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  • Thursday, May 14, 2009


    Michelangelo's First Painting

    This image provided Wednesday, May 13, 2009 by the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas shows the 1487 oil and tempera painting on a wood panel 'The Torment of Saint Anthony' by Michelangelo, believed to be his earliest known work. The Kimbell will be the first U.S. museum to display a Michelangelo painting after it acquired this rare piece.

    (AP Photo/The Kimbell)

    Texas museum acquires Michelangelo's 1st painting

    FORT WORTH, Texas – The Kimbell Art Museum will soon be the only U.S. museum to display a Michelangelo painting after acquiring his earliest known work, a rare treasure that was tucked away and doubted as authentic for more than a century.

    The museum declined to disclose how much it paid for "The Torment of Saint Anthony," a 15th-century oil and tempera painting on a wood panel that depicts scaly, horned, winged demons trying to pull the saint out of the sky. Experts believe he painted it when he was only 12 or 13 years old.

    And only four such works — including this one — by the artist exist, and two of them are unfinished. Most of his paintings are frescos, the famous scenes on the ceiling and wall of Rome's Sistine Chapel.

    "This is one of the greatest rediscoveries in the history of art," Eric M. Lee, the Fort Worth museum's director, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "The evidence could not be stronger. It's like a detective story, like a mystery, and it involves one of the greatest artists of all time."

    The painting was exhibited as late as 1874 in Paris. But some questions about its authenticity had surfaced through the years, and after a London family acquired it in the 1900s, the painting was kept privately and largely forgotten in the art world, Lee said.

    Last summer an art dealer bought it for nearly $2 million at a Sotheby's auction and then took it to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, where one department chairman shared his hunch that it was the work of the Renaissance artist, Lee said.

    Experts in the Met's paintings conservation department carefully cleaned it by removing decades of dirt, as well as paint layers that art restorers had applied through the ages to fill in chips or dull areas, Lee said.

    When they examined the painting further using X-rays and infrared technology, they were able to see how the artist made certain brush strokes, scraped paint layers to achieve detail and even changed elements of the painting before the final version, Lee said.

    Museum experts said they determined it not only was Michelangelo's — based on similarities to his other works and the artist's stories of the piece as told to biographers — but also that it was his earliest work — based on its age and details in the painting. The confirmation came a few months ago, and then the Kimbell decided to buy it, Lee said.

    The generations of dirt and paint buildup had obscured the painting's identity, and some doubted its authenticity because a similar painting existed, Lee said. But an art expert who extensively studied both paintings said the other was done in the 17th century.

    Michelangelo's piece has previously been known as "The Temptation of Saint Anthony" because he was inspired by a similar engraving of that name while learning to be an artist. But after the Kimbell acquired the oil painting, Lee decided to change its name because that engraving depicts a different scene, he said.

    The painting will be displayed at the Kimbell starting this fall after a summer exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Lee said he may loan the painting to other museums later for traveling exhibits.

    "This could not be a rarer object," Lee said. "That's why this is such an extraordinary opportunity."


    On the Net:

    Kimbell Art Museum:


    Tuesday, March 17, 2009


    Picasso's Powerful Anti-War "Guernica"

    Picasso: "Guernica"


    Tuesday, April 22, 2008


    Afghanistan's Ancient Gold Treasures

    Afghanistan Gold Treasures

    Ancient Gold Afghan Treasures to Tour U.S. (Pictures)
    1 of 7 Next >>
    December 21, 2007—Part of the famed "Bactrian hoard" of treasures, a folding gold crown dating from the first century A.D. is one of the Afghan treasures that will go on display in the United States in 2008, it was announced today.

    The crown was discovered in one of six graves of nomads of the ancient state of Bactria at an archaeological site in northern Afghanistan in 1978.

    Russian-Greek archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi unearthed the hoard—a crown, necklaces, belts, rings, and headdresses set with precious jewels. The finds were later hidden and eventually thought stolen until the Afghan government found them stashed in boxes in 2003.

    The touring exhibition—"Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum"—is organized by the National Geographic Society and the U.S. National Gallery of Art, in cooperation with the National Museum of Afghanistan, Kabul.

