Why are the Greatest Works Attacked

From Rothko to Michelangelo and Rembrandt, it seems to be the most powerful works of art that draw the vandals

The idiocy of someone scribbling on one of these wine-dark, blood-rich paintings is hideous. Nobody stopped the scoundrel. A witness tweeted that the criminal “tagged” the painting. This was not a tag, which implies a creative act. It was a pathetic assault.

Well, I’ve got that off my chest.

But why is it always the greatest works of art that get damaged in these ways? Because the Seagram paintings are among the true art treasures of the world. They have a power that expands your mind’s eye as you gaze at them. To deface one of these is to deface something with life and magic.

It is a horrible fact that people who for whatever reason feel compelled, in an art gallery, not to stand and look but to scribble, or throw acid, or pull out a hammer, tend to pick the most potent and authoritative works of art for their assaults. It seems there is a psychic force in truly great art that draws the attacker.

In 1987, a man fired a shotgun at Leonardo da Vinci’s Burlington cartoon in the National Gallery. This is a full-scale design for a painting in which the Virgin Mary sits on the lap of her mother Anne. Mary smiles sweetly; her mother gazes out of cadaverous eyes. The infant Jesus greets a young St John the Baptist. This is an image with great psychological power that speaks intimately of mothers and sons. It fascinated Sigmund Freud: you can see his reproduction of it in his house in north London. He wrote about its maternal aura.

continue reading at The Guardian

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