Artibus et Historiae no. 60 (XXX)

2009, ISSN 0391-9064

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ANDREI NAKOV - Is critica d'arte a Relic of the Past? On the New Definition of the Image — Victim of a Misinterpreted Russian Avant-Garde

The point of departure for this article is the alarming increase in recent incorrect, if not fraudulent, attributions of Russian avant-garde paintings (see the scandal of January 2009 at the "Alexandra Exter" exhibition at the Château de Tours in France). Setting aside the fact that source documents on the subject are scarce and reference works very few, the author investigates the problem of the danger threatening the very notion of the imago princeps, the original, being more and more obscured by the use of digital images which can be manipulated freely and practically without restrictions. The recent example of the digital reproduction of the Wedding at Cana of Paolo Veronese, a procedure praised by sociologists, is criticised here using the theoretical apparatus of art history.
The manipulation of documents, which should constitute another kind of originals of reference, has also been facilitated by digital reproduction techniques, and art historians should be made aware of that new danger. The present paper gives several instances to illustrate this problem, including the erroneous attribution of a "blue relief" to Tatlin, an attribution which has not long ago exploited the authority of the Burlington Magazine (issue of January 2008).
The critical considerations presented in the paper go far beyond mere "attributionism". They open a broad new field of reflexion, which hitherto has been prey to tabloid newspapers only.

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