Tag: Leonardo Da Vinci

Things You Didn’t Know About the Mona Lisa

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Things You Didn’t Know About the Mona Lisa

Her tricky smile and timeless allure have inspired academic study and artistic emulation for more than five centuries. But the story of this perplexing portrait is even richer than it looks.

“Mona Lisa” Is Not Her Name

The painting’s subject is Lisa Gherardini, whose wealthy—and presumably adoring—husband Francesco Del Giocondo commissioned the work. This explains the less prevalent title for this painting, La Gioconda. The name Mona Lisa (or Monna Lisa, as the Italians prefer) roughly translates to “My Lady Lisa.”

She’s Smaller Than You Might Think

Mona Lisa’s influence in culture is massive, but the oil-on-wood panel painting measures just 30 by 21 inches and weighs 18 pounds.

Her Eyebrows Are A Matter of Debate

Some claim the subject’s lack of eyebrows is representative of high-class fashion of the time. Others insist her AWOL eyebrows are proof that Mona Lisa is an unfinished masterpiece. But in 2007 ultra detailed digital scans of the painting revealed da Vinci had painted on eyebrows and bolder eyelashes. Both had simply faded over time or had fallen victim to years of restoration work.

She’s Broken A Lot of Hearts

The portrait was first put on public display in the Louvre in 1815, inspiring admiration, as a string of “suitors bearing flowers, poems and impassioned notes climbed the grand staircase of the Louvre to gaze into her ‘limpid and burning eyes.’”

“Mona Lisa often made men do strange things,” R. A. Scotti wrote in Vanished Smile, “There were more than one million artworks in the Louvre collection; she alone received her own mail.” The painting actually has its own mailbox at the Louvre because of all the love letters its subject receives.

Men Have Died from Loving Her

In 1852, an artist named Luc Maspero threw himself from the fourth floor of a Parisian hotel, leaving a suicide note that read: “For years I have grappled desperately with her smile. I prefer to die.” Then in 1910, one enamored fan came before her solely to shoot himself as he looked upon her.

It’s Literally Priceless

In the 1960s, the painting went on a tour where it was given an insurance valuation of $100 million. But the policy was never taken out because the premiums were more than the cost of the best security.

The Paiinting Sits in the World’s Prettish Prison

Mona Lisa gets her own room at the Louvre, one that is climate controlled to keep her in the ideal environment. Additionally, the work is encased in bulletproof glass to prevent threat and injury.

She’s Been Attacked

If you look closely at the subject’s left elbow, you might notice the damage done by Ugo Ungaza Villegas, a Bolivian who chucked a rock at the portrait in 1956. A few months before, another art attacker pitched acid at the painting, which hit the lower section. These attacks inspired the bulletproof glass, which in 2009 successfully rebuffed a souvenir mug hurled by an enraged Russian tourist who’d been denied French citizenship.

France Mourned en Masse when She Went Missing

In 1911, Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre. The New York Times retroactively compared the public display of grief to that seen in the wake of Princess Diana’s death in 1997. Thousands poured into the Louvre to stare in shock at the blank wall where she once hung and leave flowers, notes, and other remembrances.

Pablo Picasso Was a Suspect in the Caper

Because he’d been caught buying stolen Louvre pieces before, Picasso was brought in for questioning. But the true thief would not be caught until 1913.

Louvre employee Vincenzo Perugia was a proud Italian nationalist who smuggled the painting out under his smock because he felt it belonged to his and da Vinci’s homeland, not France. After hiding it for two years, Perugia was busted trying to sell Mona Lisa to a Florence art dealer. However, he did briefly get his wish. Upon her recovery, Mona Lisa toured Italy before returning to Paris.

