Leonardo da Vinci Blog

The power of Da Vinci in new copy – with eyebrows


Feb 15 2012 09:18PM | by Staff Editor

For those who may have missed the news, a new copy of the world’s most famous oil painting has been “discovered”. We put “discovered” in quotation marks because apparently the canvas had been lying in a corner of Spain’s Prado Museum before someone had the inkling to clean it and discover a lively and absolutely beautiful copy of the Da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa, complete with bright hues, a complex Tuscan background and that alluring smile that has charmed millions for centuries. So why did it take so long for the oil painting to be discovered? Experts at Madrid’s Prado Museum stumbled on the reproduction having for years assumed it was one of the dozens of replicas painted after Leonardo da Vinci’s death in 1519. Their thinking was also motivated by the fact a thick layer of black paint was painted over all the background – however, once the background was stripped away, the bright and detailed Tuscan background remarkably matched the original, and more detailed analysis began. This led experts from the Prado and the Louvre to conclude that it was most likely a copy completed at exactly the same time as the original, done by one of... Read more

Da Vinci’s Horse And Rider


Jan 22 2012 10:09PM | by Staff Editor

Las Vegas, Nevada, isn’t normally the first place you think of when it comes to the viewing of fine art. The entertainment capital of the world is more famous for its casinos and … well its casinos. However on January 19th a cast of the only known sculpture by High Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci went on display at the Renaissance Gallery at the Shoppes at the Palazzo, at the Venetian Casino. So how did a cast of a 500 year old sculpture by one of the world’s most famous artists end up on display at a location that isn’t exactly renowned for its cultural emphasis? Well, the story starts back in 1985 when four businessmen had travelled to Switzerland to enquire about the purchase of a museum. During the trip, they encountered a small sculpture that was languishing in a vault – hand carved from beeswax, measuring ten inches in height, eight inches in length and three inches in width, the work depicted a rider atop of a war horse. There were rumours that the work was attributed to da Vinci, but in order to be certain, the men enlisted the help of Dr.Carlo Pedretti, an Italian historian who... Read more

Portrait Of A Man In Red Chalk


Jan 10 2012 05:12PM | by Staff Editor

It may well be one of the images that is most commonly associated with the Italian High Renaissance master, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Portrait Of A Man In Red Chalk, the iconic ‘self-portrait’ of Leonardo Da Vinci, may in fact be a drawing of another man. The portrait is read chalk on paper, it was completed by a Vinci circa 1510 to 1512 and it is currently held at the Biblioteca Reale di Turino (The Royal Library of Turin). The ‘fox-marks’, or brown spots that are now visible on the paper have been caused by the accumulation of iron salts that have resulted from excessive moisture, and the drawing is not normally on display to the public due to its fragile condition. Traditionally the 13.1 inch by 8.5 inch drawing has been interpreted to be a self-portrait of the Italian polymath at the age of 60, but we’re going to take a look at some of the other theories concerning the portrait’s potential subject. The attribution of the work to Da Vinci only occurred in the 19th Century and it was based largely on two pieces of evidence. One was the apparent similarity of the... Read more

Canon Of Proportions


Dec 27 2011 01:59PM | by Staff Editor

A newly published book about Leonardo Da Vinci (yes there’s another, but don’t worry, this one’s actually meant to be factual) promises to tell ‘the untold story of the world’s most famous drawing’. At least that’s what its cover promises. Now while we may all have our own ideas as to which drawing would be classified as the world’s most famous – perhaps a Rembrandt sketch, a Michelangelo scribble or a Picasso scrawl – the book handily deals with that issue for us as well, featuring as its front cover illustration Da Vinci’s Canon of Proportions. Hmmm? You haven’t heard of it? It is ‘… the world’s most famous drawing’ after all. We’ll help you out. It’s more commonly known today by its colloquial name, The Vitruvian Man. The drawing is much more than just a naked guy doing a star jump. It’s Da Vinci’s realisation of the ideal proportions and geometry of the human form, as defined by the ancient Roman architect Marcos Vitruvius Pollio in Book III of his architectural tome, De Architectura. It is in Vitruvius’ honour that the drawing is now popularly named, and Da Vinci’s 1487 work was a highlight in attempts by the Italian... Read more

Da Vinci’s Muses


Dec 25 2011 09:42PM | by Staff Editor

Although a quick look at Leonardo Da Vinci’s oil paintings may make you think that feminine muses would have been a permanent fixture in his 15th Century Florentine studio, most of the evidence regarding the private life of the Renaissance polymath tells a different story. Some of the most famous women ever committed to canvas were done so at Da Vinci’s hand. The Mona Lisa, La Belle Ferroniere, Lady with an Ermine, and Portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci, not to mention all those Madonnas and virgins, may have some people thinking that Da Vinci was something of a ladies man. However there are plenty of clues in historical records, and within his artwork, that tell us that nothing could be further from the truth. Court records show that Da Vinci was officially accused of sodomy at least twice when he was a young man, most notably in 1476 when he was 24 years old. This was a serious charge in 15th Century Florence, as a conviction of sodomy carried the death penalty – had Da Vinci been found guilty, the world could have lost one of its greatest creative geniuses all too soon. While he was member of the workshop... Read more

