In part 2 of my exploration of Leonardo I will continue to show the great expertise of Leonardo’s art through drawing and painting. As Frank Zollner shows in his study of Leonardo how brilliant an artist he became. ” Remarkable, extraordinary almost always favourable -that is the picture of Leonardo Da Vinci handed down by writers and critics of the past”. [1].

” This tale of the young genius who had already mastered the future metier even before he became an apprentice is of course par of art-historical legend”. [2].

Zollner like others shows how Leonardo used the external and natural world for his inspiration , continually drawing people animals and objects in the natural world.

” Leonardo’s studies from nature and from life were of direct practical use in his paintings. Almost every painting required a landscape in the background , in many other painters had to portray draperies and fabrics”. [3].

Zollner again remarks how in his religious paintings Leonardo stands out as a truly  talented artist who put most of his contemporaries to shame. ” The baptism of Christ is a demonstration of artistic independence and dependence at one and same time. While the re workings by Leonardo already point to an independent artistic personality”.[4].




Zollner remarks that Leonardo always was keen to experiment with different ways of depicting the Madonna by using preliminary sketches to give him an idea how they would look like in a painting.

 Occasionally  Leonardo made short inventories of the works in his possession , from these we can tell that during his first years in Florence he made several small pictures of the Madonna. In these sketches there are clear signs of the young painters urge to test out -within the possibilities of convention- the possibilities of movement and expression”. [5].

” The influence of Flemish style and pictorial forms which may be seen in Leonardo’s Madonna with the carnation and in his later adoration of the magi is seen at its most striking in the portrait of Ginerva De Benci”. [6].

If you study the portrait of Ginerva de Benci you can appreciate Zollner’s comments about tight pictorial space and how Leonardo cleverly balances figures and landscape in this portrait.

” The most remarkable feature of this small portrait is the closely packed distribution of pictorial space. similarly the format-cut off at the lower edge- and the very natural appearance of the juniper plus the positions of the figures are all reminiscent of early Flemish portraits”.[7].

” Leonardo’s early paintings would seem to indicate that he was only receiving small scale commissions  at the time”. [8].

untitled leonardoadoration-of-the-magi-da-vinci-copy-by-david-jean-1428C6E325260A99093




Leonardo in this period moves to Milan the great city of art patrons particularly the Francescan confraternity.

“Leonardo had not finished his adoration of the magi when he left his native town at roughly the age of 30 in late 1482 or early 1483 to make a new start as an artist in Milan”. [9].

It was in Milan that Leonardo starting working on to versions of the virgin of the Rocks. ” The Con Fraternity commissioned Leonardo along with two local artists to paint a large altar piece for their recently completed chapel dedicated to the feast of the immaculate conception of the virgin”. [10].

” In both versions of the virgin of the rocks it seems that the rocky , stony ground falls away sharply in the foreground”. [11].

This painting as Zollner shows although very well balanced and a harmonious composition does not tell the whole story. Leonardo got involved in legal disputes with the co fraternity to ensure that he remuneration for the work after its completion.

” The harmonious composition  and masterly design of the virgin of the rocks of course gave no hint of the irksome legal disputes that Leonardo and his two colleagues had to weather shortly after the work was completed”. [12].

untitled virgin of the rocks




The virgin of the Rocks established Leonardo as a great Renaissance painter as Zollner indicates in his commentary.

” With the virgin of the rocks Leonardo certainly established himself as a painter in Milan but the hoe of a position as a court artist that he had expressed in his letter to Ludivico  Sforza (His patron and sponsor) was not to be fulfilled until some years later”. [13].

Leonardo at this time was also using his great skill as a draughtsman to skilfully represent architectural buildings in and around Milan.

” Fortunately Leonardo did not restrict his skills as a draughtsman to military equipment alone. At the same time he was inventing the latter he was also testing out his expertise in the field of architecture, making designs for sacred buildings and setting about impressing the Milan Cathedral workshop with his architectural designs”. [14].

” In the mid to late 1480’s when Leonardo was attempting to establish himself as a court artist he seems to have started on his huge range of drawings that touch  on almost  all areas of Science”. [15].

Leonardo had the great ability at drawing and depicting engineering instruments as well as a close and life like representation of human beings.

” Curiosity and fantasy clearly spurred him on to make studies and designs which went far beyond the technical capabilities of his own time”. [16].





Leonardo’s drawings are very important and the last image of Vitruvian man was originally designed by the great Roman author , architect and civil engineer Vitruvius . In the 20th century it was used as an image for the Current affairs programme World In Action, so the influence of Leonardo passed down through centuries.

” He (Leonardo) then compared the results of his anthropometric studies with the only surviving theory of proportions from antiquity namely the Vitruvian man. Vitruvius a moderately successful architect  and engineer during the days of the Roman empire had written a treatise on Architecture”. [17].

” Leonardo also regarded the human physiognomy as equally immediate and endeavoured to illustrate the immediacy of facial expression in the character’s head and caricatures”.[18].

Finally Leonardo achieved his ambition in 1487 and was appointed court artist in Milan. ” Between 1487-1490 Leonardo took up a position at the court of Ludivico Del Moro in Milan . Here he organised festivities and worked for several years on the equestrian statue of Francisco S Forza made a name for himself as a portraitist and painted his famous mural of the last supper”. [19].

” Amongst his earliest completed works as Court artist are a number of portraits including the captivating lady with Ermine and the so called Bella Ferroniere “. [20].

This completes my second part on Leonardo Da Vinci. In my final part I will sum up the achievements of Leonardo as one of the great Renaissance painters.


  2. DITTO PG. 8
  3. DITTO PG. 10
  4. DITTO PG.15
  5. DITTO PG.17
  6. DITTO PG. 17
  7. DITTO PG.17
  8. DITTO PG.23
  9. DITTO PG. 29
  10. DITTO PG.29
  11. DITTO PG. 30
  12. DITTO PG. 33
  13. DITTO PG. 33
  14. DITTO PG33-34
  15. DITTO PG.37
  16. DITTO PG.37
  17. DITTO PG.37
  18. DITTO PG.40
  19. DITTO PG. 45
  20. DITTO PG.45

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