Her Terun Inspired a Fashion Trend

In her book Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, journalist Dianne Hales writes, “Society women adopted the ‘La Joconde look’ [named for the painting’s French title], dusting yellow powder on their faces and necks to suggest her golden complexion and immobilizing their facial muscles to mimic her smile. In Parisian cabarets, dancers dressed as La Joconde performed a saucy can-can…. Something beyond the painting’s wild popularity had changed. The Mona Lisa had left the Louvre a work of art; she returned as a public property, the first mass art icon.”

Her Smile Doesn’t Change, but Your Mindset Does

That is-she-or-isn’t-she smile has long fascinated artists and historians. But in 2000, Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Margaret Livingstone applied a scientific method to why Mona Lisa’s smile seems to shift. It’s all about where your focus is, and how your brain responds.

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Did Leonardo da Vinci copy his famous ‘Vitruvian Man’?

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Did Leonardo da Vinci copy his famous ‘Vitruvian Man’?

Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of a male figure perfectly inscribed in a circle and square, known as the “Vitruvian Man,” illustrates what he believed to be a divine connection between the human form and the universe. Beloved for its beauty and symbolic power, it is one of the most famous images in the world. However, new research suggests that the work, which dates to 1490, may be a copy of an earlier drawing by Leonardo’s friend.

Another illustration of a divinely proportioned man — the subject is Christ-like, but the setting is strikingly similar to Leonardo’s — has been discovered in a forgotten manuscript in Ferrara, Italy. Both drawings are depictions of a passage written 1,500 years earlier by Vitruvius, an ancient Roman architect, in which he describes a man’s body fitting perfectly inside a circle (the divine symbol) and inside a square (the earthly symbol). It was a geometric interpretation of the ancient belief that man is a “microcosm”: a miniature embodiment of the whole universe. Leonardo and other scholars revived this vainglorious notion during the Italian Renaissance.

After decades of study, Claudio Sgarbi, an Italian architectural historian who discovered the lesser known illustration of the Vitruvian man in 1986, now believes it to be the work of Giacomo Andrea de Ferrara, a Renaissance architect, expert on Vitruvius, and close friend of Leonardo’s. What’s more, Sgarbi believes Giacomo Andrea probably drew his Vitruvian man first, though the two men are likely to have discussed their mutual efforts. Sgarbi will lay out his arguments in a volume of academic papers to be published this winter, Smithsonian Magazine reports.

The key arguments are as follows: In Leonardo’s writings, he mentions “Giacomo Andrea’s Vitruvius” — seemingly a direct reference to the illustrated Ferrara manuscript. Secondly, Leonardo had dinner with Giacomo Andrea in July 1490, the year in which both men are thought to have drawn their Vitruvian men. Experts believe Leonardo would have probed Giacomo Andrea’s knowledge of Vitruvius when they met. And though both drawings interpret Vitruvius’ words similarly, Leonardo’s is perfectly executed, while Giacomo Andrea’s is full of false starts and revisions, none of which would have been necessary if he had simply copied Leonardo’s depiction.

Other scholars find the arguments convincing. “I find Sgarbi’s argument exciting and very seductive, to say the least,” said Indra McEwen, an architectural historian at Concordia University who has written extensively about the works of Vitruvius. “But [I] would opt for the view that Giacomo Andrea and Leonardo worked in tandem, rather than Leonardo basing his drawing on Andrea’s.”

Rather than competitors, the two Renaissance men were colleagues working together to bring a beautiful, ancient idea back to life. “Whose was the ‘original’ drawing is a non-question as far as I’m concerned. Much as it is a preoccupation of our own time, I don’t think it would have been an issue in Leonardo’s day,” McEwen told Life’s Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience.

Patrice Le Floch-Prigent, an anatomist at the University of Versailles in France who has analyzed the anatomical correctness of Leonardo’s famous work, noted that, for both drawings, “the source is Vitruvius.”

Furthermore, regardless of their chronology, Leonardo’s work is an improvement on Giacomo Andrea’s, McEwen said: “Leonardo is by far the superior draftsman, with a far superior understanding of anatomy.”

