Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mona Lisa's 'twin sister' is discovered – 500 years late

Sensational find in Madrid's Prado museum rewrites the history of art.

The Mona Lisa at the Prado in Madrid was thought to be just another fine copy, with added eyebrows and an odd black background.

But curators at Spain's national art museum yesterday announced a startling discovery: the painting was actually executed by an artist in Leonardo da Vinci's workshop at the same time as the original.

It is the first known copy of the most famous painting in history, and a discovery that curators believe sheds new light on the creation of the masterpiece.

Deputy conservator, Gabriele Finaldi, said: "It's as if we were standing in the workshop itself, and at the next easel. You can see that the artist was working step by step with Leonardo. When Leonardo made a change, he made a change."

The copy sits in a dimly-lit room awaiting the finishing touches of a two-year restoration, during which its true origin was revealed. Curators decided it needed a face lift because it was going on loan to the Louvre in March. Following X-ray and infrared studies, they were surprised to find a landscape hidden beneath the dark paint behind the subject.

Conservators believe the artist could be Francesco Melzi, one of Leonardo's favourite pupils. "When you look at the copy, you can imagine that this is what the Mona Lisa looked like in the 16th century," Mr Finaldi continued. "It's not just the details and the colour use. It has also been protected from light and dirt for centuries. So what you see if a very reliable appearance."

The Mona Lisa is widely believed to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, a Florentine merchant's wife, and the copy makes her look younger and more seductive.

Miguel Falomir, chief conservator for renaissance painting, said: "When the X-ray revealed the landscape, we saw it was in absolutely extraordinary condition. It was the most surprising thing to emerge in the conservation workshop in the 14 years I've been at the Prado."

The copy has belonged to the museum at least since the 1666, first as part of the royal collection and then as a state treasure. It was first thought to have been produced by a Flemish hand after da Vinci's death. Then it was believed to be a later Italian copy.

The Art Newspaper, which first published the remarkable discovery, said: "This sensational picture will transform our understanding of the world's most famous picture."

The "Prado Mona Lisa" was beloved by many visitors, even if that odd black background didn't highlight La Gioconda's beauty as does the landscape. "For 400 years, it has had the same owner, the same atmospheric conditions," said Mr Falomir. "It has never left the Prado. It's probably in better shape than the original."

Secret masterpieces: Art undercover
Painted by an unknown artist and inauspiciously named simply 'Old Man with a Beard', a portrait dating from the 1630s was only identified as a lost work by Rembrandt after it was scanned by X-rays last year. The technology revealed another image beneath the surface that had been painted over – which turned out to be a self-portrait by the Dutch Master. Portrait Of Don Ramó* Satué' had long been recognised as a masterpiece by Francisco de Goya, but scans last year revealed that he had previously used the same canvas for an unfinished painting of a French general. With the mystery figure thought to be Napoleon Bonaparte's brother, Joseph, who served as King of Spain between 1808 and 1813, the original picture may have been painted over for political reasons following the end of his reign.

A woman's head was revealed to lie beneath Vincent Van Gogh's 'Patch of Grass' by X-rays, before an advance in equipment in 2008 allowed scientists to show to a remarkable degree the brown hues of the older image under the greens and yellows of the new picture.

Bangladesh’s First Satellite project ‘Bangabandhu-1’ starts

Launching the country’s first Satellite ‘Bangabandhu-1’ has been started to implement as Bangladesh Telecomm-unication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has appointed project director and opened project office to carry out consultation with the foreign experts, reports BSS.

“The commission appointed its deputy director Golam Razzaque as project director and approved other issues including setting up project office at a meeting on Monday,” the telecom regulatory body chairman Major General (retd) Zia Ahmed told BSS on Tuesday.

The project director and two other staffs have started their work from Tuesday at the new office which was set-up on the 5th floor of the BTRC headquarters, Ahmed said.

Besides, the BTRC will sign an agreement with the United States based consulting firm ‘Space Partner International (SPI)’ for the project soon as the firm has been selected through open competition.

“We will ink the agreement with SPI within this month to accelerate the work as the ministry has already approved the firm as consultant,” the BTRC chief said.

As many as 25 experts from the consulting firm and six local experts will work together to assess the market, process of marketing and future prospect of the satellite. The expert will also give necessary training and ground station management work.

The consulting firm ‘SPI’ have to be paid Taka 87 crore as fee.

