LEONARDO DA VINCI (1452-1519) ARTIST , SCIENTIST AND TOWERING INFLUENCE.HIS BRILLIANCE AND TECHNICAL EXPERTISE HAD NO EQUAL. A TRULY MAGNIFICENT EXPRESSION OF THE GENIUS OF RENAISSANCE ART DURING THE 15TH CENTURY IN ITALY. PT 3

self-portrait-leonardo

Self-Portrait-as-a-Young-Man

In Part 3 of my study of Leonardo da Vinci , I conclude my survey of this great artist and scientific innovator of 15th century Italy. Continuing my review of Frank Zollners observations on Da Vinci .Zollner  comments on one of Leonardo’s epic paintings   the Last Supper.

“Leonardo portrayed the ‘last supper’ in a stage-like a setting constructed according  to the rules of central perspective. The lines of perspective in Christ’s right eye , which in itself emphases his central position. Both in the actual situation and I in its depiction”.[1].

It must be remembered that the picture itself is in need of massive restoration , pigment and paint have deteriorated away which has meant since the 15th century many copies of have been made of this painting.

” With the fall of Ludovico Sforza  (Leonardo’s main patron) Leonardo lost his most important and powerful patron so far. Yet he was by now famous beyond the boundaries of Italy and it seems that even before he left Milan he had already made contacts with the French court which were to be more important to him in the future”.[2].

From 1499- 1503 Leonardo was painting some of his most important religious pictures as well taking commissions for important portraits. Giorgio Vasari commented on Leonardo’s famous painting Virgin and the child  with St Anne’.

” According to Giorgio Vasari (The lives of the painters) following Leonardo’s return to his native town he accepted a commission for an altar painting for the servite monks of SS Annunziata”. [3].

” Besides the wealth of movement in the virgin and child with St Anne the painting is also striking for the mountainous landscape behind the figures”. [4].

Leonardo-Annunciation-Madon

Giampietrino-Last-Supper-ca-1520

Continuing his commentary Zollner observes the importance of Landscape in this painting.

” Thus the background seems more dominant and consequently more monumental than earlier paintings by Leonardo and his contemporaries”. [5].

” An even intenser  mountainous landscape and radiant sky are to be found in the Virgin and child (Madonna of the Yarwinder) which Leonardo began in the spring of 1501 for Florimond Robertet secretary to the King of France” [6].

At last Leonardo had achieved his wish and was now working for the French court.

” Leonardo’s work on the Virgin and the child with St Anne and on the Madonna for Florimond Robertet gives the impression that in the early days of the 16th Century he was painting with considerable elan”. [7].

” In the summer of 1502 however he turned his attention to a completely different sphere of activity and took up a position as Military Engineer to General Cesare Borgia”. [8].

As History tells us the Borgia’s were an influential and powerful aristocratic family who Niccolo Machiavelli wrote about in his masterpiece the Prince.

Madonna%20with%20the%20Yarnwinder%20detail

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While employed by Cesare Borgia Leonardo was not idle . instead he continued his anatomical sketches of human bodies and animals he saw in the wild as he continued his travels with the military chain. He was also responsible for drawing topographical details of the area for his military employer Cesare Borgia.

” He used these journeys to make a whole variety of studies and amongst other things provided his master (Borgia) with topographical drawings whose main purpose was no doubt connected with military strategy”. [9].

Zollner continuing his commentary on Da Vinci by mentioning the other two outstanding artists of the day Michelangelo and Raphael, but I do not think that Raphael developed the technical expertise   of Leonardo , after all there is the famous picture of Raphael coming into Leonardo’s workshop to learn how to copy the great masters like  Leonardo.

” In Florence Leonardo soon met the other two outstanding artists of the Florentine Renaissance Michelangelo Buonarroti and Raphael”.[10].

” Leonardo had already started his portrait of Lisa Del Giocondo (Mona Lisa) who was born in 1479″. [11].

The Mona Lisa is  the most famous painting of Leonardo together with The Last Supper. Both paintings have been  constantly copied and reproduced in the 20th and 21st centuries.

“The picture is in excellent condition, the open minded viewer is not likely to find traces of sickness or paralysis in the face of the Mona Lisa”. [12].

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Zollner continues to describe the origin and social standing  of Lisa Del Giocondo’s family. They were merchants of a relatively well off family. Del Giocondo himself was a wool merchant of some importance in Florence.

” Lisa Del Giocondo’s husband a well to do  Florentine silk merchant was acquainted with friends of Leonardo’s family and this may have been the connection that led to Leonardo receiving the commission”. [13].

” In terms of form Leonardo’s Mona Lisa demonstrates various aspects of Florentine and Umbrian portraiture in the late  15th Century which in turn bore a certain allegiance to Flemish portraiture”. [14]. In future posts I will continue to explore Flemish art particularly the art of Rembrandt Van Rijn , Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Johannes Vermeer.

” But Leonardo went far beyond the traditions he was drawing on, In the Mona Lisa the subject comes closer to the front edge of the picture, while the landscape suggests greater spatial depth and atmospheric intensity “.[15].

” Even before it was finished the portrait of Lisa Del Giocondo had a major influence on Florentine painting. the young Raphael who repeatedly visited Leonardo’s workshop immediately adopted the Old Master’s schema and on the basis of the Mona Lisa  , created a form of portraiture that was to hold good for decades”. [16].

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1507-1519 were the last years for Leonardo and he was actively employed as the French court painter which suited Leonardo because he was also better paid  than provincial patrons.

” By now Leonardo was already working regularly for the French rulers in Milan and was also paid better by them than by previous patrons”. [17].

During these last days Leonardo painted one of his most alluring mythological paintings that of Leda -and the Swan.

” The drawing and the copies of the painting a like focus on the amorous adventures of the father of the Gods Zeus”. [18].

Old Age had caught up with Leonardo and he was not able to do as much as he had when he was more able and younger.

” During his second stay in Milan Leonardo was less and less active as a painter . It seems that painting was giving way to anatomical drawings which in their pictorial immediacy and perfection seem like an alternative form of artistic expression”.[19].

” And yet his last drawings show no sign of the artists age . They give the impression that despite his advanced years Leonardo was turning back to drawing to the origins of his own art”. [20].

This concludes my appreciation  of Leonardo Da Vinci one of the great artists of his day, as well as being  a scientist and Biologist , something his contemporaries like Raphael and Michelangelo were deficient in. He is reputed to have died in the arms of Francis 1st , that was how great and revered Leonardo was thought of during his lifetime.

FOOTNOTES

  1. LEONARDO TASCHEN BOOKS  FRANK ZOLLNER .PG.50
  2. DITTO PG 61
  3. DITTO PG 65
  4. DITTO PG 65
  5. DITTO PG 66
  6. DITTO PG 66
  7. DITTO PG 66
  8. DITTO PG 66
  9. DITTO PG 67
  10. DITTO PG 71
  11. DITTO PG 71
  12. DITTO PG 71
  13. DITTO PG 71
  14. DITTO PG 71
  15. DITTO PG 71
  16. DITTO PG 75
  17. DITTO PG 81
  18. DITTO PG 81
  19. DITTO PG 84
  20. DITTO PG 91

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