Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid | AspenTimes.com

Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid

Todd Hartley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

With the global economy taking its own sweet time recovering, I know a lot of my readers around the world have been looking for good ways to make some extra income. As usual, I’ve taken it upon myself to do the legwork for you, and I believe I’ve come up with a virtually foolproof investment plan that I think you will agree can pay off quite handsomely.

Here’s all you have to do: Buy an anonymous portrait at an art auction, and then prove it was actually done by Leonardo da Vinci. What could be simpler than that? Plunk down a few thousand bucks, and overnight you could find yourself in possession of an object worth tens of millions of dollars. I’m not very good at math, but I think that works out to something like a 50 percent return on your investment. Maybe even more. Think about that the next time your mutual fund grows by 100 bucks and you get all excited about it.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You figure the chances of finding a heretofore unknown work by da Vinci are pretty slim. Well, that’s where you’re wrong. This is the sort of thing that happens every day, as long as by every day you mean this past Tuesday. That was the day the BBC News website reported that an ink-and-chalk drawing of a fairly plain-looking brunette had a fingerprint in the upper left corner that is “highly comparable” to one found on a da Vinci work in the Vatican.

Furthermore, it was reported, carbon analysis of the portrait, which was previously described as “German, early 19th century,” suggests it might actually date back to the 15th century, when da Vinci was in his prime, and the girl’s hairstyle and costume are consistent with Milanese fashions of the time. Scholars also believe the drawing was done by an artist who was left-handed, as da Vinci was known to be. Lastly, infrared analysis of the work showed “significant” stylistic parallels with da Vinci’s “Portrait of a Woman in Profile.”

The piece was sold at a Christie’s auction in New York in 1998 for $19,000 and was then purchased for a similar sum in 2007 by a Canadian-born connoisseur named Peter Silverman. Working on behalf of an anonymous Swiss client, Silverman bought the portrait because, he claims, he recognized the hand of the master. It wasn’t until two years later, however, that a laboratory in Paris would uncover the telltale fingerprint and send shock waves throughout the art world.

Though the evidence in favor of da Vinci is quite compelling, there are still plenty of skeptics out there. The girl in the portrait is kind of homely and has no eyebrows, which makes her similar to that most famous of da Vinci’s models, the Mona Lisa, but her face doesn’t bear an inscrutable smile, and as she’s facing to the left, her eyes don’t follow you around the room. Even more tellingly, if you look closely, it appears that the word “NINA” is hidden in the girl’s hair seven times.

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Still, just the idea that the portrait could be a da Vinci work has fired the imaginations of people around the globe. Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code,” is said to be nearing completion on a novel that makes the argument that the girl in the portrait is actually John the Baptist’s cousin’s friend who gave Jesus a hickey one time when he was a teenager. In response, I’m told the Vatican has already dispatched a giant albino eunuch to kill Dan Brown and anyone else who looks at the portrait too closely. And supposedly Tom Hanks and Ron Howard are currently in the process of turning the unfinished book into yet another unwatchable movie.

Lost in all this, though, is the story I really want to hear: Who is the guy who bought the portrait for a song and then sold it for no profit to Silverman without realizing what he had? I want to know what’s happened to that guy. Has he committed suicide over his blunder, or has he just drunk himself halfway to death to drown his sorrows?

One thing’s for sure, though: After a screw-up like that, you know the guy’s looking for a way to recoup some of his lost money. Fortunately, as luck would have it, I have a virtually foolproof scheme that I know he’d love to get in on.

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