Amedeo Modigliani, Nu Couché, 1915Oil on canvas. Photo: Rex

Recent links of note:

“Let’s just admit it: the French are simply better than us”
Theodore Dalrymple, The Spectator
The first round of the French presidential election last month, which featured the toppling of both establishment parties, provided the latest cue to the international media to gawk at the train wreck of French society. Of course, France’s mad politics compete with its sluggish job market and unruly immigration issues for the position of crisis de jour. With all of this in mind, one is tempted upon seeing the title of Theodore Dalrymple’s latest Spectator essay to prejudge it as a satire: no matter who is meant by “us,” how on Earth could the French be “simply better”? And yet, it is not satire. Dalrymple makes a case for the virtues that still prevail in the life of France, particularly the efficiency of their public services and their devotion to the details of culture and craft. Dalrymple’s essay is limited in its reach, and intentionally so—it does suggest that these pleasures eclipse the very real problems that are sapping the country. But in considering France’s persistent positive qualities, international readers might be moved to tone down their mockery—if only for a moment.

“The Art Market’s Modigliani Forgery Epidemic”
Milton Esterow, Vanity Fair
Explaining how he was able to compose such a vast catalogue of works in such a short career, Mozart famously stated, “I write music as a sow piddles.” Amedeo Modigliani, who shares a name with Mozart and lived only two years longer, possessed a similar gift—though his works were not quite classical masterpieces, he produced hundreds of bewitching sketches and paintings in just under two decades. In an essay in Vanity Fair, however, the art critic Milton Esterow describes how Modigliani’s gift of fruitfulness has become a curse for his estate.  His works are scattered so diffusely that no authority has managed to establish a definitive catalogue raisonné, leaving room for forgers to capitalize on the uncertainty. As Modigliani’s reputation continues to rise—Esterow reports that the artist’s Nu Couché sold for $170 million in 2015—the duel between the experts attempting to verify his works and the charlatans working to ape them will only grow more intense.

From our pages:

“Festival days in Berlin”
Paul du Quenoy
On Parsifal & Die frau ohne Schatten at the Berlin Staatsoper, and a concert of the Vienna Philharmonic at the Philharmonie.

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