    (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)

    The 17-month tour of the U.S. will begin in spring 2008 in Washington, D.C.
    —Photograph © Thierry Ollivier/Musee Guimet
    Ancient Gold Afghan Treasures to Tour U.S. (Pictures)
    <<> 2 of 7 Next >>
    A close-up shows detail of a dagger dating from the first century A.D. The knife will go on display in a new U.S. exhibition of Afghan treasures in 2008.

    The dagger was found at the archaeological site of Tilly Tepe, in northern Afghanistan, where the graves of six ancient nomads were discovered in 1978.

    The far-flung origins of the exhibition's pieces show Afghanistan's role as a cultural hub in the set of trade routes known as the Silk Road during the first century B.C, according to archaeologist Fredrik T. Hiebert, a National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration grantee.

    Hiebert helped inventory the objects and is curating the U.S. exhibition.

    "This exhibition is really about heroism," Hiebert told National Geographic News.

    "These pieces should not be around today. They are here because people risked their lives to safeguard them.
    —Photograph by Kenneth Garrett © 2007 National Geographic

    Ancient Gold Afghan Treasures to Tour U.S. (Pictures)

    This large glass beaker, dating from the first century A.D., shows two female and two male figures between bands of yellow and red.

    The artifact is part of the 17-month U.S. touring exhibition of Afghan treasures that begins in spring 2008.

    The more than 200 artifacts are at the Nieuwe Kerk exhibition hall in Amsterdam through April 20, 2008. They have been on display at the Musée Guimet in Paris and the Museo di Antichità in Turin, Italy.
    —Photograph © Thierry Ollivier/Musee Guimet

    Ancient Gold Afghan Treasures to Tour U.S. (Pictures)

    This gold pendant with turquoise, garnet, lapis lazuli, carnelian, and pearls depicts a “dragon master.” The artifact will be part of the U.S. exhibition “Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul" in 2008 and 2009.

    The pendant, dating from the first century A.D., was found at one of four Afghan archaeological sites that yielded the works of art in the exhibition.

    The ornament was part of the some one hundred gold objects taken from the graves of six Bactrian nomads.

    Many of the Bactrian objects reflect local artisans' distinctive blend of motifs known from Greek, Roman, Indian, and Chinese art.
    —Photograph © Thierry Ollivier/Musee Guimet

    Ancient Gold Afghan Treasures to Tour U.S. (Pictures)

    This fragment of a golden bowl with Mesopotamian motifs, dating from about 2500 B.C., was discovered at the Tepe Fullol archaeological site in northern Afghanistan.

    The artifacts from Tepe Fullol date between 2500 B.C. and 2200 B.C. They are the earliest objects in a new Afghan treasures exhibition, which will tour the U.S. in 2008 and 2009.

    All the artifacts—which are the property of Afghanistan—were once housed in the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul.
    —Photograph © Thierry Ollivier/Musee Guimet

    Ancient Gold Afghan Treasures to Tour U.S. (Pictures)

    This sculpture of a water goddess standing atop a makara—a mythical Hindu water creature—was found at the Begram archaeological site in northern Afghanistan.

    Begram is one of the four sites from which ancient works of art have been drawn for a 2008-2009touring exhibition of Afghan treasures in the U.S.

    Artifacts from the site include elaborately carved Indian ivory reliefs, ivory statues, vases, and painted glassware—many of them imported from Roman, Indian, Chinese, and East Asian markets.

    When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan in the late 1990s, they destroyed statues, paintings, and artifacts deemed to be idols—specifically those depicting human and animal forms.

    "People were trying to hide animal and human structures from them," Said T. Jawad, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, told National Geographic News.

    Ancient Gold Afghan Treasures to Tour U.S. (Pictures)

    This unfired-clay sculpture dating from the second century B.C. will be featured in the 2008-2009 U.S. exhibition of "Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul.”

    The object was found at the former Greek city of Aï Khanum, in a region of Afghanistan conquered by Alexander the Great.

    The archaeological finds from Aï Khanum reflect the Mediterranean influence in the region between the fourth and second centuries B.C.

