Saturday 25 June 2016


I feel ashamed to be British. We have succumbed to  narrow-minded jingoism and covert (sometimes overt) racism, encouraged opportunistically be those who should know better.  The cosy political and financial cabal's in London must take their fair share of blame, and Corbyn's  Labour party has been wholly impotent.
It's clear that two factors won the day for brexit. The first and most prominent is immigration. Campaigners reporting from the "doorstep" indicated that this was almost the only issue that really counted. The second is decades of neglect of the regions, particularly in the North of England, which allowed those who have been "left out" to blame the EU - in spite of EU regional aid.  This does not apply to Scotland, which thinks behaves as a country.

We are now cut adrift in the North Sea, battered by financial and social storms and bereft of credible leadership.

What to do? We should strive to be internationalist on a world-wide basis, fostering genuine British values independently of the corrupt power structures that pertain in so many walks of life, above all financial. This means that we should do everything to stop John Major's "bastards" from taking over.

Sunday 19 June 2016

Gove and Johnson

Michael Gove paints a picture of Britain as a "progressive beacon" outside the EU. There is nothing "progressive" about Gove. He belongs to the intellectually dogmatic radical right. Let loose, he will privatise everything in sight. Johnson is of the emotionally opportunistic radical right.  Beside them, David Cameron's pragmatic right looks positively desirable.  The idea they can legitimately speak for a broad spectrum of society is absurd. They exploit inflammatory issues to draw in sectors of society with which they have nothing in common.

Friday 17 June 2016

Jo Cox, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage

Let us characterise political and social views in the EU debate as a continuous spectrum. At one end is a tolerant internationalism, coupled with a proper recognition and respect for one's geographical and ethnic origins. At the other is committed racism and bigotry, underpinned by potential violence. All the mainstream politicians stand not too far from the middle of that spectrum - or claim to. The issue is which way they are facing when they look for support. There is no doubt that Johnson is consciously facing down the spectrum, implicitly looking for support from those closer to the racist end. Farage is more or less openly soliciting such support, while disclaiming racist views on his own behalf.
At the extreme end of the spectrum stand Brevic, the Norwegian killer, and now Mair, the murderer of Jo Cox. Those using fear of invading foreigners in the EU debate should ask themselves hard questions about which end of the spectrum they are facing.

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Brexit and EU referendum

The debate, which has degenerated into a slanging match, has essentially become economics vs immigration. In the long term and in the big picture immigration is a secondary issue, inflated by politicians and press who are exploiting residual jingoism. What has been lost is any sense of the greater ideal of the European "family" , based on our shared heritage and future place in the world.
When I first visited America, I realised that I was European - as well as British, English (with a Scottish family), a resident of Stirlingshire. Do you remember at school proudly writing down one's address as (in my case)
122, Clarence Road,
Great Britain,
the Northern Hemisphere,
the World,
the Universe?

To which level we assign power over us is a matter of informed cultural and political choice. We are governed and regulated by entities ranging from local councils to the UN.  Europe is just part of the spectrum, and not as monolithically dominant as the bilious Brexiters spuriously claim.  On balance, the legislation passed by Europe compares very favourably with that passed by our national government.

Leaving Europe would be a disaster.

Monday 16 May 2016

Attribution and other issues, mainly Leonardo da Vinci

After speaking at the Art in Authentication Congress in The Hague, I confirm that I am withdrawing the "advice service" I have been providing. This is the relevant statement.

Attribution and other enquiries

After almost 40 years of responding carefully to every message about attribution and other enquiries, including many concerning supposed “secrets” hidden in Leonardo’s works, I am stepping aside from this aspect of my activity. As a professor, I have been committed to the notion of public service, and have not taken any money for opinions, but the quantity of material I receive and the abuse to which I am subsequently subject on the internet means that this ideal is no longer sustainable in the IT age. I am sorry. This is a pity, but my work as a historian in public is being seriously distorted, not least by the unnecessary personalisation of arguments about matters of judgement.  I will continue to engage selectively with a few major items/issues and with important developments in the academic and public domains.

Friday 6 May 2016

Leonardo La Bella Principessa: personalisation of the debate

In view the personalised nature of recent postings on the web about the attribution to Leonardo da Vinci of the profile of Bianca Sforza on vellum, I wish to make the following statement.

I wholly reject the personalisation of the debate. A matter of professional judgement is just that and no more. I would rather be right than wrong, but no-one has a divine prerogative to be right.
The totality of the evidence about Leonardo's authorship and the identity of the sitter presents what is close to an open-and-shut case. If genuinely new and decisive evidence indicates to the contrary I will accept that.
Ultimately a single attribution is not a "big deal" to me, either in the local terms of my publications on Leonardo over 50 years, or far more importantly in human terms - it is not a matter of life and death, and pales into insignificance in the light of the problems faced by those less fortunate than those of us who have the time and means at debate such matters.

(I will not be saying more on this unless genuinely new evidence comes to light, with the exception of a long-arranged talk at the Art in Authentication Congress in the Hague on 12th May, and a chapter in my forthcoming book, Living with Leonardo [2017].)

Monday 14 March 2016

Thursday 10 March 2016

La Bella Principessa. Pisarek and allegations of forgery

After "Artibus et Historiae" declined to publish my response to Katarzyna Krzyzag√≥rska-Pisarek's  article in Artibus et Historiae (XXXVI, 215, pp. 61– 89), it has been posted in up-dated form on the Art in Authentication website:
under the the title: 
Martin Kemp, Leonardo Da Vinci, La Bella Principessa: Errors, Misconceptions, And Allegations of Forgery, Oxford, 2016.

One of the big problems with the field of connoisseurship is that it often becomes overly personalised. It involves complex issues of perception and cognition that are quite malleable. We should be able to disagree in matters of fine judgement without impugning someone's competence and integrity
- unless of course their competence is not up to the job, in which case the demonstration of errors will be enough.

In my essay I have concentrated on criteria other than those of style and "eye".
My other piece on the AiA website deals with the different kinds of evidence, and how they might be evaluated: