Two conflicting arguments presented in art historical literature


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For your second paper, you will survey two conflicting arguments presented in art
historical literature (a book chapter and an article on Leonardo da Vinci’s Portrait of
Ginevra de’ Benci; see Figure 1) and synthesize the evidence to present your own point
of view. The original portrait was much taller and, tragically, the portrait that
museumgoers marvel at today is a cropped fragment.
Several competing claims about the original appearance of this painting have been put
forward. One hypothesis (formulated by Paul Müller-Walde) claims that a sketch of
hands now at Windsor Castle (Figure 2) is a preparatory study for the portrait (see the
photoshopped collage in Figure 3 to see how these hands, and pictures, might be fitted
together).
Taking the Windsor sketch as their starting point, David Alan Brown and the
Department of Imaging and Visual Services at the National Gallery of Art have
developed a complex reconstruction of both sides of the painting based on iconographic
and technical evidence (Figure 4). However, the validity of this reconstruction has been
questioned by Mary Garrard, who has proposed an alternative reconstruction of the
portrait based on iconographic evidence (Figure 5).
You will be given copies of each of these arguments in .PDF format. After carefully
reviewing each author’s argument, you will decide which reconstruction seems most
feasible to you (alternately, you may present your own reconstruction with Instructor
Underhill’s permission). You will rehearse the evidence for this reconstruction and argue
against the alternative reconstruction (and the argument that subtends it) in an essay of no
more than 1000 words.
Note: This is not a “wrong or right” test of your knowledge. You are inserting yourself
into an ongoing debate about an important painting, and your job is to present your
personal point of view in a concise and thoughtful manner. Your GSI and Instructor are
interested in the thinking behind your selection. Whether or not they agree with you is a
trivial contingency.



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