To London yesterday. We had to be near Sloane Square, so we took the opportunity to visit the Saatchi Gallery. We were most impressed. With the Gallery. Unfortunately the contents are mostly a pile of crap. We can recommend the restaurant for a light lunch though. Especially if the sun is shining and you can sit under one of the umbrellas outside.
Later we spent a very enjoyable and instructive hour at the (sparsely attended, so pleasingly very quiet) free exhibition at the National Gallery, Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries.
One room, ‘Being Botticelli’, raises something of a philosophical question. There, side by side, are two paintings bought by the gallery in 1874, from a sale of pictures collected by one Alexander Barker. The first is the wonderful ‘Venus and Mars’. The other picture, ‘An Allegory’ is a crude travesty (though it isn’t a fake — scientific investigation shows that it wasn’t painted long after Botticelli’s masterpiece.)
Yet at the time, this too was confidently attributed to Botticelli, and indeed at the sale commanded the higher price. But now, seeing them together, even the most casual gallery visitor (counting myself as one) must think how was that possible?. How was it not just obvious at the time that the paintings were of utterly different quality, technically and aesthetically? — well perhaps that’s not quite so obvious from the small reproductions here, but stand in front of the pictures, and the difference is startling. The proud buyers of ‘An Allegory’ for the nation must have seen the picture differently: what is it about aesthetic perception that can allow such extraordinary shifts?
I’m sure some philosopher must have written interestingly about such things. Suggestions?