns virtue". It seems that the lower part of the wreath was cut off.

But we can only guess why the bottom of the painting with Ginerva’s hands had to be removed. Perhaps, the fragment was damaged by dampness, fire or rodents.

By the way, it is possible that Leonardo’s La Gioconda was also cut down: apparently, the painting was originally wider and had side columns (they can be seen in one of the earliest copies).

2. Bosch: when fools and gluttons were together

In 2016, a great exhibition, marking the 500th anniversary of the artist’s year of death was held in 's-Hertogenbosch, the city where Hieronymus Bosch was born and lived. It reunited four fragments of a lost triptych, which was probably dedicated to deadly sins.

The Wayfarer was brought from Rotterdam — this famous image is believed to have been the outside shutters of the triptych. As for the internal parts — unfortunately, the central one hasn’t been preserved. But the side panels survived: one of them is Death and the Miser (now in Washington), while the second one was also cut and known to us today as two separate paintings by Bosch — The Ship of Fools (the Louvre) and Allegory of Gluttony and Lust (the Yale University Art Gallery).

Hieronymus Bosch. Ship of fools

It turns out that one of Bosch’s most famous paintings, The Ship of Fools, is just a small fragment of a triptych.

In general, this is not a unique case when parts of multi-panel paintings get separated. Then their "reunion" at exhibitions looks like a happy plot twist in melodramas: recently, the parts of The Melun Diptych have been reunited.

It is not uncommon when only small parts remain from the whole painting and continue to live as independent works. Such is Head of an Angel by Raphael: it is a detail of a large altarpiece The Coronation of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, Treading on a Devil — the angels just stood next to him (three more fragments remained from this altar — the second angel, God the Father, and the Blessed Virgin Mary).

3. Carpaccio: a flower explains a lot

Carpaccio’s painting of two elegantly dressed Venetian ladies has always been considered an undisputed masterpiece and has always been surrounded by mysteries and questions: who are these ladies — courtesans or respectable women? Who are they waiting for — clients or husbands? And what was depicted in the lost parts of the painting?
Apparently, the knife went through the left part of the painting: the dog has lost its body, and the boy — his hand. And above: between the pigeons there is a vase with only a stem remaining from a flower.

The left part hasn’t been found. But the upper one was found and clarified a lot.

The Venetian ladies still sit looking into the mysterious distance (or deep inside themselves?) in the Correr Museum in Venice. And the Getty Museum in Los Angeles houses another mysterious painting Hunting on the Lagoon: in the foreground, against the background of the water, there is a white lily that doesn’t look like a water one.
Vittore Carpaccio. Hunting in the lagoon
Hunting in the lagoon
1490-th , 75.6×63.8 cm
As you’ve already guessed: the Venetian vase perfectly matches the Los Angeles lily. It instantly cleared the ladies of the suspicion that they were courtesans: a white lily is a symbol of innocence and purity. It is assumed that the two parts were sawed apart only in the 19th century.

However, a new mystery replaced the solved one. What was this elongated panel — a cabinet door? a shutter? And if so, how many such panels were there? Only two (including the apparently lost left half of the scene) or a lot more? Both a window and a cabinet could be arbitrarily wide, and Carpaccio is known for his ability to masterfully create horizontal compositions (1, 2, 3).

Vittore Carpaccio. Panel for notes. The reverse side of the picture "Hunting in the lagoon"
  • Reconstruction of the separated panels by Vittore Carpaccio.
  • The decoy on the reverse side of Hunting on the Lagoon gives reason to think that the panel cut into two parts was intended to be viewed from both sides. They were shutters, weren't they?

4. El Greco: a fragment that changed everything

And again the story of another triptych of a hard lot. Probably, this picture, which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, was its central part. On the left, there was the scene of the Annunciation (now its largest part is in Madrid, and the upper part, depicting the choir of angels, is in Athens). And on the right — The Baptism of Christ, which is now in Toledo.
Domenico Theotokopoulos (El Greco). Baptism of Christ
  • El Greco. The Annunciation, 1608 – 1614. Reconstruction, consisting of two fragments, which are now in Athens and Madrid.
  • El Greco. The Baptism of Christ, 1608 – 1614
Let’s get back to the central part — The Opening of the Fifth Seal. The work was not only unfinished by the artist (El Greco died in 1614), but also lost two large fragments: a piece of 175 centimetres was cut from above, about 20 cm — on the left. It happened at the end of the 19th century, during the restoration: parts that could not be restored were removed; cut-offs weren’t saved.
Pablo Picasso. Les demoiselles d'Avignon

It is possible that it was the incompleteness (El Greco’s most rapid brush strokes, general sketchiness) and fragmentarity (why is John the Baptist raising his hands?) that made this last painting by El Greco a fascinating masterpiece.

