The painter of painters
Leonardo da Vinci, undeniably remains the painter of painters for 500 years, his works arouse the strongest of passions!
The mere mention of his name is synonymous with superlatives, tall and strong, he also had an unforgettable charisma.
While he was an engineer and artist, he was also a very modern man associating art and science, he had a universal spirit, and he is also a true manager, he knew how to work with others and practiced the hybridization of the creative process!
An exhibition worth the wait! The press has already been talking about it for a few years, Italian loans are the subject of negotiations, will they lend yes or no?
An absence: the famous Salvator Mundi, with an auction record of $ 450 million, in late 2017 it was finally awarded to the workshop of the Master, it is not present at the exhibition. Neither the famous drawing of San Sebastian, authenticated by the expert Patrick de Bayser, a pity! I wish I could see him surrounded by the two others presented!
The exhibition is divided into several themes: shadows and lights, freedom, science, life in Milan, Florence and France.
Exhibition at the front
Ten paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, not counting the Mona Lisa, are gathered in the Louvre until February 24, 2020, it is exceptional, and many drawings are presented around these works, there are extracts of the codices coming from prestigious collections like that of Windsor of Her Majesty Elizabeth II.
The mirror of the world
The two curators for this exhibition are the two curators of the Louvre Vincent Delieuvin and Louis Frank, they are presenting exclusively Leonardo Peintre, the one for whom painting is a divine science capable of recreating the World, « The mirror of the World » said Leonardo. The expression is also to be taken in its Latin sense, Speculum Majus, the « Mirror of the World », that is to say the sum of the knowledge of the moment. Leonardo da Vinci is as much a man of the Middle Ages as he is of the modernity of the Renaissance.
This illegitimate son of a notary had an exceptional life, he died in the arms of a King, François 1st, we can follow his career at the Louvre Museum for 4 months.
Learning in the workshop of the sculptor Verrocchio
Very early on he discovered his artistic skills, and he finds himself very quickly in the largest workshop in Florence working for the sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-1488) where he does his apprenticeship. We can see in the first room, the bronze group Christ and Saint Thomas or the unbelief of Saint Thomas 1467-1483 The student acquires the control of the form, the work of the shadow and the light by drawing the wax models covered with sheets. The learned painter learns to master the effects of light on the shapes, faces, body.
sfumato & componimento inculto
After this first period of learning, it is freedom that prevails, first obsessed with form, he realizes that a perfect form gives a dead work. He paints the Adoration of the Magi, drawing freehand characters, he called this method « the uncultivated composition » componimento inculto unlimited method, hatched, drawing that authorizes the sfumato and allows vaporous contours. This technique fascinated an artist from an early age, it is the specialist Jacques Franck who is the only one in the world to know how to reproduce this famous sfumato. He is now very often consulted on the painting of Leonardo da Vinci whether it is about a restoration or an authentication.
Star of the Renaissance years
« The big geniuses the less they work the more they work » Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574)
During his lifetime, the artist is already a star, his paintings are mythical, and he knows how to maintain a certain mystery around him! His first biographer, Vasari was born in 1510 and already published the myth of Leonardo da Vinci in 1550, he speaks of the Mona Lisa, wearing Isabella d’Este, whom he never saw, the famous enigmatic smile of Mona Lisa, the illustrious misunderstanding of André Chastel.
The most famous painting in the world
This masterpiece has been the subject of an incredible flight, Picasso and Appolinaire have even been suspected! Disappeared for 2 years he is finally found!
It was lent once by France to the United States, on this occasion, André Malraux had made the trip to France with the most famous painting in the world. John F. Kennedy said of her that she was the second great lady that France sent us after the Statue of Liberty.
« Nature begins with the principles and then the realization, the artist must go in the opposite direction, he must observe the material in order to arrive at the principles » Leonardo da Vinci
A seductive painting
The use of light could make us think of Caravaggio but nothing to do with his theatrical compositions, those of Leonardo are gentle, seductive and mysterious. When I look at Saint Sebastian, I see more than just a picture, the softness of the contours, the black background, the lighting, the smile, make this representation of the saint sacred. His painting is at the heart of life,
« At Léonard, research is an absolute and it takes the time that is necessary and if it takes 20 years to make a painting it takes 20 years to make a painting.And if it takes a life to make 15, it takes a life to make 15 And the calculation was right since with 15 paintings it seems that it is among the very first »Louis Frank
The pictorial execution
Yet many of them remain unfinished and thus become true knowledge resources for experts. Because he spends a crazy time, years, on some works like the Mona Lisa.
Thousands of small notes: the codices
This passionate man, impassioned, ambidextrous, constantly took notes written backwards, that one can read only with a mirror, there are thus many writings of Leonardo, the small notebooks that he always had in his pocket and the big ones who were at his workshop where he transcribed all his experiences. The Institute has twelve notebooks, the codices where it recorded writings, drawings, diagrams …
The learned painter, painting is a science
He still wants more, he wants to know the laws of nature and will go on a quest to know, astrophysics, plants, physics, sciences … His research and his understanding of the world gave rise to the thousands of pages of different Atlanticus codex in Milan, that of Windsor which includes 600 drawings, 24 loaned for the exhibition, two loaned by Bill Gates happy owner of the Codex Leicester and the important French collection of the Institut de France, which includes the 12 notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci .
It is a revolution of the pictorial work, it does not only want to translate a complex movement but also to express the soul of the subject, its spirituality, reproduced a physical phenomenon, a movement, the reflection of the moon … he desires absolutely understand everything.
Leonardo da Vinci is a magician, he is able to turn heads, shine the stars, it is another facet of the man we discover, he becomes organizer of festivals with Ludovic Sforza, called the More, and staged the Feast of Paradise to celebrate the marriage of the young duke and Isabella of Aragon. An insane festival between shadow and light for which he recreates a night in broad daylight.
The Lord’s Supper
It is the More that commands the Last Supper of the Dominican Reptory of Milan, unfortunately the fresco is very quickly damaged and suffered during the centuries of bad restorations. This refectory will be occupied for a moment by the army of Bonaparte, which does not help.
A vintage copy dating from 1506 is presented in this exhibition, that of Marco d’Oggiono, one can thus realize the quality of the portraits of three quarters breaking the Milanese tradition of the profile.
What is extraordinary in this exhibition is to be able to see the paintings, but also to see them with preparatory works, a splendid cardboard from London, a drawing of Venice or infrared reflectography, as for La Sainte Anne restored, there is little what triggered disagreements specialists.
This gives us the impression of penetrating at least the mysteries of genius.
We leave the rooms as if with regret with a last masterpiece Saint John the Baptist.
What an exhibition, what an end of an exceptional year in Paris, all these wonderful exhibitions Le Greco, Degas, Toulouse Lautrec, Bacon that make the cultural news of the capital. I would be curious to know the feelings of Jeff Koons preview a few days ago at the Fiac on the quality of these masterpieces! In 500 years what will be his gift?
Florence Briat Soulié
Translated by Joshua Lacoste , Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Paris Fall 2019
October 24, 2019-February 24, 2020 Hall Napoléon