Leonardo’s is also more faithful to the text, she explained. “Nowhere does Vitruvius say that the man is positioned inside the circle and the square at the same time. A man lying flat on his back, can be circumscribed by a circle if his hands and feet are outstretched,” writes Vitruvius. “Similarly, his height is equal to his arm span, ‘just as in areas that have been squared with a set square.'” Giacomo Andrea’s figure has only one set of arms and legs, which are simultaneously circumscribed by a circle and outlined by a square, while “Leonardo deals with [the two propositions] by having the position of his man’s arms and legs change. That, I would have to admit, makes his drawing a closer approximation to the textual description than Giacomo Andrea’s,” McEwen wrote.

One thing is certain. The better Vitruvian man gained international fame, while the simpler, but possibly more original, one was left to languish in a library for five centuries. That may have to do with the very different fates met by Leonardo and Giacomo Andrea. When the French invaded Milan in 1499, the former fled to safety and went on to achieve eternal renown. The latter stayed in Milan and was hanged, drawn and quartered by the French, and largely forgotten by history — until now.

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The Big Three Names of the High Renaissance

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Raphael Angel

They were: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti and Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio). These are the very first artists that come to mind when ever the term “Renaissance” is uttered. Towering geniuses of staggering talent, these three.

But, before we go any further, keep three things in mind. First, while the Big Three deserve every bit of lasting fame they enjoy, they were not the only artistic geniuses of the Renaissance. There were many dozens, if not hundreds, of “Renaissance” artists.

Secondly, during this period, the “Renaissance” was happening all over Europe. Venice, in particular, was busy with its own artistic geniuses.

Finally, the “Renaissance”, was a long, drawn-out process. It happened over centuries, not twenty-five to forty years. If little else from this series of articles sticks, please remember this point.

That said (and it had to be said), let’s return to the Big Three. We’re going to play around a bit with that infamous essay question, the one which begins: “Compare and contrast…”

Related Links:

• The Big Three Names of the High Renaissance
• Leonardo Da Vinci
• Michelangelo Buonarratti
• Raphael
• The Majesty of Sistine Chapel
• The High Renaissance in Italy
• Why is it Called High Renaissance?

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Renaissance Painters: Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)

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Renaissance Painters: Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)

• Trained in Florence.

• Is best known as a painter, but did absolutely everything else as well.

• Studied human anatomy, via dissection (completely illegal, unless one was a physician), and used the knowledge of such to glorify man.

• Believed only in that which he could observe.

• Had a Duke (of Milan) as his first patron.

• Painted beautiful women, most of whom seemed to be enjoying delicious secrets.

• Disliked Michelangelo, but was somewhat of a mentor (albeit unseen) to Raphael.

• Worked in Rome from 1513 to 1516.

• Was commissioned by Pope Leo X.

• As a dinner guest, would monopolize all conversation, enjoy the soup, linger long enough that all would beg him to stay and leave to a loud chorus of “Come back soon!”, whilst misappropriating a wine glass and forgetting his hat.

Related Links:

• The Big Three Names of the High Renaissance
• Leonardo Da Vinci
• Michelangelo Buonarratti
• Raphael
• The Majesty of Sistine Chapel
• The High Renaissance in Italy
• Why is it Called High Renaissance?

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Renaissance Art: Il Redentore by Leonardo Da Vinci

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Renaissance Art: Il Redentore by Leonardo Da Vinci

fine art, il redentore, italian art, Leonardo Da Vinci, Renaissance Art

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Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci

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Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci

The physical appearance of artists’ shops of the Renaissance was no different from that of many other crafts. The word “artist” as a generic term was almost never used: a painter was called a painter, a sculptor a sculptor, and so on. They were seen as members of a particular occupation, not, as in our day, as people with a vision and a calling. They had no special title which implied that, either by vocation or inspiration, they were different from any other group of craftsmen.

