A rare Botticelli painting depicting Jesus Christ will go up for auction on January 27 at Sotheby's in New York, a year after a record $92 million was paid for a work by the Italian Renaissance master.
While the majority of works by Sandro Botticelli, such as the famous "Allegory of Spring" or "Birth of Venus", are on display at the Uffizi gallery in Florence, pieces circulating in private collections are much rarer.
"In private hands, we reckon there's only about five or so that we know out there," Christopher Apostle, head of Sotheby's Old Masters department, told AFP.
"Man of Sorrows," on display to the public from Saturday at the auction house in New York, is a portrait of Jesus against a black background. He is staring intently, a crown of thorns on his head and surrounded by angels. His hands are bound by ropes and scarred.
"This picture, it's later in his life. It's probably painted when he was in his late 50s," around the 1500s, said Apostle.
"As someone gets older, they become more introspective, more metaphysical, more spiritual. And I think you see that very profoundly in this picture," he said.
The well preserved painting had remained with the same family of art collectors, who split their time between Britain and Italy, since the mid 19th century, before being sold to its current owners in 1963 at auction for 10,000 pounds at Sotheby's.
"That would have been a significant price at the time," said Apostle.
The auction house has set its estimate at more than $40 million dollars.
In January 2021, a Botticelli painting entitled "Young Man Holding a Roundel" sold for $92.2 million dollars at auction in Sotheby's in New York. It was a record at auction for the Italian painter, whose frescoes adorn the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
© 2022 AFP
The Covid-19 pandemic took a deadly toll on adults in the United States for two years while largely sparing children from the dire statistics.
But the rapid spread of the Omicron variant led to record pediatric infections and hospitalizations in the country, and anti-vaccination misinformation that tells parents the shots are dangerous is adding to the risk.
The chances of young people dying from Covid-19 remain low. The shots greatly reduce the odds of severe illness, and vaccinated mothers may pass protection to their babies, but vaccine hesitancy pushed online leaves both parents and children vulnerable.
From worries that the shots were developed too quickly, to false claims that the jabs can impact future fertility, physician Wassim Ballan of Phoenix Children's Hospital said combating misinformation has become part of his job.
"Unfortunately, a lot of times when we're having this time with a family to discuss these things is when the child is already in hospital," he said of the problem.
Parents need to understand that the vaccines are "the most important tool for protection," especially to avoid multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, a rare and dangerous complication that can follow a mild Covid-19 infection.
Only 27 percent of children aged five to 11 have received a first dose of the vaccine in the United States. Hospitalizations reached a pandemic high of 914 children per day this month, up dramatically from the previous peak of 342 in September 2021.
Protection from the womb
The first week of January 2022 saw Texas Children's Hospital in Houston report 12 babies in intensive care with Covid-19.
Babies are too young for the Covid-19 shot, but Kathryn Gray, attending physician of maternal-fetal medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said research increasingly shows that vaccination during pregnancy leads to antibodies safely being transferred to the baby, offering limited protection.
Expectant mothers have also shown hesitancy to get the shot after they were excluded from initial clinical trials.
Gray is among those who are monitoring the situation. "To date there have been no safety signals" in the data, she said, adding that she has "a lot of confidence" in telling patients the shot is safe during pregnancy for mother and baby.
"If they truly want to protect their infants, getting vaccinated is the thing that will protect them the most at this time."
Health agencies across the globe say the same, but the initial lack of data continues to be exploited in vaccine-opposed messaging on social media. Posts on Facebook and Twitter claimed that stillbirths rose following the push to vaccinate pregnant people, even though going unprotected against the disease is the greater risk.
Epidemiologists Carla DeSisto and Sascha Ellington from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said data from 1.2 million US births showed "no evidence the rate of stillbirths is higher overall during the pandemic."
But their research did reveal the risks of contracting the virus while pregnant.
"Compared to pregnant people without Covid-19, pregnant people with Covid-19 are at increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes including preterm birth and stillbirth," the researchers said by email.
Breastfeeding has also been the target of misinformation, with posts claiming that babies suffered rashes or even death upon nursing from a vaccinated mother.
The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine recommends vaccination for those who are lactating and says there is no reason to stop breastfeeding upon receiving the vaccine.
Misinformation became increasingly common in private Facebook groups where parents connect to share and sell breast milk, group moderators told AFP. In one of the largest such groups, Bethany Bristow said she was concerned by requests for "unvaccinated milk."
The New York mother, along with her fellow moderators, decided to ban such requests, and the rules for her group of more than 10,500 parents now state: "Advertising or requesting vaccine free milk puts you, your children and community at risk."
Studies are finding specific benefits of milk from a vaccinated mother, according to Laura Ward, co-director of the Center for Breastfeeding Medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
"Antibodies have been detected in the breast milk of vaccinated lactating women. This means that breastfed infants may have some protection against Covid-19 if their mothers receive the vaccine," she said.
Gray agreed. "Breast milk is full of antibodies based on a person's prior exposures both to vaccines and infection. Those things don't pose a risk to infants, they're actually helpful at protecting them," she said.
"Any concerns or unknown pieces about the vaccine are dwarfed by the risk of Covid."
© 2022 AFP
Almost a year into Joe Biden’s presidency, many Republicans are afraid to say a word against former President Donald Trump — and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former Trump critic turned obsequious Trump sycophant, recently told Fox News that having a “working relationship” with Trump should be a litmus test for Republicans in Congress. But one prominent MAGA Republican who is showing more willingness to openly criticize Trump is far-right Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis was never a Never Trump conservative. When he narrowly defeated former Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum in Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial race, DeSantis ran on a stridently MAGA platform — and he is still stridently MAGA as he seeks reelection in 2022. But journalist Charlotte Klein, in an article published by Vanity Fair on January 17, stresses that former allies Trump and Klein now find themselves increasingly at odds.
“Donald Trump’s mounting discord with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is increasingly spilling out into the open,” Klein explains. “The former president and his erstwhile protege have recently taken public swipes at each other over pandemic-related issues, quips that are perhaps the beginning of an anticipated showdown between the two Republicans over their 2024 intentions.”
Much of the growing tense between Trump and DeSantis has to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. While Trump is now encouraging Americans to get vaccinated for COVID-19, DeSantis is afraid of offending anti-vaxxers and has been evasive when asked by reporters whether or not he has received a booster shot. Trump, obviously referring to DeSantis, attacked this type of behavior as “gutless” during an interview with right-wing One America News.
“While the relationship between DeSantis and Trump has reportedly been strained for some time, their tension has largely played out in private,” Klein observes. “Now, with the midterm elections looming and the 2024 lineup taking shape, DeSantis — who is up for reelection this year — seems to be establishing himself as someone unafraid to take on the man who helped make him.”
Klein notes that New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, in an article published on January 14, argues that DeSantis is trying to set himself apart from Trump by pandering to anti-vaxxers.
Chait wrote, “It is telling that of the many failings DeSantis could cite by Trump, he is seizing on the former president’s initial willingness to do anything at all about the pandemic…. DeSantis may or may not actually be more delusional on COVID than Donald Trump, but it is a revealing commentary on the state of their party that he sees his best chance to supplant Trump as positioning himself as even crazier.”
It remains to be seen whether or not Trump will run for president in 2024, or whether or not DeSantis will.
“DeSantis has not said whether he plans to run for president in 2024, but is considered a likely contender,” Klein observes. “And unlike other Trump disciples, he has not said that he won’t run if Trump does.”