Category Archives: Art

Christ painting by Leonardo da Vinci sells for record $450M

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — A painting of Christ by the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci sold for a record $450 million (380 million euros) at auction on Wednesday, obliterating previous records for artworks sold at auction or privately.

The painting, called “Salvator Mundi,” Italian for “Savior of the World,” is one of fewer than 20 paintings by Leonardo known to exist and the only one in private hands. It was sold by Christie’s auction house, which didn’t immediately identify the buyer.

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Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece Salvator Mundi achieves $450,312,500, a  for any work of art sold at auction.

The highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction had been $179.4 million (152 million euros), for Picasso’s “Women of Algiers (Version O)” in May 2015, also at Christie’s in New York. The highest known sale price for any artwork had been $300 million (253 million euros), for Willem de Kooning’s “Interchange,” sold privately in September 2015 by the David Geffen Foundation to hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin.

A backer of the “Salvator Mundi” auction had guaranteed a bid of at least $100 million (85 million euros), the opening bid of the auction, which ran for 19 minutes. The price hit $300 million about halfway through the bidding.

People in the auction house gallery applauded and cheered when the bidding reached $300 million and when the hammer came down on the final bid, $400 million. The record sale price of $450 million includes the buyer’s premium, a fee paid by the winner to the auction house.

The 26-inch-tall (66-centimeter-tall) Leonardo painting dates from around 1500 and shows Christ dressed in Renaissance-style robes, his right hand raised in blessing as his left hand holds a crystal sphere.

Its path from Leonardo’s workshop to the auction block at Christie’s was not smooth. Once owned by King Charles I of England, it disappeared from view until 1900, when it resurfaced and was acquired by a British collector. At that time it was attributed to a Leonardo disciple, rather than to the master himself.

The painting was sold again in 1958 and then acquired in 2005, badly damaged and partly painted-over, by a consortium of art dealers who paid less than $10,000 (8,445 euros). The art dealers restored the painting and documented its authenticity as a work by Leonardo.

The painting was sold Wednesday by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who bought it in 2013 for $127.5 million (108 million euros) in a private sale that became the subject of a continuing lawsuit.

Christie’s says most scholars agree that the painting is by Leonardo, though some critics have questioned the attribution and some say the extensive restoration muddies the work’s authorship.

Christie’s capitalized on the public’s interest in Leonardo, considered one of the greatest artists of all time, with a media campaign that labeled the painting “The Last Da Vinci.” The work was exhibited in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and New York before the sale.

In New York, where no museum owns a Leonardo, art lovers lined up outside Christie’s Rockefeller Center headquarters on Tuesday to view “Salvator Mundi.”

Svetla Nikolova, who is from Bulgaria but lives in New York, called the painting “spectacular.”

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she said. “It should be seen. It’s wonderful it’s in New York. I’m so lucky to be in New York at this time.”

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7 Things You Should Know About the Director of “I Siciliani,” Francesco Lama

Who is Francesco Lama? Let’s get to know him better in anticipation of his North American premiere, November 7th & 8th

The director, Francesco Lama

An “instinctive dreamer,” a true Sicilian (“While I wrote a scene, I realized that I keep seeing myself in it more and more”), a director that loves his film as if it were his own child (“For this reason, I won’t cut any scene, regardless of the comments”): this is Francesco Lama, director of the movie “I Siciliani”, that will be shown in November at NYU’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò and at Montclair State University.

La Voce has shared many stories of Sicilians that have conquered America, and with more than one million people of Sicilian origin in the U.S., it’s no surprise that Sicilian Americans also have a strong presence in the greater New York area. So it goes without saying that the North American premiere of Francesco Lama’s documentary film I Siciliani (The Sicilians) will be in New York.