Often located together in the same area of town, the shops of Renaissance artists were usually small rooms opened to the street by the raising of heavy wooden shutters. Several illustrations from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries depict craftsmen at work in these humble, semi-public shops. A number of similar structures still survive on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, although these are now filled with the stores of some of the world’s most exclusive jewelers. In Italian cities one can still get an impression of what these artists’ shops, or botteghe, were like by looking at the small shops of carpenters or gilders, which are usually open to the street and filled with the same kind of hurlyburly that characterized their Renaissance forerunners.

The production of art was, first and foremost, a cooperative venture. Within the shop there was an organization and working procedure developed through long experience to allow maximum efficiency. At the head of the organization was the master, who obtained the commissions and oversaw all the shop’s activities. It was his reputation and his ability to attract work that kept the shop going. Some work was done for the market without commission, but probably not enough to keep the shop in business full time.

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Renaissance Art: Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci

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Renaissance Art: Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci (1452–1519), Italian painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer, and scientist, b. near Vinci, a hill village in Tuscany. The versatility and creative power of Leonardo mark him as a supreme example of Renaissance genius.

He depicted in his drawings, with scientific precision and consummate artistry, subjects ranging from flying machines to caricatures; he also executed intricate anatomical studies of people, animals, and plants. The richness and originality of intellect expressed in his notebooks reveal one of the greatest minds of all time.

Early Life and Work: Vinci and Florence

Leonardo was the illegitimate son of a Florentine notary and a peasant woman. Presumably he passed his childhood with his father’s family in Vinci, where he developed an enduring interest in nature. Early sources describe his beauty, charm of manner, and precocious display of artistic talent.

In 1466 Leonardo moved to Florence, where he entered the workshop of Verrocchio and came into contact with such artists as Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, and Lorenzo di Credi. Early in his apprenticeship he painted an angel, and perhaps portions of the landscape, in Verrocchio’s Baptism of Christ (Uffizi). In 1472 he was registered in the painters’ guild. The culmination of Leonardo’s art during his first period in Florence is the magnificent unfinished Adoration of the Magi (Uffizi) commissioned in 1481 by the monks of San Donato a Scopeto. In this work is revealed the integration of dramatic movement and chiaroscuro that characterizes the master’s mature style.

Middle Life and Mature Work: Milan and Florence

Leonardo went to Milan c.1482 and remained at the court of Ludovico Sforza for 16 years. In this time he composed the greater part of his Trattato della pittura and the extensive notebooks that demonstrate the marvelous versatility and penetration of his genius. As court artist he also organized elaborate festivals. Severe plagues in 1484 and 1485 drew his attention to problems of town planning, an interest which was revived during his last years in France. Many drawings of plans and elevations for domed churches reflect a concern with architectural problems that must have been stimulated by contact with Bramante during these years. He worked c.1488 on a model for the tambour and dome of the cathedral at Milan. In 1490 he was employed with Francesco di Giorgio as consulting engineer on the restoration of the cathedral at Pavia and later on the cathedral at Piacenza.

In 1483, Leonardo, with his pupil Ambrogio de Predis, was commissioned to execute the famous Madonna of the Rocks. Two versions of the painting exist—one in the Louvre (1483–c.1486), another in the National Gallery, London (1483–1508). Leonardo’s fresco of the Last Supper (Milan) was begun c.1495 and completed by 1498. This work is now badly damaged. Leonardo’s own experiments with the fresco medium account in part for its disintegration, which was already noticed by 1517. Deterioration and repeated restorations had obliterated details and individual figures.

Nonetheless, the composition and general disposition of the figures reveal a power of invention and a sublimity of spiritual content that mark the painting among the world’s masterpieces. In 1978 a major (and controversial) restoration was begun, and in 1994–95 protective air-filtration and climate-control equipment were installed. The restoration was completed in 1999, leaving the fresco brightened considerably with details clarified, but also revealing the extensive loss of the original painting.

