The Magnificent Leonardo

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The Renaissance Genius of the Future

Five hundred years after the death of this painter, sculptor, architect, inventor and engineer, his works continue to fascinate people

Five hundred years have passed since the death of the genius whose work has shaped art as we know it. With his curious mind and sharp intellect, Da Vinci studied the laws of science and nature that greatly influenced his work as a painter, sculptor, architect, inventor and engineer. From his first drawing in 1473, in which he wrote the date in his own handwriting, until his penultimate discovery – the Portrait of a Young Fiancée, Da Vinci’s artwork is invaluable, and his influence is still present and keeps pushing the boundaries of creative culture. ‘Leonardo da Vinci keeps captivating the world of art history, science, anthropology, and Hermeneutics, attracting the crowds and fostering imagination. His paintings and drawings created more than half a millennium ago, are still a subject of admiration and they keep challenging researchers. Searching for hidden meanings, coded messages, and complex stories in formerly perfect pieces of artwork, tuned to the finest detail, is now made possible thanks to the latest precision technological methods based on using chemistry and physics to analyse Leonardo’s style of painting. The fascination of the master’s Sfumato and the unprecedented skills of applying the finest layers of paint with extremely limited amounts of pigment on the depicted characters are undoubtedly the focus of research aimed at revealing the fundamentals of Leonardo’s unique expression’, says art critic Brane Kovič, an expert on Leonardo da Vinci.

Da Vinci
The latest findings have revealed that Leonardo painted 20 to 30 layers on his paintings, which explains the secret of their transparency and softness

Following the image of the Lady with an Ermine, which was confirmed to be Leonardo’s work at the beginning of the 20th century, a sophisticated drawing of a female profile titled Portrait of a Young Fiancée was also found to be one of his works in 2008. An even newer discovery is the image of Salvator Mundi, which experts have also attributed to this master, and which was sold in late 2017 at an auction for a record $ 450 million. New technological achievements have clarified many ambiguities and revealed the ingenuity of Leonardo’s mastery, which was actually self-taught and unburdened with the elitist knowledge of Renaissance humanism because he had accepted everyday culture and ways of thinking. Leonardo also compiled the ‘encyclopaedia’ of machines, from which only fragments have been preserved. It contains inventions that allow walking on water and breathing underwater, hydraulic devices, self-propelled vehicles, press-machine studies, large oil presses and rotating hot air skewers, metal melting and distillation kilns, harbour machines, and designs for a flying machine… Among them, there are many art tools, ranging from the Perspectograph to the projector, and his drawings, studies and descriptions show that Leonardo was also the forerunner of telephony, the Internet and even cybernetics.

Da Vinci
Mona Lisa, La Gioconda

It has also been proved that all the machines and mechanisms that he had plans for are fully functional, so they are still a source of inspiration for engineers. For example, in 1502, Leonardo drew up a plan for a 240-meter-long bridge in Istanbul for a Turkish Sultan. It was not built at the time, but in 2001, a much smaller wooden viaduct was built in Norway based on the same design. Hundreds of documents that bring detailed new life data on Leonardo’s life and work have recently been published, and it is interesting to note that anthropologists have been able to recreate the imprint of Leonardo’s entire left hand. Five hundred years after the death of the Renaissance genius a superb monograph named ‘The Magnificent Leonardo’ will be published. It will contain the most complete representation of the artist so far and bring some astonishing discoveries about his life and work. The authors of the texts are Museo Ideale director Alessandro Vezzosi, and historian Agnese Sabato, both world-renowned experts on Leonardo’s life and work. The monograph includes Leonardo’s works from renowned art collections around the world, as well as those that are normally not widely available to the public, and also talks about some of the still unclear secrets of Leonardo’s paintings.

Da Vinci
The Vitruvian Man was created by Leonardo da Vinci around the year 1487

For example, why are there two different versions of the Virgin of the Rocks, why are the interpretations of the Last Supper contradictory, whose mysterious hand can be seen on that painting, and what is the mysterious flying object in the background of the painting of the Birth of Christ? His painting of Mona Lisa, La Gioconda from the Louvre is particularly interesting, because it always raises the question of who is hiding behind Mona Lisa’s smile. The wife of a Florentine merchant, a mistress of a notable gentleman, an unknown lady from a balcony, Leonardo’s mistress, perhaps even Leonardo’s mother Catherine, the Madonna, virgin priest, Sophia or… Could it be the artist’s self-portrait, which some scientists claim based on virtual simulations? With great reproductions of artwork, sketches and studies, more than 5,000 preserved pages of the artist’s records can be traced to numerous details from his early childhood to his death. Unlike traditional biographies, this book shows for the first time all the places in Florence associated with his works, and Leonardo’s ‘encrypted’ manuscript is explained. Leonardo da Vinci has always been and will forever remain a myth and a phenomenon, but also an inexhaustible source of inspiration for art lovers, collectors, scientists, architects, inventors…

Photos by Mozaik knjiga

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