    The Afghan treasures will be shown at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. They are also tentatively set to visit the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

    —Photograph © Thierry Ollivier/Musee Guimet


    Sunday, October 14, 2007


    Afghanistan Oldest Oil Paintings

    Oldest Oil Paintings Found in Caves

    Oldest Oil Paintings Found in Caves (Photos)
    Oldest Oil Paintings Found in Caves (Photos)
    Oldest Oil Paintings Found in Caves (Photos)
    Oldest Oil Paintings Found in Caves (Photos)
    Oldest Oil Paintings Found in Caves (Photos)

    Oldest Oil Paintings Found in Caves (Photos)

    February 6, 2008—A newly discovered mural is one of many in 12 of Afghanistan's famed Bamian caves that show evidence of an oil-based binder. The binder was used to dry paint and help it adhere to rocky surfaces.

    Oldest Oil Paintings Found in Caves (Photos)

    Afghanistan's Bamian cliffs are probably best known for once holding two enormous Buddha statues, as seen in this February 2001 image.

    Just one month after this photo was taken, Taliban officials began to destroy the mighty carvings as part of a hard-line crackdown on anything they considered anti-Islamic and idolatrous.

    Scientists from around the world have since embarked on a painstaking process to collect the remnants of the dynamited statues and reconstruct them.

    In the meantime, researchers have found that the paint used on the Buddhas, along with murals in 12 of 50 painted Bamian caves, contained oil-based binders—the world's oldest known examples of oil paintings.

    The murals—and the remains of two giant, destroyed Buddhas—include the world's oldest known oil-based paint, predating European uses of the substance by at least a hundred years, scientists announced late last month.

    Researchers made the discovery while conducting a chemical analysis as part of preservation and restoration efforts at Bamian, which lies about 145 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of the Afghan capital, Kabul.

    —Photograph courtesy NRICPT-Japan
    Oldest Oil Paintings Found in Caves (Photos)

    Seen in a 2005 photo, a towering alcove in Afghanistan's Bamian Valley cliffs shows the former home of a giant Buddha statue. Dating to between the fifth and ninth centuries A.D., the statue was one of a pair destroyed by Taliban officials in 2001 for allegedly insulting Islam.

    The region also has as many as a thousand caves. About 50 contain the depictions of ornate swirling patterns, Buddhist imagery, and mythological animals that led UNESCO to name the area a World Heritage site.

    Since 2003 Japanese, European, and U.S. researchers have been working to preserve the damaged murals. As part of that venture, the scientists conducted the first scientific analysis of the paintings since the 1920s.

    Gas chromatography and mass spectrometry revealed that some of the murals contained oil- and resin-based paints—likely the earliest known use of either substance for painting.

    Oldest Oil Paintings Found in Caves (Photos)

    A Buddhist mural dated to around the seventh century A.D. is one of many in Afghanistan's Bamian Valley that were recently found to contain oil- and resin-based paints.

    The use of the substances at such an early date is a surprise, since they require sophisticated knowledge of chemical properties, scientists say.

    Oil is used in paints to help fix dyes and help them adhere to surfaces. It also changes a paint's drying time and viscosity.

    Europeans began using oil in their pictures by about 800 A.D., but the new research on the Central Asian pushes back the onset of oil-based painting by at least a hundred years.

    Researchers hope to find even earlier examples by studying other Central Asian sites.

    —Photograph courtesy NRICPT-Japan
    Oldest Oil Paintings Found in Caves (Photos)

    A mural from the Bamian cave Foladi 6 has been dated to the eighth century A.D. Its artists used an oil-based paint, scientists say, in an early example of mixing organic binding agents with pigments.

    The murals were painted using a structured, multilayered technique reminiscent of early European methods, according to researcher Yoko Taniguchi of the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation in Tokyo.

    The painters first applied a white base layer of a lead compound. Then an upper layer—natural or artificial pigments mixed with either resins or walnut or poppy seed drying oils—was added.

    "The discovery of the use of oil [in Afghanistan] is important, because it shows that these undervalued paintings are far more important and far more sophisticated than anyone might have thought," said Sharon Cather, a wall-painting expert from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London.
    —Photograph courtesy NRICPT-Japan


    Afghanistan Has World's Oldest Oil Paintings

    Buddhist Artifact - When attacked and massacred by the Muslims, the Buddhists initially did not make any attempt to escape from their murderers. They accepted death with an air of fatalism and destiny.