While at Ludovico’s court Leonardo also worked on an equestrian monument to the duke’s father, Francesco Sforza. The work was never cast, and the model, admired by his contemporaries, perished during the French invasion of 1499. In 1511 he undertook a similar work with the commission of an equestrian monument for Gian Giacomo Trivulzio. This work was also never completed and known only through drawings related to the project. After the fall (1499) of Ludovico Sforza, Leonardo left Milan and, following brief sojourns in Mantua and Venice, returned to Florence in 1500.

Back in Florence Leonardo engaged in much theoretical work in mathematics and pursued his anatomical studies at the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova. In 1502 he entered the service of Cesare Borgia as a military engineer. His engagement took him to central Italy to study swamp reclamation projects in Piombino and to tour the cities of Romagna. At Urbino he met Niccolò Machiavelli, who later became a close friend.

By 1503 he was back in Florence, where he was commissioned to execute the fresco of the battle of Anghiari. This work, like its companion piece assigned to Michelangelo, was never completed, and the cartoons were subsequently destroyed. The work exerted enormous influence on later artists, however, and some impression of the original may be had from anonymous copies in the Uffizi and Casa Horne (Florence), from an engraving of 1558 of Lorenzo Zacchia, and from a drawing by Rubens (Louvre). From about this time dates the celebrated Mona Lisa (Louvre), the portrait of the wife of a Florentine merchant.

In 1506, Leonardo returned to Milan, engaged by Charles d’Amboise in the name of the French king, Louis XII. Here he again served as architect and engineer. Gifted with a gargantuan curiosity concerning the physical world, he continued his scientific investigations, concerning himself with problems of geology, botany, hydraulics, and mechanics. In 1510–11 his interest in anatomy quickened considerably. At the same time he was active as painter and sculptor, had many pupils, and profoundly influenced the Milanese painters. A painting generally ascribed to this period is the St. Anne, Mary, and the Child (Louvre), a work that exemplifies Leonardo’s handling of sfumato—misty, subtle transitions in tone.

Late Life and Work: Rome and France

In 1513 Leonardo went to Rome, attracted by the patronage of the newly elected Medici pope, Leo X, and his brother Giuliano. Here he found the field dominated by Michelangelo and Raphael. The aging master was assigned to various architectural and engineering projects at the Vatican and received commissions for several paintings. It was perhaps in this period that he executed the enigmatic painting of the young St. John the Baptist (Louvre). Giuliano de’ Medici left Rome in 1515 and died at Fiesole in the following year.

It is conjectured that Leonardo left with him, attached to his household, and that soon afterward he accepted an invitation of Francis I of France to settle at the castle of Cloux, near Amboise. Here the old master was left entirely free to pursue his own researches until his death. Although there is no certain record of his last years, he seems to have been active with festival decoration and to have been interested in a canal project. Notes and drawings ascribed to this late period show his continued interest in natural philosophy and experimental science.

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The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo Da Vinci

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The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo Da Vinci

The Renaissance artist was a master craftsman with a refined understanding of the materials of his art. The need to learn about materials was one of the reasons for the lengthy apprenticeship of the fledgling artist. Each artist had to master a finite range of substances used in his particular specialty.

He dealt with simple materials used in combination, but because of a lack of knowledge of their chemistry, a good deal of his work was empirical in nature. Much guesswork and many mistakes were part of even the most sublime Renaissance paintings and sculptures, just as they are in the best modern works.

The Renaissance artist’s practical, clear understanding of the nature of his materials was complemented by his marvelous sense of their potential. From their earliest training, artists were taught to think of form and material as being totally fused, parts of a single whole. The great frescoes, panel paintings, and sculptures of the Renaissance are as much about material as they are about form or subject.

