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His paintings – A Search for Perfection
All rights reserved. Rights belong to their respective owners. Available free for non-commercial and personal use.
First created 11 Feb 2012. Version 1.0 - 23 Feb 2012. Jerry Tse. London.
Leonardo was born in or near the town of Vinci, about half way between Florence and Pisa, on 15 April 1452. He was the illegitimate son of a rising Florentine legal official Ser Piero da Vinci. He was good at drawing and was enrolled with the leading Florentine artist of Verrocchio in 1469, at the age of 17. Leonardo was probably the greatest artists of the Renaissance. His studies were strictly based in the scientific methods, on vigorous analysis and on objective reasoning. But it was his inquisitive mind that drove the man forever forward to understand our place in nature. According to Vasari „Leonardo disposition was so lovable that he commanded everyone‟s affection‟, and there are many other accounts of his good looks and charm, as well as his sense of humour and love of practical jokes. Yet he always had a deep distrust of human society. “Alone you are all yourself.”
Knot pattern inscribed „Academia Leonardo Vi-ci‟. 1495. Engraving. British Museum, London.
Timeline Renaissance Painters
His Early Florentine Years
” The Baptism of Christ. Verrocchio. . he was so ashamed that a boy understood their use better than he did. Florence. This was the reason why Andrea would never touch colours again. Uffizi.Early Florentine Years According to Vasari “Leonardo painted (the left-hand angels) in such a manner that his angel was far better than the figure painted by Verrocchio (Leonardo‟s teacher). C1470-72.
1472-74. Florence. Galleria degli Uffizi. .Early Florence Years The Annunciation. Even at this early stage he had developed his distinctive style of painting flowers. This is Leonardo‟s earliest known complete work. The dark trees and the dark wall behind the angel and Mary demonstrate his use of the Chiaroscuro technique.
The Annunciation (Detail – Angel).Early Florence Years The lily held by the Archangel Gabriel is a symbol of Mary‟s purity. Florence. . Galleria degli Uffizi. 1472-74.
Early Florence Years Leonardo painted Ginevra with a stiff and solemn expression. This is rather an uneasy portrait showing little or no emotion. Ginevra de Benci. C1474. . Washington. He often used a lighted subject against a skilfully darkened background. USA. National Gallery. balancing the light and the dark areas. Leonardo was the master of using the „Chiaroscuro‟ technique.
Comparison . This was first introduced by Leonardo and Giorgione. The blurring of edges and smoothing colours between adjacent areas. Thus it eliminates harsh outlines.Early Florence Years The portrait of Ginevra shows the use of the technique of „Sfumato‟ . This contrasts with Botticelli‟s lining approach.
Leonardo entered service of Ludovico II as military engineer and organiser of festivities. Ludovico Sforza. . by Amrogio de Predis. Archivio Storico Civico and Biblioteca Trivulziana. Milan. Tempera on Vellum. in Milan. 1496-99.Milan Years The Milan Years 1483-1499 In 1482.
c1485. It is possible that there were more than one painters who worked on the portrait. some scholars express their doubts that it was painted by Leonardo. . Pinacoteca Ambrosiana. encapsulating a sense of reality. Milan.Milan Years Because of the rigid pose and the harshness of the shadows. We only know that he was a musician by the musical score in his hand. Others pointed to the fine art of Leonardo‟s work on the young man face. The Musician. The young man has a distinctive stare at something outside the canvas.
attached to the church of San Francesco Grande. The Paris version is the older of the two. after some further disputes. From history of the painting. one in the Louvre. 1483-1485. the Paris version of the painting was nearly finished. The two paintings are nearly identical. Then there was a dispute about the price of the painting. Musee du Louvre. London. for the chapel of the newly formed Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception. There several unusual features of this painting :Why are they in a cave? Why is St John the Baptist with the Virgin Mary and not baby Jesus? Why is the angel pointing to St John the Baptist in the Paris version? Virgin of the Rocks. Paris. In the exchange of documents. it mentioned that „another buyer was interested‟ in the painting. Leonardo and his copainters must have sold the Paris version to „another buyer‟. . Paris and the other in the National Gallery. Then the dispute dragged on until the London version was painted to fulfil the original contract. with obvious differences. in April 1483. By December 1484. it looks to me that the painting was commissioned.Milan Years There are two versions of this painting.
Milan. c1495. 1483-1485. Musee du Louvre. Paris. Santa Maria delle Grazie.Milan Years The Last Supper (Detail – St John). Are these the same woman? Virgin of the Rocks (Detail). .
Paris. Why is the angel pointing to St John the Baptist? The angel is pointing out to the viewer that the painting is about St John. Baby Jesus and the angel are grouped together as they are divine. This is the whole point of the painting!! Virgin of the Rocks (Detail).An interpretation of painting Milan Years The following interpretation of the painting is based on a document written by James Kettlewell on the internet. According to the Confraternity. Why is St John the Baptist with the Virgin Mary and not baby Jesus? The painting is about the Immaculate Conception (that is born without the Original Sin) of the Virgin Mary. which makes sense to me. who according to the Bible was born by Immaculate Conception. both St John and Mary were born by Immaculate Conception and they are not divine. Edited for fading. . Musee du Louvre. They belong together. By implication Virgin Mary the mother of Jesus must be born by Immaculate Conception as well. 1483-1485.