The director Francesco Lama with actor Maria Grazia Cucinotta

After its debut last year at the Taormina Film Fest, I Sicilianiarrives November 7th to New York University’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò and November 8th to Montclair State University(Italian Program, Departmet of Modern Languages and Literatures). Following the screening of the film, both institutions will host a Q&A with the director Francesco Lama and the film’s spokesperson, Maria Grazia Cucinotta. But who is Francesco Lama? A director who wanted to tell us about his people and the soul of Sicily in all its diverse manifestations? This and more! Let’s get to know him as we await the North American premiere. Here are 7 things you should know about him:

1.  His career started in journalism, so to speak…
“When I was young, that is younger than now, I was a free lance journalist, or that’s what you call it nowadays. Twenty-five years ago in Sicily, it was known as “you write a piece, and we’ll decide if we’re going to publish it.” So I wrote three, four articles a day and they didn’t publish a single one, but I’m stubborn so I persisted and got one published. I collaborated on major Sicilian newspapers, and back then, there was no Internet, not even smartphones, just fax machines, and I didn’t even have one, so you can only imagine! But it was a wonderful experience that shaped me.”

2.  He defines himself as a dreamer
“I’m instinctive, also known at times as mad, because if I decide to do something, come hell or high water, I will succeed. My work is complex but beautiful, mine is the work of a ‘dreamer’.”

3.  The English premiere of the docufilm was at BAFTA (British Academy Film and Television Awards)
“In 2016, I experienced the showing of my latest film I Siciliani in London, in the prestigious temple of cinema, BAFTA. I only realized where I was after it was all over, because a journalist made me aware of it: it was a beautiful and moving experience.”

4.  Music is as important as words
“The sound track is an integral part of my work, in which a little bit of Sicily is present, or sometimes even a lot of Sicily. I choose the both the lyrics as well as the music with my musicians, who by now know what I want. The soundtrack is important because it helps to fully understand the movie.”

5.  It’s the film’s beauty that counts, not the film market
“I don’t have a movie idol or a particular movie that I idolize. I like beautiful films, films that leave me with something, and actors or actresses who with their gaze move me, they tell me everything I need to know. Maybe I’m an odd director. I’m not interested in the film market, I don’t do things only to make money, but I do them because at that moment it’s the story I want to tell and I tell it with all my soul. To story-tell, yes, story-telling and dreaming, this is my job.”

The director Francesco Lama

6.  He’s as Sicilian as you get
“I’m Sicilian! With this docufilm I discovered how Sicilian I really am, because as I wrote a scene, or while I edited it, I realized that I keep seeing myself in it more and more. That being said, I tried to tell the stories of my people as they are, warts and all, so there is absolutely no way I can exclude myself, because as a Sicilian, I’ve got lots.”

7.  A movie is like a child: you love it unconditionally, despite the advice
“So many people have commented how beautiful the film is, that it’s touching, that it makes them think. They say: “But why is it two hours long? Couldn’t you cut it by 15 minutes? If you cut some of it, it’ll be a masterpiece!” To this question, I give this same answer once again, as I did the first time: A movie is like a child you love forever, you love under any circumstances and in every way because the love you have for a child is supreme and wonderful. So there it is, for me a movie is the same thing, so I cannot cut it by 15 minutes, and also because it wasn’t my intent to make a masterpiece!”

PLEASE BE ADVISED: the screening of the documentary that was scheduled for November 7th and 8th has, for personal and expected reasons, has been postponed. We will let you know of the rescheduled date and time…

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St Louis International Film Festival Nov 2 -12, 2017

J. Kim & Sharon Tucci Italian Focus

Sponsored by Pasta House Co.

Call Me by Your Name

Friday, November 10 at 8:00pm

It’s the summer of 1983 in the north of Italy, and Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), a precocious 17-year-old American-Italian boy, spends his days in his family’s 17th-century villa transcribing and playing classical music, reading, and flirting with his friend… Read more

Doc Shorts: The Unexpected

Friday, November 10 at 5:00pm

Unusual dispatches from around the globe.

The Leisure Seeker

Saturday, November 4 at 6:45pm

The first film in English by Italian director Paolo Virzi (“Human Capital”), “The Leisure Seeker” — which debuted at the Venice film fest — tells the story of a runaway couple going on an unforgettable cross-country journey in their vintage camper. Seriously ill… Read more

Let Yourself Go

Saturday, November 11 at 6:30pm
Sunday, November 12 at 5:20pm

In this Italian variant on the screwball comedy, an uptight psychologist gets more than just a physical workout when he signs up for personal-training sessions with an attractive young instructor. Toni Sevillo (“The Great Beauty”) is outstanding as Elia, a… Read more