When he designed a fresco or a free-standing statue, the artist understood, from long years of experience, that its various forms had to be made a certain way to realize the potential of the chosen material. He knew, for instance, that he could extend a marble arm just so far; he knew that groups of figures in a fresco had to be arranged to allow them to be painted on a series of fresh plaster patches; and he knew all the characteristics of a certain blue pigment he wanted.

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The Spirit of the Renaissance

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Flora, Detail from the Primavera, c.1478

In the summer of 1508 Leonardo returned to Milan, which was to be his headquarters for the next five years. His chief patron was still Charles d’Amboise, Lord of Chaumont, who remained governor of Milan till his death in 1511. Early in his life d’Amboise had been touched by the spirit of the Renaissance, and in Milan he tried to revive or maintain the civilisation of the Sforzas. Of this civilisation Leonardo had been the greatest glory, and we know that d’Amboise treated him with the utmost consideration. As with the Sforzas he was not simply court painter, but architect, engineer and general artistic adviser. A few designs for architecture, dating from about this period, are in the Codice Atlantico and at Windsor.

Among them are plans and elevations of a town house with classical orders and various suggestions for wells and fountains. The British Museum MS. of 1508 also contains his longest writings on architecture, a study of fissures in walls and vaults, which suggest that he was employed in restoring and conserving as well as building. One day he would be deciding on the form of the choir stalls in the Duomo; another, acting as military engineer in the war against Venice; another, arranging pageants for the entry of Louis XII into Milan. It was a variety of employment which Leonardo enjoyed, but which has left posterity the poorer.

In these years he also travelled extensively, and although we have many clues as to the course of these journeys we have no hint as to their purpose. They do not seem to be connected with any recorded commission, and it is possible that they were undertaken solely in order to make those observations of nature which were one of the chief interests of his later years. MS. F, dated 22 September 1508 and entitled Di mondo ed acque, is the first of a series containing notes on geology, botany, atmosphere and kindred subjects. Although Leonardo’s approach has become more scientific, he still sees with the eye of a painter. His notes on botany describe the ramifications of a tree and the disposition of its leaves, in much the same spirit as Ruskin in the fifth book of Modern Painters. Many pages of MS. G are concerned with light striking on trees, the various greens of transparent leaves, and the blue sheen which they reflect from the sky.

The same book contains valuable notes of what Leonardo called la prospettiva di colore, the modification of colour by atmosphere; in fact, such observations seem to have been one of the chief motives of his mountaineering expeditions. A drawing of the Alps at Windsor, 1 one of a beautiful series in red chalk on red paper, contains an elaborate note of the colour of mountain flowers when seen through a great gulf of intervening air at a considerable height. There are also notes on the colour of smoke and mist which remind us of Goethe, and only his dislike of formulas prevented him from anticipating Goethe’s principle of translucency. In these writings Leonardo anticipated the impressionist doctrine that everything is more or less reflected in everything else and that there are no such things as black shadows. Meanwhile, his paintings were growing more and more shadowy, so that his last work, the equivocal St John in the Louvre, only just emerges from a welter of darkness.

During these expeditions into the mountains he became interested in problems of geology, and in particular the question of why shells and fossilised marine life can be found high up in mountains many miles inland. The thoroughness, tenacity and candour with which in several pages of the Trivulzian MS. he deals with this problem is an admirable example of his mind at work. He never for a moment admits the idea of a special creation, and he advances decisive arguments against the idea that the shells were carried there by the Flood. Ultimately he assumes that the country has been covered by the sea and sets to work to discover how this can have taken place. Thus his geological observations, taken in conjunction with his studies of embryology and comparative anatomy, show him ready to entertain the whole idea of evolution with a scientific open-mindedness in advance of many distinguished scientists of the nineteenth century.

This study of geology is sometimes quoted as evidence of Leonardo’s drift away from art to science; but I need hardly repeat that Leonardo’s researches, however austere, became fused with the texture of his imagination. His study of the earth’s bones is no exception. He had always been interested in rock formations, and to about the years 1508-10 belong a series of drawings at Windsor which show him studying outcrops and disturbed stratification, where the rock has broken through the comfortable humus, and reveals the ancient, grim foundations on which living things have their precarious existence.