Paris. 1483-1485. . Musee du Louvre.Milan Years Dialogue of hands. [Image with fading removed and brightened. Virgin of the Rocks (Detail). The angel is looking at us and pointing at St John the Baptist.
There are two versions of the painting one in Paris and the other in London. Milan Years .
National Gallery. Still others think that the cave is a symbol of Mary. The major difference between the London version and the Paris version is that the angel no longer points to St John the Baptist and no longer looks toward the viewer. London. it is brighter and the colours more vivid. In 1483. in the specification of the painting. So why are they in a cave? James Kettlewell thinks that Virgin at a grotto is a traditional setting in art. in which Mary is described as “dove … in the clefts of the rock”.This is the London version of the painting. Others point to the meeting with St John on the flight into Egypt. Finally. The painting was painted in 1495-1499. Maybe it was this declaration that the Confraternity no longer felt the need for the angel to point at St John the Baptist. Milan Years . as in the Song of Song (114). Unlike the Paris version the painting has been restored. the Confraternity did make the reference to “the mountains and rocks to be worked in oil”. Virgin of the Rocks. The Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception and the artists continued their arguments about the contract. 1495-1499 & 1506-08. It is a later painting. Vatican gave support to the idea of the Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary and condemned those who preached against it. The rugged cave would be such a remote place to offer seclusion and refuge. Others think that this may be a reference to the stainless Virgin as in God‟s creation of the world. It was finally finished some time between 1506 and 1508.
Milan Years . London. National Gallery.Virgin of the Rocks (Detail). 1495-1499 & 1506-08.
Milan Years She is the most beautiful woman ever painted in the history of European paintings. London. National Gallery.Virgin of the Rocks (Angel). 1495-1499 & 1506-08. Don‟t you agree? .
Milan Years The lady was the mistress of Ludovico Sforza (Leonardo‟s boss). Cracow. National Museum. Note the very faint shadows of the beads on her chest. C1489-1490. .Cecilia Gallerani.
St Petersburg. who noticed our presence. c1490-91. . The exceptional love of a mother? Madonna Litta.Milan Years A rather playful baby Jesus. Hermitage.
The title of the painting is called „La Belle Ferroniere (The beautiful ironmonger)‟. In reality. . perhaps with a hint of hostility. Musee du Louvre. The most disconcerting feature of the portrait is the intensity of her gaze. in which this painting was mistakenly identified. La Belle Ferroniere (Detail).Milan Years Sometimes this painting is attributed to Leonardo‟s followers. C1490-1495. However the title „La Belle Ferroniere‟ was a 1642 confusion. we do not have much idea who the sitter really was. Paris. The expression of the rest of her face is somewhat sober.
1496-97. The disciples were behaving more like Italian than Jew with their hand gestures and heated discussions. in an atmosphere charged with emotions. Milan. He alone would have to face what was to come. Jesus was isolated in the painting.Milan Years The Last Supper. Santa Maria delle Grazie. . Four groups of three disciples and three windows behind Jesus.
1496-97.Milan Years Andrew Bartholomew James the Less Peter with knife John with tear Judas with his money The Last Supper (Detail). Santa Maria delle Grazie. Milan. .
Milan Years James the Elder Phillip Jesus Thomas with his poking finger Matthew Simon Thaddeus The Last Supper (Detail). Milan. 1496-97. . Santa Maria delle Grazie.
Milan Years Juda St James the Elder Studies of the disciples in the Last Supper. . The painting is noted for its emotionally charged expressions and the animated gestures of the disciples. Drawing studies of The Last Supper.
. The painting is noted for its emotionally charged expressions and the animated gestures of the disciples. Drawing studies of The Last Supper.Milan Years St Bartholomew St Philip Studies of the disciples in the Last Supper.
Magdalen College. Only around 20% of Leonardo‟s Last Supper is still visible today. . still in good conditions exists. Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli. However. c1520. an accurate copy and almost the same size as the original Last Supper.Milan Years The Last Super. It was painted about 25 years later by Rizzoli. after Leonardo da Vinci. This painting was used extensively for reference. Oxford. during the 20-year-restoration of the original painting in Milan.
Private Collection. She was 13 or 14 at the time of the portrait and died a few months later. La Bella Principessa (Bianca Sforza). [see Wikipedia]. Colour chalk on paper. The book was commissioned for the 1496 wedding of Bianca Sforza. when it was shown to be from a missing page of a 500 year-old-book. Investigators of the portrait demonstrated that it was painted by Leonardo. Warsaw. [For further details see February 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine. there are scholars that expressed their doubts on the portrait. David Ekserdjian. 1496. a scholar of 16C Italian drawings.] However. which funded the investigation. suspects the work is a “counterfeit”. an illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Milan.A rediscovered portrait by Leonardo? Milan Years The name of the young woman of the portrait was Bianca Sforza. . at the National Library of Poland.
