Recent links of note:


“France Announces Competition to Rebuild Notre Dame’s Spire”

Matthew Dalton and Denise Roland, The Wall Street Journal

After the fire that destroyed Paris’s Notre-Dame Cathedral’s spire and two-thirds of its roof Monday, the French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced an international competition to rebuild the spire. Although the last version, by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, was also built in response to a government competition, some fear that this choice could produce a contemporary structure that conflicts with the Gothic architecture of the rest of the building. The French President, Emmanuel Macron, also revealed his plans to reopen the cathedral within five years, in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics. But eagerness to restore the monument quickly could put at risk the quality of the architecture, especially the stonework, which would have to be done by machine on Macron’s timeline. A proper restoration using hand-cut stone would take at least a decade, Matthew Dalton and Denise Roland report for The Wall Street Journal. For more on the fire and its aftermath, see these on-site photographs, a list of what has been saved and lost, a story about rescued objects to be housed at the Louvre, and  a collection of artworks inspired by the cathedral.

“The Invention of the ‘Salvator Mundi’ Or, How to Turn a $1,000 Art-Auction Pickup Into a $450 Million Masterpiece.”
Matthew Shaer, New York

The art dealer Alexander Parish hoped to make a few hundred thousand dollars on the New Orleans Auction Gallery’s Lot 664, which he suspected was a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s oft-replicated Salvator Mundi (ca. 1500) made by Bernardino Luini. But after he purchased the painting for $1000 in 2005, it was authenticated (controversially) as the original, and its value skyrocketed until it was sold last year at Christie’s to someone bidding on behalf of the Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman for $450 million—by far the most ever paid for an artwork at auction. Matthew Shaer writes about the extensive restoration project, the scholarly debate surrounding Salvator’s artistry, and the marketing campaign that transformed it from an art world treasure into a trophy and “bargaining chip” for the superrich. “There has been nothing before or since to match the creative genius of the sale strategy for the Salvator Mundi,” the art market columnist Sarah Moore wrote in Apollo. Salvator Mundi, which was allegedly intended as a gift for the Louvre Abu Dhabi to be unveiled in September, is currently in an undisclosed location as bin Salman “mulls whether he wants to move forward with the gift or keep the painting for himself,” Shaer speculates.

“Still a giddy neighbour”
Geoffrey Marsh, The Times Literary Supplement

For about five years in the 1590s, right before the opening of the Globe Theatre and while writing The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare lived in the London parish of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate. Shakespeare’s religious beliefs are the subject of a long-standing debate, as Paul Dean  recounts in a recent New Criterion essay. But whatever he thought of the church, he undoubtedly frequented St Helen’s and met many of his neighbors there, because Sunday attendance was mandatory at the time. Read about Geoffrey Marsh’s search for the details of a relatively obscure period in the Bard’s life, reconstructed from something as banal as the parish’s tax assessments.


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“A substitute conductor scores with Mahler”
Jay Nordlinger

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