    TOKYO - Buddhist images on the walls of central Afghanistan's Bamiyan caves are the world's first oil paintings, Japanese researcher Yoko Taniguchi says. Taniguchi, an expert at Japan's National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, and a group of Japanese, European, and American scientists are collaborating to restore the damaged murals, the Daily Star reports. The Los Angeles-based Getty Conservation Institute analyzed 53 samples from the murals that date back to about 650 A.D., concluding that they had oil in the paint.

    "My European colleagues were shocked because they always believed oil paintings were invented in Europe," Taniguchi said. "They couldn't believe such techniques could exist in some Buddhist cave deep in the countryside." The Bamiyan Valley is known for two huge 1,500-year-old statues of the Buddha that were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. The researchers are restoring the murals, which depict thousands of Buddhas in red robes, as part of international efforts to salvage what is left of the region's cultural relics.

    The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) works internationally to advance the field of conservation through scientific research, field projects, education and training, and the dissemination of information in various media. In its programs, the GCI focuses on the creation and delivery of knowledge that will benefit the professionals and organizations responsible for the conservation of the visual arts.

    Visit The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) at :

    Map: Afghanistan
    Country: Afghanistan
    Region: Central Asia



    Afghanistan Facts Maps
    Photo: Afghanistan
    The Taliban earned global notoriety when it destroyed the famous Bamian Valley Buddhas. Today only a gaping hole remains where the enormous statues stood for some 1,500 years.
    Photograph by Steve McCurry
    Afghanistan Information and History

    Since Alexander the Great, invading armies and peaceful migrations have brought in diverse peoples to this Central Asian crossroads. As a result, Afghanistan is a country of ethnic minorities: Pashtun (38 percent), Tajik (25 percent), Hazara (19 percent), and Uzbek (6 percent). The towering Hindu Kush range dominates and divides Afghanistan. The northern plains and valleys are home to Tajiks and Uzbeks. Pashtuns inhabit the desert-dominated southern plateaus. Hazara live in the central highlands. Kabul, south of the Hindu Kush, is linked by narrow passes to the northern plains.

    In 1989 the nine-year Soviet occupation ended, and Muslim rebels toppled the communist regime in 1992, after which rival groups vied for power. From among the various factions arose the Taliban ("students of religion"), a militant Islamic movement. The Taliban seized Kabul in 1996 and imposed Islamic punishments, including amputation and stoning, and banned women from working. In 2001 the Taliban destroyed giant Buddha statues at Bamian in defiance of international efforts to save them. Three weeks after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., the U.S. and Britain bombed terrorist camps in Afghanistan; by November 2001 Kabul fell to anti-Taliban forces.

    After decades of war, Afghanistan is rebuilding its economy, which is mostly agricultural, and preparing for elections in 2004. The government faces problems with health care, security, and opium.


    Industry: small-scale production of textiles, soap, furniture, shoes.
    Agriculture: opium, wheat, fruits, nuts; wool.
    Exports: opium, fruits and nuts, handwoven carpets, wool, cotton.

    Text source: National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition, 2004
    Afghanistan Flag and Fast Facts
    Flag of Afghanistan
    Kabul; 2,956,000
    652,090 square kilometers (251,773 square miles)
    Pashtu, Afghan Persian (Dari), Uzbek, Turkmen, 30 minor langauges
    Sunni and Shiite Muslim
    Life Expectancy
    GDP per Capita
    U.S. $700
    Literacy Percent
    Countries of Central Asia
    Afghanistan Features
    Photo: Afghanistan, Buddhist temple
    Find out how decades of conflict have allowed Afghanistan's relics and antiquities to go into the hands of smugglers and warlords.
    Photo: woman baking bread, Afghanistan.
    Meet the everyday people of Afghanistan, caught between war and peace, as they try to rebuild their lives.
    Photo: Tora Bora, Pashtun
    Meet the Pashtun people, who live in and along the crags and caves of Tora Bora's mountains.
    Photo: Afghanistan, market
    Explore the seven "Stans" of central Asia, home to over 100 ethnic groups and harsh mountainous terrain.



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