Late Florence His Late Florentine Years 1499-1517 .
1503-05. . Paris.Late Florence years La Gioconda (Mona Lisa). Musee du Louvre.
Late Florence years Mona Lisa was the second wife of a Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo. The use of „Sfumato‟. Illustration from National Geographic Magazine Feb 2012. on the lips. Recent research discovered the death certificate of Mona Lisa. The painting is now in poor condition and the glazed varnish has now cracked and turned a dirty green. who died in 1542. in the convent of St Orsola in central Florence. He kept the painting for himself and brought it with him to France. Today it is hung in a bullet-proof glass cage. hence its title La Gioconda. . Leonardo worked on it for four years and never delivered the finished work. may have led to the enigmatic smile of Mona Lisa. the blurring of edges and smoothing colours to eliminate harsh outlines.
possible painted at the same time as the original. the museum discovered the familiar landscape of the original Mona Lisa. The painting shows greater details and brighter colours. As the black paint was removed. . The work is believed to have been made by an apprentice of Leonardo.Late Florence years This is a copy of the Mona Lisa in the Prado Museum. before cleaning and restoration.
Late Florence Years .
.Late Florence Years Madonna of the Yarnwinder. Madonna of the Yarnwinder. Leonardo & Giacomo Salai (?). Leonardo & Anonymous painter. New York. 1501-7. Private Collection. Duke of Buccleuch. 1499 onward.
benting forward to give her son. as he played with the lamb.Late Florence Years The painting depicts Virgin Mary sitting on the lap of her mother. The arrangement of the three feet make it even easier to confuse the two women. The Virgin and Child with St Anne. 1508-13. Madonna Litta. St Anne. Jesus support. All the figures are set against the backdrop of a striking mountains landscape. which baby Jesus was holding. . Mary symbolically pulls her son away from his terrible destiny. This subtle message of the painting is hidden by calm and serene figures. The Last Supper. the Mona Lisa etc. The presence of mountains in his paintings could also be connected to his interest in geological and hydrological studies. St Anne also carries one of Leonardo‟s distinctive enigmatic smile. The Virgin of the Rocks. The figures of St Anne and Virgin Mary are jumbled together. with St Anne looking as young as her daughter. The mountain backdrop can be found in his early painting of Annunciation. Leonardo used mountain backdrop to give paintings their depth. Paris. Musee du Louvre. Consistently. The lamb is the sacrificial lamb.
Paris. Musee du Louvre.The Virgin and Child with St Anne. 1508-13. Late Florence Years .
Scholars are still uncertain. National Gallery. Cartoon : Virgin & Child with St Anne & St John the Baptist. London . who was preoccupied with his cousin St John the Baptist. The drawing depicts Mary seated on her mother‟s knee (St Anne) twisted to hold onto baby Jesus. Note St Anne was depicted on the same level as Mary and her right shoulder and her right arm was missing. c1501.Late Florence Years The relation between this Leonardo‟s Burlington House Cartoon in London and The Virgin and Child with St Anne in the Louvre is far from clear.
It was painted for the King of France. suggest it is made of quartz crystal. Thus the spherical crystal was a representation of perfection. It was first exhibited in London in 2011.The painting was last acquired in 2005. Private Collection. Christ as Salvator Mundi. It has been authenticated by a group of experts in 2007. painted in delicacy and precision. The secret knowledge of working the crystal into a sphere was lost at the time of the painting. The painting shows Christ holding a clear crystal sphere. Tiny specks of bubble in the globe. after its latest restoration. 1506 onward. Late Florence Years .
as his honoured guest. at the invitation of Francis I. Ingres painted the above in 1818. . He died in May 1519. aged 67.France The last years 1517-1519 In 1517 Leonardo went to France. as he imagined that Leonardo died in the arms of Francis I.
Leonardo Portraits Do you think the facial expressions of Leonardo‟s portraits change with time? .
Leonardo Portraits These faces were painted after 1500. Are the expressions looking different from the earlier faces? .
.Leonardo Timeline 1452 – 1519 67 years There are only about 16 paintings which are believed to be painted by Leonardo existing today. in the world.
Florence. some foolish men will accuse me of being uneducated. I am unqualified to express an opinion. Music – Julian Bream plays the Vivaldi Concerto in D for Lute and string RV93. All rights reserved. unlike the scholars who only believe what they read in books written by others. They will say that because I did not learn from their school books. Available free for non-commercial and personal use. “I am well aware that because I did not study the ancients.” Leonardo da Vinci. Rights belong to their respective owners. But I would reply that my conclusions are drawn from first hand experience.The End A16C copy of Leonardo‟s Battle of Anghiari painted as fresco in the Palazzo Vecchio. .
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