Art News: Swindled Masterpieces, Goya’s Disease, and Emoji Gargoyles

The art world is full of fascinating exhibitions, intriguing discoveries, and moments that shape history. Here are some of the latest news items making art headlines.

Thieves Swindle Italian Art Dealer Out of Paintings by Rembrandt and Renoir

The hunt is on for two men who stole nearly $30 million worth of artwork by Rembrandt van Rijn and Pierre-Auguste Renoir from an art dealer in northern Italy.

ArtNetNews reports two men posing as art buyers contacted a dealer on several occasions for the sale of multiple masterpieces. The suspects rented office space in downtown Monza, located north of Milan, where the dealer met them to finish the supposed sale. The date of the meeting was not disclosed.

After the suspects finalized the deal, they claimed they were going to make coffee for everyone. Instead, they disappeared with the paintings, leaving the dealer in the office empty-handed. According to the Carabinieri’s online database, the country is missing eight works by Rembrandt and nine by Renoir, but it is unclear as to which works were stolen.


Doctors Diagnose Goya’s Mystery Illness 200 Years Later

The sleep of reason produces monsters Francisco Goya Park West Gallery

“El sueno de la Razon produce Monstruos”
(The sleep of reason produces monsters)
(c. 1799), Francisco Goya

Famous Spanish painter Francisco Goya suffered from an unknown disease that rendered him deaf. Nearly two centuries later, experts may have determined the cause to be Susac’s syndrome.

Goya is considered one of the most important Spanish painters of the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1793, the royal court painter developed a severe illness, leaving him bedridden for months. Symptoms included headaches, dizziness, vision problems, hallucinations, and ringing in his ears. While most of these subsided, the disease claimed his hearing.

Past speculations included bacterial meningitis, syphilis, or even lead poisoning from his paints. In an article from LiveScience, Dr. Ronna Hertzano, a surgeon and hearing expert at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is suggesting Goya suffered from an autoimmune disease known as Susac’s syndrome. The disease causes the immune system to attack blood vessels in the brain, retina, and inner ear.

Hertzano says the disease would explain Goya’s “constellation of symptoms,” but notes it is not a definitive diagnosis due to a lack of written records about Goya’s condition.

The diseases forever impacted Goya’s artwork, causing him to create dark and pessimistic imagery.


Emoji Gargoyles Cast as Architectural Relics

(Photo from Atticka Architekten)

There is a debate as to whether emojis are art, but one designer in the Netherlands decided they would make the perfect gargoyles.

The Verge reports Changiz Tehrani of Attika Architekten designed a four-story brick building with 22 face emojis cast in concrete. The emojis help designate the top of each floor and are generally met with positive feedback.

“The students sit in the square and have lunch and they take pictures,” Tehrani told the Verge. “They like it. And with our architecture we always like to put in small details that makes the project a little bit more than a boring building.”

Critics say the emojis will become dated quickly, but Tehrani argues this is what he hoped to achieve. He said when people look at the building “in 10 or 20 years you can say ‘hey this is from that year!’”

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