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Ocean Critchley-Clark
Upper Sixth
Oakeley's House

Leonardo Exhibition

Leonardo ExhibitionOcean’s own photo of the Mona Lisa, taken at The Louvre

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was born on 15th April 1452 out of wedlock to a notary and a peasant woman in Florence. He was an Italian Renaissance painter, architect, sculptor, musician, engineer, inventor, cartographer, writer, scientist and anatomist, but most of all an absolute genius. He is often referred to as the archetype of the Renaissance Man and was undoubtedly a man with an amazingly inventive and creative imagination.

Leonardo is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps he is even the most diversely talented person to have ever walked on the earth, as his mind seems almost superhuman to the most of us! His artistic teaching began under Verrucchio, a renowned Florentine painter and most of his early life was spent working for Ludovico il Moro in Milan and later his work continued in Rome, Bologne and Venice and he spent his last years in France before his death on 2nd May 1519.

Leonardo is now known primarily as a painter, and best of all for his portrait — “Mona Lisa” which is the most famous and most parodied portrait in art history. Leonardo’s drawing of the ideal man, “Vitruvian Man”, is regarded as a cultural icon and is seen as complete perfection being reproduced on multiple items and in numerous medias. Perhaps only a mere fifteen of his paintings survive today, the small number due to his constant, and often disastrous, experimentation with new techniques — which were considered unusual ways to work in his time. But, these few works, and also his notebooks containing drawings, scientific diagrams, and his thoughts on the nature of painting and anatomy, compose a contribution to later generations of artists only ever rivalled by that of his contemporary artist, sculptor and main competition, Michelangelo.

Vitruvian Man

Leonardo is remembered and celebrated for his technological ingenuity. He conceptualised a helicopter, a calculator, the double hull, a tank and outlined a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics! Unfortunately few of his designs were constructed during his lifetime and most were not feasible. However, some of Leonardo’s smaller inventions, such as the machine for testing the tensile strength of wire, entered the world of manufacturing unheralded. He made important discoveries in anatomy, civil engineering, optics, and hydrodynamics, but he did not publish his findings and they had no direct influence on later science.

In his paintings, he aimed to show the viewer’s the everyday reality they saw whilst creating subtle ideals of beauty — and in his religious works he successfully conveys awe-inspiring mystery and are also intended to convey sacred truths. His works show a consistent pursuit for perfection in his representation of the human form, especially in his portraits. There is obvious intellectual character in his paintings and all are objects of contemplation.

Though there have been multiple exhibitions which have shown Leonardo da Vinci as a scientist, inventor or draughtsman, taking place at London’s National Gallery is the first exhibition which is a tribute to his artistic works and shows him as a painter. It displays paintings and drawings by Leonardo and his followers and students.

Virgin of the Rocks

The exhibition, named “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan”, is the most complete display of the artists surviving paintings, some of which have never been seen before in the UK. The exhibition was inspired by the controversial restoration of “The Virgin of the Rocks” and it concentrates on the work he produced as the court painter to Duke Lodovico Sforza in Milan in the late 15th century.

The works displayed include “The Lady with an Ermine”, “Madonna Litta”, “Saint Jerome”, “La Belle Ferroniere” (on loan from the Louvre) and for the first time the two versions of “Virgin of the Rocks” will be shown together. Preparatory sketches shown alongside paintings are evidence of how the final piece was executed and how many times ideas changed before Leonardo was satisfied.

This exhibition has been greatly successful, partly because it is so unusual, but also because the works are the complete opposite of contemporary icons. Leonardo da Vinci is arguably the most famous painter of all time, I have never met anybody who does not know of his works (such as the “Mona Lisa” or “The Last Supper”) or has not heard of him, and therefore it is completely unsurprising that the show is all but sold out!

The Last Supper Images taken from:

18 November 2011

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