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ARTE TV documentary on the Berlin art scandal of the early 20th century

Hardly any other museum acquisition caused as much public attention during the Wilhelmine Empire as the wax bust of the Greek goddess of flowers, Flora. This had been acquired for the Berlin Sculpture Collection in July 1909 by Wilhelm von Bode, General Director of the State Art Collections and founding director of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum (now the Bode Museum) - in the belief that it was a Leonardo original.

Veranstaltungen in Berlin: Leonardo da Vinci und die Flora-Büste
© visitBerlin

The art scandal which Bode thus triggered in Europe was unprecedented in the history of the museum and has not yet been conclusively clarified. In the course of the following two years alone, more than 700 articles and essays appeared in the international press and in art-historical journals.

Their content revolved essentially around the so-called question of authenticity: Was the bust - as von Bode claimed - a work of the artistic genius Leonardo da Vinci or his workshop, or did it come from the British wax sculptor Richard Cockle Lucas in the mid-19th century? Had Wilhelm Bode therefore made a right or wrong purchase decision? To this day, generations of art historians* have racked their brains over the attribution of the Flora bust.

On the occasion of the "Klartext" exhibition on the history of the Bode Museum, curator Neville Rowley has once again researched the Flora case. The search for clues leads him to London to the Warburg Institute and to Bonham's auction house as well as to the Highlands of Scotland and the Louvre in Paris. There the Leonardo expert Vincent Delieuvin creates an exciting analogy between the Mona Lisa and the Flora bust.

Margarete Kreuzer's documentary accompanies the curator and tells an art thriller from Leonardo research: Will it be possible to prove in the laboratory with the latest technology that this is a bust of the Renaissance genius?

"Leonardo da Vinci and the Bust of Flora" is available in the ARTE media library:

(Program in German)
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