This sense of the world as a planet, seen from a point of distance at which human life is no longer visible, is given final expression in the background of the Virgin and St Anne, now in the Louvre. There are no documents for this work, but the studies for it which have come down to us, no less than the whole character of the composition, suggests a date after Leonardo’s return to Milan and perhaps as late as is 1510. Only the vast and delicate landscape was coloured by Leonardo’s own hand. The painting of the heads is insensitive and without the fine texture of the Mona Lisa.

Parts of it are unfinished–the drapery covering the Virgin’s legs, for example, which is no more than an outline. Yet we know how subtle, musical and close-knit this passage could have been from drawings in the Louvre and at Windsor, showing the elaborate preparations he made for all his work, although when the time came to use these studies in a picture his inborn distaste for finality forced him to leave it unfinished. Even more interesting than these drapery studies is Leonardo’s own drawing for the St Anne’s head. The differences between it and the head in the painting are no doubt partly due to Leonardo himself.

It was he, for instance, who changed the head-dress in order to give a sharper accent to the pyramidal group, and he may have done something to make her type more regular. But the difference must also be due to the head being painted by a pupil and is an example of a well-known truth, that a great man’s pupils are plus royaliste que le roi. The conventionally Leonardesque expression of the painted St Anne has a certain charm and an artificial air of mystery, but the human mystery of the drawing is deeper and more subtle.

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Leda and the Swan by Leonardo DaVinci

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Leda and the Swan by Leonardo DaVinci

Leda and the Swan is a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, now lost and considered destroyed.

First Version

Leonardo began making studies in 1504 for a painting, apparently never executed, of Leda seated on the ground with her children. Three sketches of Leda by Leonardo exist:

— Leda and the Swan, pen and ink and wash over black chalk on paper, 160 x 139 mm. 1503 – 1507, Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth
— Study for kneeling Leda, black chalk, pen and ink on paper, 126 x 109 cm. 1503 – 1507, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
—Studies of Leda and a Horse, black chalk, brush and ink on paper, 1503 – 1507, Royal Library, Windsor
— A completed copy of Leda and her Children by Giampietrino is kept at Staatliche Museen, Kassel (c. 1520, oil on wood, 128 x 106 cm).

Completed Version

In 1508 Leonardo painted a different composition of the subject. The picture known as Leda and the Swan depicted a nude standing Leda cuddling the swan, with the two sets of infant twins, and their huge broken egg-shells. The original of this is lost, probably deliberately destroyed, and was last recorded in the French royal Château de Fontainebleau in 1625 by Cassiano dal Pozzo:

A standing figure of Leda almost entirely naked, with the swan at her and two eggs, from whose broken shells come forth four babies, This work, although somewhat dry in style, is exquisitely finished, especially in the woman’s breast; and for the rest of the landscape and the plant life are rendered with the greatest diligence. Unfortunately the picture is in a bad state because it is done on three long panels which have split apart and broken off a certain amount of paint.

However the picture is known from many copies, of which the earliest are probably the Spiridon Leda, perhaps by a studio assistant and now in the Uffizi, and the one at Wilton House in England. Other copies by Leonardeschi include:

— Anonymous, possibly Fernando Yanez de la Almedina, Leda and the Swan. Oil on panel, 51 5/8 x 30 inches (131.1 x 76.2 cm).
— Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA (previously at John G. Johnson Collection, 1917)
— Giampietrino, Leda and the Swan, from the collection of the Marquis of Hastings
— Giampietrino, Venus and Cupid, private collection, Milan
Venus and Cupid, 16th century, Oil on panel, New Orleans Museum of Art, USA
— Leda and the Swan, 16th century. Previously at antiquity shop, Lyon. Original photo by Georges Vermard exists at University of Bologna.

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