In Brief

New York Times Arts Reporter Copies Renaissance Painter’s Wikipedia Entry [Updated]

Piero di Cosimo, “Saint Anthony with pig in background” (c. 1480) (image via Wikipedia)

The media blog Fishbowl New York is reporting that the lead paragraph of a July 25 New York Times article by Carol Vogel bears a striking similarity to the Wikipedia entry for its subject, the Renaissance painter Piero di Cosimo. The two passages in question are below, with the especially egregious second sentence appearing in bold.

First paragraph of “A Renaissance Master Finally Gets a Showcase” by Carol Vogel, published 7/25 on page C18 (and online the day before):

Artists can be eccentric, but the quirks of the Italian Renaissance master Piero di Cosimo are legendary. He is said to have been terrified of thunderstorms and so pyrophobic that he rarely cooked his food, subsisting mostly on hard-boiled eggs that he prepared 50 at a time while heating glue for his art. He didn’t clean his studio. He didn’t trim the trees in his orchard. Giorgio Vasari, the Renaissance biographer, described Piero as living “more like a beast than a man.”

Fourth paragraph of Wikipedia entry for Piero di Cosimo:

During his lifetime, Cosimo acquired a reputation for eccentricity — a reputation enhanced and exaggerated by later commentators such as Giorgio Vasari, who included a biography of Piero di Cosimo in his Lives of the Artists. Reportedly, he was frightened of thunderstorms, and so pyrophobic that he rarely cooked his food; he lived largely on hard-boiled eggs, which he prepared 50 at a time while boiling glue for his artworks. He also resisted any cleaning of his studio, or trimming of the fruit trees of his orchard; he lived, wrote Vasari, “more like a beast than a man.”

A spokesperson for the Times could not be immediately reached for comment, but poet Kenneth Goldsmith is on the case:

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Update, 7/29 1:21pm ET: Gawker has published an article on the Vogel imbroglio, drawing parallels to the recent firing of BuzzFeed’s Benny Johnson and quoting Times spokewoman Eileen Murphy, who says the paper is “aware of the situation and … looking into it.”

Update 2, 7/31 2:45pm ET: The New York Times has appended an “Editor’s Note” (below) acknowledging the Wikipedia duplication in the article, which has since been revised. Both Times public editor Margaret Sullivan and media reporter Ravi Somaiya have covered the issue in the paper, with the latter writing that a spokesperson “declined to discuss any disciplinary measures, beyond saying that ‘editors have dealt with Carol on the issue.'”

The Inside Art column on July 25, about a planned exhibition of the works of the Renaissance painter Piero di Cosimo, started with a description of the artist’s life and eccentricities. That passage improperly used specific language and details from a Wikipedia article without attribution; it should not have been published in that form. (Editors learned of the problem after publication from a post on FishbowlNY.)

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