The Parisian artists of the early 20th century were very impressed with the painting. And especially Pablo Picasso, who, inspired by The Opening of the Fifth Seal, created his Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) — the painting that gave rise to Cubism.

5. Rembrandt: an unlucky move

Perhaps, this is the most egregious case in our article. In the 18th century, Rembrandt’s Night Watch was cut down in order to fit a new room when it was decided to be transferred from a militia headquarters (which commissioned the painting) to the city’s Town Hall.
Fortunately, Captain Banning Cocq (he is in the centre of the painting, in the foreground — wearing black attire, accented by a red sash) liked Rembrandt’s work so much that immediately, when it was still uncut, commissioned the artist to create a copy of it — to hang at home. Only because of this we can have a clue of how the original version looked like.

Compare the original painting with the copy: on the left of the original painting, two characters are missing.
  • The left side of the copy.
  • The left side of the original.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. Anatomy lesson Dr. Deyman

Yet, Rembrandt’s paintings experienced even worse crucibles.

In 1656, he created The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Joan Deyman — a group portrait of surgeons, like the famous Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (actually, Deyman was Tulp’s successor as head lecturer of anatomy at the guild of surgeons). In 1723, a large part of the painting was destroyed by fire and only hands were left of Dr. Deyman, who was dissecting the brain of an executed criminal. And nothing more. The painting is now in Amsterdam Museum. And anyone who takes up the study of the work of Andrea Mantegna, will certainly use this fragment as the most famous quoting of his Dead Christ.

6. Delacroix: cut after the break

The portrait of the writer is now in Copenhagen. Portrait of the composer — in the Louvre Museum in Paris. But once they were together. In all senses.
Eugene Delacroix. Portrait Of George Sand
Eugene Delacroix. Portrait Of Frederic Chopin
  • Eugène Delacroix. The Portrait of George Sand, 1838
  • Eugène Delacroix. The Portrait of Frédéric Chopin, 1838
Chopin and George Sand had an affair — complicated, painful, but long — they were together for about 10 years. At that time, Delacroix decided to create their joint portrait (but didn’t finish it — left it as a sketch): he was playing the piano, and she was listening to him and sewing. Who and when divided this joint portrait into two parts is unknown. Maybe it was a subtle movement of the hand of some cunning salesman that turned one sketch
A study is an exercise painting that helps the painter better understand the object he or she paints. It is simple and clear, like sample letters in a school student’s copybook. Rough and ready, not detailed, with every stroke being to the point, a study is a proven method of touching the world and making a catalogue of it. However, in art history, the status of the study is vague and open to interpretation. Despite its auxiliary role, a study is sometimes viewed as something far more significant than the finished piece. Then, within an impressive frame, it is placed on a museum wall.
So, when does a study remain a mere drill, and when can we call it an artwork in its own right, full of life and having artistic value? Read more
that Delacroix kept until his death, into two portraits of celebrities. It is possible that after the break with Chopin, the writer herself ordered to do so with the portrait.

You can come across this portrait, signed by Delacroix, on the web. In fact, this is a reconstruction created by an unnamed artist already in our century — a hypothesis about how a joint portrait of George Sand and Frédéric Chopin could look like.

7. Monet: a mouldy luncheon

Claude Monet decided to send his Luncheon on the Grass to the Paris Salon of 1866: three years before, they rejected the painting of the same name, created by Édouard Manet.

Something went wrong from the very beginning.

Monet created the first, medium-sized version of the Luncheon. Then painted it on the larger canvas. But he left the painting a bit unfinished: he was disappointed. However, the artist didn’t throw his work away. In 1878, Monet experienced yet another financial difficulties (in fact, the painter lived in great poverty until he became famous): he owed a lot of money to a carpenter Alexandre-Adonis Flament, his landlord from Argenteuil. In 1878, Monet folded his Luncheon on the Grass and gave it to Flament as collateral for rent. Flament put the roll in a cellar.