Pizza Shop: An Italian-American Dream

Sunday, November 12 at 2:45pm

What is an immigrant’s typical experience in America? What does he sacrifice, and what does he gain? “Pizza Shop” provides one family’s answer to those questions, lovingly illustrating what it means for Charlie and Fred Osso, immigrant brothers from Calabria,… Read more

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Christmas on the Hill, December 2, 2017 Artist Showing

Wanted: Artist Using All Medias
Christmas on The Hill will be having an art show called “Miracle on Marconi” at St. Ambrose Church on Marconi, Saturday, December 2, 2017 from 10am until 5pm. We are seeking talented artists to participate. The registration from is located below in JPG form. All information pertaining to the event are in the application. The form must be completed and returned by Due by November 14, 2017 – 5PM. All information is on the registration form along with contact information.

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The Four Seasons Friday, December 9 & 10, 2017 at Powell Hall

The Four Seasons

Sat 12/9/17 8:00PM
Sun 12/10/17 3:00PM

Laurence Cummings, conductor and harpsichord
Avi Avital, mandolin
Jelena Dirks, oboeVIVALDI L’Olympiade Overture
TORELLI Concerto grosso in G major, op. 8, no. 5
MARCELLO Oboe Concerto in D minor
CORELLI Concerto grosso in D major, op. 6, no. 4
VIVALDI The Four SeasonsIn an awe-inspiring and intriguing twist on a beloved classic, Avi Avital joins the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performing Vivaldi’s ever-popular The Four Seasons as you’ve never heard it before. Substituting the mandolin for the violin, Avital makes “The Four Seasons virtually fly off the page in high-energy, joyous readings” (The New York Times). Laurence Cummings conducts this captivating performance that puts both the soloist and ensemble on virtuosic display.
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Art Inspiring Music: Italian Renaissance Oct 23, 5:00pm Kemper Art Museum

The Clarion Brass Quintet, the Washington University Chamber Choir, and faculty from the Department of Music will perform works from the Italian Renaissance including antiphonal brass favorites of Giovanni Gabrieli and vocal masterworks of Palestrina.

October 23, 2017 – 5:00pm
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum


The rise of printmaking in Europe in the early fifteenth century facilitated major transformations in visual culture. Serialized images began to circulate on an unprecedented scale, extending beyond the confines of palaces or churches to reach new audiences of artists, collectors, and connoisseurs. Renaissance and Baroque Prints: Investigating the Collection surveys the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum’s substantial holdings of prints from the late fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. Highlights include work by major innovators of the medium of printmaking such as Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) and Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669) as well as Daniel Hopfer (c. 1470–1536), Marcantonio Raimondi (c. 1480–c. 1530), and Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778).

Printmaking during the Renaissance and Baroque eras served a wide variety of purposes. As part of the Renaissance in Northern Europe, such artists as Dürer developed sophisticated techniques and subject matter that elevated the print to an important art form in its own right. Prints also played an integral role in the growing fascination with classical antiquity that was a hallmark of the Renaissance era, fueled in part by the proliferation of printed images depicting ancient sculpture and buildings that were disseminated throughout Europe. In the Baroque era printmaking continued to flourish as Rembrandt and others experimented with new techniques and dramatic expressive effects that lent an emotional immediacy to traditional religious scenes. Printmaking also served as a medium that reflected imagined worlds, as in the fantastic architectural scenes of Piranesi.

Renaissance and Baroque Prints: Investigating the Collection offers a unique opportunity to study the Museum’s rich collection of works on paper, much of which has rarely been shown. A variety of printmaking techniques are represented by the works on view, including woodcuts, engravings, and etchings, complemented by a selection of drawings from the same period. The display is conceived as a catalyst for new research on these works through a series of public talks with faculty, students, and curators specializing in this area.


Image credit: Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528), St. Anthony Reading, 1519. Engraving, 3 13/16 x 5 9/16″. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis. Gift of Dr. Malvern B. Clopton, 1930.

The exhibition is curated by Allison Unruh, associate curator.

About the collection:

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Verdi’s battle over censorship of his revolutionary opera

Verdi’s Rigoletto Premiere, Venice, March 11, 1851

Since its opening at the Teatro La Fenice, Rigoletto has re­mained one of Verdi’s most cele­brated works, a favorite with audiences and critics alike. Even the aged Rossini, who until Rigoletto had withheld his praise, finally acknowledged Verdi’s musical genius. And when the opera opened in Paris, it ran for over 100 performances to packed houses, causing Victor Hugo (au­thor of the opera’s source) no little resentment. But the highest praise came from George Bernard Shaw, a famous music reviewer as well as playwright, who described Rigoletto as “a treasure of art and genius burnt into music.”

