LEONARDO DA VINCI (1452 - 1519)

 

     The coming of the sixteenth century saw the rise of great artists in Italy — Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Their names have never lost their enormous fame.

      High Renaissance style was founded by one of the most gifted individuals ever bom. Leonardo da Vinci, who has always been famous because of the fantastic range of his genius, fulfilled the Renaissance ideal of the Universal Man. He was not only a great painter and sculptor, but also an outstanding architect, an inventor, an engineer, a musician, and the leading physicist, botanist, anatomist, geologist and geographer of his time.

     Leonardo's fame as an artist is based on eighteen paintings that came down to us, some of them incomplete, some da­maged as a result of his experimental techniques. Leonardo's art surpassed the achievements of his time. In an era when the continuing power of the Church competed in men's mind with the revived authority of Classical antiquity, for Leonardo there was no authority higher than that of an eye, which he characterized as «the window of the soul».        When Leonardo began his campaign to modernize painting the artist was still a craftsman and a guild member; before the High Renaissance was over, a great master could live like a prince.

      Leonardo da Vinci was bom in Tuscany. By 1469 he was Verrocchio's apprentice. In Verrocchio's workshop Leonardo obtained the best education of his time.

      The Adoration of the Magiis Leonardo's first masterpiece. It was commissioned in 1481 for a church outside Florence. It was never carried any further than the monochrome underpaint.

      Leonardo used the pyramidal composition. The groups are based on the actions of the component figures and dissolve as soon as they move. Leonardo did not know it, but this discovery f was made in Greece in the 5-th century B.C. In this work Leonardo started with the moment of feeling, form came next.

      The Madonna of the Rocks,of 1483, is one of the earliest and the most famous Leonardo's pictures. It was intended for the Oratory of the Immaculate Conception in Milan. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception means that the Virgin was freed I from the taint of the Original Sin. Leonardo has interpreted this doctrine dramatically. He represented Mary in the midst of a  dark world of rock forms. In this strange rocky grotto, where the sun never seems to strike and the plants grow thick but colourless, the Christ Child manifests his Divinity as he blesses  the infant St. John, himself taken under the Virgin's protection. And, like a prophecy of the Baptism of Christ by St. John in the Jordan, a river winds away among the pale peaks. This painting makes Leonardo a typical artist of the High Renaissance.

      The Madonna and Saint Annawas designed in Florence in 1501 and completed many years later in Milan. It represents a revolutionary rethinking of the conventional theme of the Holy Family. Leonardo intertwined the figures to form a pyramidal composition. Leonardo makes the Virgin sit on her mother’s lap and merges their bodies in such a way that their heads are like twin heads rising from a single trunk. St. Anna's head mirrors her daughter's image. The Virgin, as in traditional representa­tions of this subject, is shown reaching for the Christ Child, who in his turn attempts to ride upon a lamb, the symbol of his sa­crificial death. The background is one of the most impressive mountain pictures ever painted. Valleys, rocks and peaks dimi­nish progressively into the bluish haze of the distance until they can no longer be distinguished.

       Leonardo's power as an artist and thinker is evident in the Last Supper and the Mona Lisa, his two most famous works.

      Leonardo's Last Supper was painted on the end wall of the re­fectory of the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan in 1495. In the fresco Christ discloses to his followers that soon one of their number will betray him and their cause. The com­position is the product of the moment of action and meaning. The Apostles are presented in four groups of three each. Each of these numbers has many meanings: the multiplication of the Gospels by the Trinity is only one, and twelve itself is not me­rely the number of the Apostles but of the months of the year and the hours of the day and of the night. The numerical divi­sion helps to throw the fundamental character of each of the Apostles into full relief, from the innocence of John on Christ's right to the horror of James on his left and to the protestation of Philip, who placed his hand on his breast. Only Judas knows, and the light does not shine upon his face. The Last Supper is a humanistic interpretation of the narrative. Leonardo has painted a higher reality, thus making a complete break with the Early Renaissance and establishing the ideal world in which Miche­langelo and Raphael later operated. Leonardo painted his mas­terpiece in an oil-and-tempera emulsion on the dry plaster, and it began rapidly to peel off. As a result the surface is severely damaged.

     Although Leonardo’s paintings are badly preserved, they are all fascinating. Leonardo created an enigma to which he gives no answer.

     From 1503 until 1506 Leonardo was painting a portrait of the wife of the prominent Florentine citizen. The painting is known today as the Mona Lisa. The figure sits in a relaxed position, with hands quietly crossed, before one of Leonardo's richest and most mysterious landscape backgrounds, traversed by roads that lose themselves, bridges to nowhere, crags vanishing in the mists. This attitude of total calm became characteristic for High Renais­sance portraits. The face has suffered in the course of time but nothing has spoiled the sad half smile that plays about the lips.For a year or two Leonardo worked for the notorious Cesare Borgia, designing battle engines, siege devices and making maps. The Florentines commissioned Leonardo to paint the Battle of  Anghiari on a wall of a newly constructed Hall of Five Hundred in the Palazzo Vecchio. This painting depicted an event from  15th century history. It was part of a general programme to ; celebrate the newly revived republic.

      Leonardo's later life was a succession of trips between Florence, Milan and Rome. He painted little in his later years.  At his death Leonardo's artistic influence was immense, but  much of his scientific work had to await later rediscovery.

 

 

Notes

Baptism of Christ —«Крещение Христа»

Adoration of the Magi— «Поклонение волхвов»

Madonna of the Rocks— «Мадонна в гроте»

Madonna and Saint Anna— «Святая Анна с Марией и младенцем Христом»

Last Supper«Тайная вечеря»

Mona Lisa«Мона Лиза» («Джоконда»)

Battle of Anghiari «Битва при Ангиари»

 

 

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