When in 1884, Monet borrowed the necessary amount of money from his art dealer Durand-Ruel and repurchased The Luncheon on the Grass, it turned out that the painting had been badly damaged by damp and mould. The artist had to cut the large canvas up, having only two undamaged fragments. He would keep them until the end of his life, then they would go to his son Michel and, after being part of various private collections, would finally reunite at the Musée d’Orsay — only in 1987.

Unfortunately, the central part of the Luncheon — with a tablecloth and food — continued being damaged after the artist’s death: someone cut its' right side again. It is possible that the old "wounds" of the painting, inflicted by the damp cellar reminded of themselves, and the work had to undergo a surgical procedure before being sold.
Claude Monet. Luncheon on the grass, detail
  • 1920. Claude Monet shows the Duc de Trévise one of the two surviving fragments. One can see a female figure at the right side of the painting.
  • This is how the surviving and re-cut fragment of Luncheon on the Grass looks now: the woman on the right has disappeared, only a piece of her dress is left.
Of course, the Luncheon with its restless flecks of sunlight is impressive even in a cut form. But the awareness of how much of the painting has died is impressive, too.
Claude Monet. Luncheon on the Grass
  • The first (small) version of the Luncheon on the Grass. The size of the painting – 130×181 cm.
  • Reconstruction: the ratio of the surviving and lost parts of the large Luncheon on the Grass. The height of the painting was 4.18 meters, width – about 6 meters.

8. Manet: God-level marketing

Édouard Manet sent his Episode from a Bullfight to the 1864 Salon. The audience laughed at the painting. Art critics breathed fire and brimstone. They made fun of Manet, who overcomplicated the composition and didn’t cope with the perspective. Comparing to rather large human figures, the bull looked small — more ridiculous than menacing. Hector de Callias from L’Artiste wrote: "the toreadors appear to be laughing at this little bull which they could crush under the heels of their pumps."

Alas, it wasn’t about the critics not understanding Manet’s innovative techniques. Of course, they should have been filled with admiration for his bold palette. They should have admired Manet’s energetic brushstrokes, but kept talking about him painting pictures with a shoe brush. However, they were right about the composition, perspective and size. Manet understood that — and took a knife. However, he did not destroy the painting, but cut out two successful fragments from it, destroying both the composition and the perspective — that is, his mistakes. Instead of one objectively bad painting, he got two independent masterpieces: one of the fragments is now on display in the Frick Collection in New York, the second one — in the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
Edouard Manet. Bullfight
Bullfight
1864, 48×109 cm
By the way, Manet thought that he borrowed the pose of the dead toreador from Velázquez: now the painting which inspired him is considered the work of an unknown Italian artist, but in the middle of the 19th century, A Dead Soldier was listed among the works of the great Spaniard. The dead man, added to the Episode from a Bullfight, looked strange. "On waking up, a bullfighter sees a bull some six miles away; undisturbed, he turns over and heroically falls asleep," one of the reviewers scoffed at Manet’s painting. But without the bulls and the arena, the dead bullfighter looks quite dramatic.

9. Degas: Madame Manet without a face

Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas were friends. Once Degas created a family portrait for his friend: Manet is reclining on a couch and his wife Suzanne, a talented pianist, is playing some melody (perhaps, a relaxing one). From the workshop of Degas, the painting moved to Manet’s house. The friendship continued.

After some time, Degas came to visit Manet and saw that his painting was slashed with a knife — right across Susanne’s face. Degas was mad: "Who did it?" "Me," admitted Manet. No one knows if Manet explained why he did that. It is only known that Degas then took his damaged painting and left. Over time, the artists reconciled, but never became so close as before that incident. Degas was going to restore the painting but did not do it — he only sized the canvas sewn into the cut section and put a signature on it in the lower right corner. That variant of painting is exhibited in the museum.
Since then, the biographers of Manet and Degas have been taking pleasure in coming up with different hypotheses.
Edouard Manet. Madame Manet at the piano

Édouard Manet. Madame Manet at the Piano, 1868

Soon after damaging his family portrait, Manet himself painted his wife — in the same pose, at the same piano. Maybe he did it to apologize to Susanne for spoiling her portrait. Or taught Degas a lesson: that is how he should have painted her face.