But Verdi’s success with Rigoletto did not come without difficulties with government censors, who almost sunk the project. Adapted from Hugo’s play, Le Roi s’amuse, the Aus­trian military censors found the libretto too controversial. [Readers will remember prior to the Italian Risorgimento; northern Italy was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.] Indeed, Hugo’s play had been too strong even for Parisian audiences, who drove it from the stage after only one performance. They considered it licentious and anti-royalist.

Giuseppe Verdi

Verdi was determined to adapt the play to opera. He thought Le Roi s’amuse “a creation worthy of Shakespeare.” So, to comply with the censor’s demands, Verdi agreed to demote King François I to a duke, change the setting from France to Mantua, and delete a bedroom scene he never in­tended to stage. He would not, however, eliminate the sack used for Gilda’s death, an objection the military censor made on purely aesthetic grounds. [Alas, how far we have come from those days of the soldier-scholar-­aesthete.]

“The Censorship”—as Verdi con­temptuously called it—dogged him throughout his career, and for Rigoletto the battle was won only in Austrian-controlled Italy. No sooner was the opera transferred to Rome, Naples, or Palermo than it underwent new censorship tinkering, ludicrously reflected in its many name changes: Viscardello, Lionello, and Clara di Perth, the latter nicely displaying the Italian censors’ penchant for setting all disagreeable stories in Scotland, where anything could happen!

For Verdi, Rigoletto closed his “galley years,” the early chapter of his career when he wrote fif­teen operas in twelve years; more importantly, Rigoletto caused dra­matic changes in Italian opera. To audiences brought up on Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti, Rigoletto was uncon­ventional and full of surprises. For example, from the opening curtain, the Duke’s banter about his amorous affairs seems to prepare us for a light, comic opera; not until Count Monterone enters is there any hint of the opera’s dark side. But once in place, the tragic com­plication is immediately taken up in the music, shunting aside its opening gaiety.

Moreover, Verdi’s revolution­ary changes can be seen in every part of the opera’s musical struc­ture. Reducing show-stopping arias to a minimum, the music is inextricably bound to the drama, everywhere supporting the action and delin­eating character. Gone are the conventional arias that so often exist solely to call attention to themselves and show off the illustrious singers who demanded them, no matter what the dramatic situation required.

By contrast, the Duke and Gilda’s famous arias—”Questa o quella” [This one or that, they’re all the same] and “Caro nome” [Sweet name of my beloved]—are essential to their respective char­acterizations. And the Duke’s “La donna ê mobile” [Women are fickle] adds a bitter touch to the dramatic irony of the last scene. The final strains of this throw-away aria, sung offstage by the careless Duke, provide the chilling backdrop for Rigoletto’s tragic discovery.

Apart from these arias, Rigoletto unfolds musically in a se­ries of duets and dramatic exchanges. Gone are the big en­semble numbers, where princi­pals and chorus plant themselves in static poses, to “tell” us of the drama unfolding; in their place are scenes “enacting” the drama. This is beautifully illustrated in the exchange between Rigoletto and the assassin Sparafucile, as well as in Rigoletto’s concluding “Parisiamo” [How alike we are]. Their encounter employs recitative, duet, and monologue, but no conventional arias to detract from the drama and characteriza­tion Verdi sought.

This extraordinary dramatic technique can be seen everywhere in Rigoletto, but its most pow­erful illustration is in the opening scene of Act II, where Rigoletto searches for evidence of Gilda at Court. At first brusque with the courtiers, he is soon reduced to pleading, then finally condemns them—”Cortigiani, vil razza dannata” [Vile, damned courtiers]. In this moving exchange, the music for Rigoletto and chorus departs completely from anything Italian opera had seen before, fluctuating between recitative and arioso to create this powerful scene.