This initiative of launching own satellite will help to implement the government’s ‘digital Bangladesh’ campaign successfully, Ahmed added.

Taking to the news agency, Project Director Golam Razzaque said at present the country’s all television channels, Internet service provider, V-SAT and Radio are using foreign satellite to run their activities.

For using the satellite, each TV channel has to pay US$ 2 lakh annually as rent, Razzaque said.

The country’s 19 television channels are paying approximate US$ 40 lakh annually to continue their transmission.

But the satellite, whenever come to operation, will able to earn the whole project cost within five years, Ahmed said. The satellite will have a 15 years life span.

We will go to the UN if BSF doesn’t stop killing Bangladeshis: NHRC chairman

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairman Dr Mizanur Rahman on Wednesday said that if India fails to stop its BSF’s killing Bangladesh nationals along the border, the matter will be forwarded to the United Nations. “The killing incidents are not acceptable. If it is not stopped, we will raise the matter in the Human Rights Council of the United Nations,” he said while speaking at a function marking inauguration of Brahmanbaria district committee of the Commission.

He added, “We have written to the chairman of Indian National Human Rights Commission urging him to take up the border killings with its central government for immediate steps to stop killing of innocent Bangladeshis along the border.”

Deputy Commissioner M. Abdul Mannan, Additional Police Super Faisal Mahmud and District Unit President M Biplob also attended the function.

Firing at border won’t stop: BSF chief

Chief of the Indian Border Security Force U K Bansal has said it would not be possible to totally stop the firing at the border as they must take steps to stop the offenders.

“It would never be possible to totally stop firing - so long criminal activities would continue to take place at the India-Bangladesh border, BSF men will have to prevent the offences. And that is the duty of the troop,” he said this during an interview with BBC Bangla in Kolkata broadcast on Tuesday.

Bansal's comments came when human rights organisations has been alleging that the incidents of killing and torture of Bangladeshis in the hands of BSF are witnessing a rising trend. 

The BSF director general’s remarks blatantly negated the repeated assurances given to Bangladesh by the Indian authorities.

The television screening of recent brutal torture of a Bangladeshi youth, Habibur Rahman of Chapainawabganj, by the Indian BSF sparked uproar by the civil society and international human rights watchdogs.

Even an Indian leading daily, The Hindu asked the Indian government to offer apology to Bangladesh for such inhuman torture.

Rakib Uddin new CEC

Former parliament secretary Kazi Rakib Uddin Ahmed has been appointed as the chief election commissioner.

The Cabinet Division will issue a gazette notification in this regard later in the day.

The president has also appointed Mohammad Abu Hafiz, a former additional secretary, Mohammad Abdul Mobarrak, a former joint secretary, Brigadier General (retd) Md Zabed Ali and Md Shahnawaz, a former district and sessions judge, as the election commissioners.

President Zillur Rahman picked the new CEC and the four election commissioners a day after the Search Committee, which has been formed to suggest names for the new Election Commission, placed its recommendation to him.

The committee recommended former cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumder and Rakib Uddin Ahmed for appointment as the CEC as ATM Shamsul Huda retired on February 6.

Election Commissioner Sohul Hussain retired on February 6 while another commissioner Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hossain will retire on February 14.

The committee also proposed eight names for the posts of four commissioners.

Following his dialogue with the political parties on the formation of the new Election Commission, the president on January 22 constituted the committee seeking recommendations for the posts.

Supreme Court judge Syed Mahmud Hossain has been made chief of the committee.

The ruling Awami League and five other parties sent names to the committee. But the main opposition BNP and the AL's key ally Jatiya Party and 16 other parties did not send any names.

Rejecting the four-member committee, the BNP demanded a restoration of the caretaker government first.

The three other members of the Search Committee were High Court judge Mohammad Nuruzzaman, Public Service Commission Chairman ATM Ahmedul Haque Chowdhury and Comptroller and Auditor General Ahmed Ataul Hakeem.


Rakib Uddin Ahmed was parliament secretary in the previous BNP-Jamaat coalition government till 2003.

Prior to that, he was education secretary in 2000. Earlier, he served as secretary of information and primary and mass education in the last AL government.

Also a freedom fighter, he was a zonal coordinating officer of the freedom fighters who took shelter in Agartala, India, during the 1971 Liberation War.

After the war, Ahmed served as deputy commissioner of Comilla and later became director general of the NGO Affairs Bureau.