Sebastian Smee, author of the book The Art of Rivalry, put forward a different version: Perhaps Édouard Manet was miffed about Degas being a great artist and depicting the Manet family with all their secrets, contradictions and tension. He saw and showed what would have been better left to silence. In his early paintings, Degas, this sworn bachelor, had a habit of too intently peering into the relations of the sexes and depicting married couples in a non-romantic light. He created family portraits that may inspire someone to create the darkest thrillers.
Edgar Degas. Portrait of the Bellelli family
Edgar Degas. Interior (Violence, Rape)
  • Edgar Degas. Portrait of The Bellelli Family, 1867
  • Edgar Degas. Interior (The Rape), 1869
But what could be wrong with the Manet family? A lot!

First of all, when Édouard and Suzanne got married, 11-year-old boy Léon, who was either Suzanne’s younger brother or nephew, started to live with them. And Manet was his godfather. In fact, Léon was Suzanne’s son — and the couple kept it secret all their life. Those were the times when it was impossible to clear oneself from illegitimacy in hindsight. But the name of his biological father is another mystery: it could be Édouard Manet or his father (which would make the boy the artist’s brother). Suzanne gave piano lessons to the Manet brothers — and got pregnant from someone in that house: whether from the father, or from the eldest brother, that is from Édouard. Both Édouard and his father had a penchant for women. Both died from the effects of syphilis.

Secondly, other women. Just at the time when Degas was painting a family portrait of the Manet couple, Édouard was taken with artist Berthe Morisot. And it was not an ordinary affair, but a real big feeling.

10. Renoir: was there a bird?

Renoir’s little-known early work Woman Looking at the Bird is one of the most valuable pieces of the Nizhny Novgorod state Art Museum. This painting has been dealt a tough hand. It ended up in the USSR in 1945, along with dozens of other works that previously belonged to wealthy Hungarian Jews.

It is assumed that this was the case: the Germans tried to bring the works taken away from the Hungarians back to Germany, but were forced to abandon a carriage with their treasures halfway — that is how the Red Army soldiers stumbled upon it. Of course, books and paintings from the so-called "Hungarian collection" became objects of both diplomatic negotiations and court sessions many times. Some of the trophies have already returned to the heirs of their previous owners. But this Renoir is still in Nizhny Novgorod.
But where is that bird?

Only in the title. In fact, this female portrait is just a fragment of a big painting. And we can see it as a whole: Renoir’s work was captured on a canvas of Frédéric Bazille — a talented Frenchman who would have also become a famous impressionist if he had not died in a war four years before the exhibition, which would be called the First Impressionist Exhibition. During their stay in Paris, Renoir and Manet lived and worked with Bazille, who kindly offered harbourage to them (the future stars were still poor beginning artists and did not have means to rent a house or a workshop).

The woman in the dress is Lise Tréhot, one of Renoir’s favourite models, as well as his lover (and, possibly, the mother of his illegitimate son).

We can only make wild guesses as of what happened to the painting and who was depicted on it naked. Our version is: the naked woman is the same Lise Tréhot. In six years of their relations, Renoir painted her at least 20 times and, according to the researchers of the artist’s work, most of the female figures in Renoir’s paintings of that period were painted from Lise.

On the left — a fragment of Renoir’s painting from the museum in Nizhny Novgorod. On the right — the full version of Renoir’s work, sketchily captured in the painting by Bazille.
It is possible that the artist himself cut off the part with the nude figure.

Maybe he didn’t like what he created. Or he was not ready for a scandal — at that time it was still considered indecent to portray mere mortals naked; only ancient goddesses deserved to be painted without clothes. Renoir knew that and was not yet ready for a creative compromise. At the same time, he painted Lise nude on the river bank. But at the last moment changed the work: he rendered Lise as the Roman goddess Diana the Huntress, adding a loincloth, a killed doe and a bow so that the work was not faulted for obscenity and could be exhibited at the Salon (it didn’t help — the jury of the Salon still rejected Diana).

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Author: Natalia Kandaurova
I like18 
 Comments  2
Alexandra Shpetnaya
, 28 November 2018 03:59 PM 0
Original   Auto-Translated
Портрет бывает в полный рост, поколенный, поясной и погрудный - не поДгрудный.
Natalya Kandaurova
, 29 November 2018 01:51 PM 0
Original   Auto-Translated
спасибо за деликатное указание на опечатку!:)
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