By thrusting drama into the forefront, Rigoletto became the central piece in Verdi’s opera revolution. With it he changed opera from a singer’s showpiece to an integrated drama, one that demands all elements work together. And, as if such radical changes were not enough, never before had such a subject ap­peared in opera. Only Verdi would consider using a deformed—both physically and morally—jester as his central character; but for Verdi, Rigoletto was a new kind of tragic figure, “outwardly ridiculous and de­formed, yet inwardly filled with passion and love.”

The story of this pitiful jester, condemned to his hateful role (played, alas, all too skillfully) represents a new direction in opera. And after Rigoletto, the place of music in opera was so altered, the Italian musical stage would never be the same. And in his own operas from 1851 on—La TraviataSimon Boccanegra, Un Ballo in Maschera, Otello and Falstaff—Verdi continued to build on the revolutionary changes Rigoletto intro­duced, and the composers who followed have been forever in his debt.


by Gilbert R. Davis

Dr. Davis has contributed notes for Opera Grand Rapids’ productions for over 35 years.

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Winter Opera Schedule

Date/Time Event Venue/Location
Fri 11/10/2017
at 7:30 PM
The Student Prince – Sponsored by Mary Pillsbury The Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade
Saint LouisMO
Fri 11/10/2017
at 7:30 PM
Winter Opera St. Louis – 2017-18 Season Subscription – FRIDAY The Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade
Saint LouisMO
Sun 11/12/2017
at 3:00 PM
The Student Prince – Sponsored by Mary Pillsbury The Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade
Saint LouisMO
Sun 11/12/2017
at 3:00 PM
Winter Opera St. Louis – 2017-18 Season Subscription – SUNDAY The Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade
Saint LouisMO
Tue 12/5/2017
at 7:00 PM
Holidays On The Hill Dominic’s on The Hill
Saint LouisMO
Wed 12/6/2017
at 7:00 PM
Holidays On The Hill Dominic’s on The Hill
Saint LouisMO
Fri 1/26/2018
at 7:30 PM
Les pecheurs de perles The Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade
Saint LouisMO
Sun 1/28/2018
at 3:00 PM
Les pecheurs de perles The Skip Viragh Center for the Arts at Chaminade
Saint LouisMO
Sat 2/17/2018
at 11:00 AM
Royal Tea at the Ritz Ritz – Carlton St. Louis
St. Louis,
Fri 3/9/2018
at 7:30 PM
L’elisir d’amore – Sponsored by Nancy Pillsbu


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Picasso’s Italy journey celebrated in Rome expo

In the frosty first months of 1917, Spanish master Pablo Picasso travelled to Italy in search of inspiration for the sets he was designing for the “Parade” ballet.

One hundred years on, a new exhibition in Rome celebrates that journey with 100 paintings, drawings, watercolours, sketches and stage costumes looking at how Italy and the Ballets Russes theatrical troupe inspired the artist.

“Picasso between Cubism and Neo-Classicism: 1915-1925” opens on Friday at the Quirinal Stables, but the highlight — an enormous work titled “Parade” — is going on show at the nearby Palazzo Barberini.

It was one of the few spaces in the Italian capital able to accommodate the monumental stage curtain with its winged horse and street performers, which measures 16.5 metres by 10.5 metres (52.5 feet by 33.8 feet).

“It is the biggest work painted by Picasso but it also marks the end of his Cubist period and return to the figurative,” Palazzo Barberini director Flaminia Gennari Santori told AFP.return to the figurative,” Palazzo Barberini director Flaminia Gennari Santori told AFP.

“The trip to Italy was very important for Picasso, who was very interested in artists like Bernini, in Baroque sculpture and painting,” she added.

Picasso, who was based in Paris, arrived in Italy in February 1917 to meet Serge de Diaghilev, the founder of the Ballets Russes, for a collaboration which would revive his spirits.

“The world was at war, and he, a Spanish man on French soil, had seen many of his fellow travellers go to the front. He was sad and had little work,” said curator Olivier Berggruen.

The two months of his Grand Tour around Italy would prove fateful for the 36-year-old. Shortly after his arrival in Rome he met Olga Khokhlova, a ballet dancer who would become his wife and principal muse.

“When he was not with Olga, the artist liked to immerse himself in the lively atmosphere on the streets of Rome or Naples, attracted by popular shows but also by classic monumental sculpture,” Berggruen said.

And the Vesuvius volcano in southern Italy created such an impression on the artist he included it in “Parade”.


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