Fatty lipids latest threat to Da Vinci masterpiece


Nov 30 2011 06:39PM | by Staff Editor

The Last Supper, as it is most well known to its Christian adherents around the world, was the final meal that Jesus shared with his twelve disciples in Jerusalem before his betrayal by Judas and crucifixion. The Last Supper is the scriptural base, found in John 13:21, for the Eucharist, also known as Communion or the Lord’s Supper, which Christians observe as Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for their sins. The Last Supper, of course, is also one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous works. The mural is from the 15th century, painted by da Vinci for his patron Duke Ludovico Sforza and his duchess Beatrice d’Este. It measures 450cm by 870 cm and covers a wall of the of Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery’s dining room; it is regarded by Italian authorities as an important cultural relic, and is credited with single-handedly bringing in millions of tourist dollars to the city of Milan, Italy. Over the years it has survived many instances that have led to its degradation – but will it survive fatty lipids from humans? The Da Vinci painting has faced many threats over the years, which was not helped by Da Vinci’s original decision to paint the fresco... Read more

Da Vinci fingerprint reconstructed


Nov 20 2011 11:42AM | by Staff Editor

When you’re a man as famous as Italian polymath Leonardo Da Vinci you can expect nearly everything to be scrutinised after your death, even if it is 492 years after you last breathed air. Some of us might simply pass away into obscurity, but the constant fascination with Da Vinci has seen many researchers plough through everything he touched – literally – to build a biological image of the man. Tragically, despite all his inventions, drawings and oil paintings being relatively well preserved not much physical evidence remains of da Vinci. None of his clothes or treasured personal possessions can be verified, which is why a project that managed to establish a fingerprint was so widely hailed. In 2006 researchers from the Anthropology Research Institute at Chieti University, Italy (where else?), announced that they had created a print for Da Vinci’s left index finger after examining more than 200 photographs of mostly partial fingerprints from countless documents and canvasses that Da Vinci was known to handle. The whole process took three years and used state of the art computer and microscopic imaging technology, known as nondestructive spectrometry. The finding was also significant because it confirmed that Da Vinci was indeed... Read more

Da Vinci, virgins, lust and on the rocks


Oct 30 2011 10:38AM | by Staff Editor

We hope we painted a visually titillating image in your mind when you read our blog title. Yes, the English tabloids screamed it, so it must be true: a once in a lifetime Da Vinci exhibition will start at the National Gallery, and you’d be bonkers if you’d missed it because Virgins are going to help unlock the Da Vinci code. While we’ll stay away from the more sensationalist side of things, what is true is that never before exhibited in the United Kingdom Da Vinci paintings will be shown, along with supporting archival documents and preparatory drawings completed by the great artist. Exhibition organisers have labelled it an “unprecedented exhibition, the first of its kind anywhere in the world”. Well, you’ve certainly got our attention! The location for this great exhibition is of course the legendary National Gallery, located in Trafalgar Square, London. Previous exhibitions have focused on Da Vinci as the scientist or inventor, but organisers claim this is the first to focus solely on his aims and techniques as a painter, especially in the period that he worked for the Duke Lodovico Sforza in Milan, from the late 1480s and during the 1490s. Thus the centrepieces of... Read more

New Da Vinci masterpiece speculation and a restoration


Oct 18 2011 09:32AM | by Staff Editor

Cleaning and restoring a 500 year old painting can be a stressful task, as members of the Musée du Louvre found our last week. The famous Leonardo da Vinci painting Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, painted sometime between 1508 and 1510, was already in a state of disrepair after previous failed restoration attempts. The original restoration attempt started in 1994, but was stopped after experts released Da Vinci’s sfumato was being adversely affected. After a 16 year break the experts decided to try again, but restoration technology did not improve much in that time. According to the Louvre’s curator, Vincent Pomarède, “the problem of the varnish’s thickness that pulls on the picture layer creating an uplifting, should be solved”. At this point in time the problem hasn’t been solved, and we’ll keep you up to date on the process. One mystery that has apparently been solved, however, is the authenticity of a disputed Da Vinci work, La Bella Principessa. As with all authenticity debates, the devil is in the detail, and the proponents of this painting have their work cut out for them – literally (the paining in question is one allegedly torn from the pages of a book).... Read more

Da Vinci, Opus Dei and the passing of a noted scholar


Oct 02 2011 11:37AM | by Staff Editor

In something seemingly out of the pages of a Dan Brown Da Vinci Code novel, two members of the secretive Catholic group Opus Dei are on trial for holding a woman as a “slave” for 16 years. The case comes to trial after a nine year investigation by police. The star witness is Catherine Tissier, who said that she was forced to work 14 hour days, seven days a week, all with no pay while experiencing mental and emotional conditioning that prosecutors labelled “brainwashing”. So where does Da Vinci centre in all of this? The perception that Da Vinci artworks are associated with Opus Dei in any way is farfetched, given the group, formally known as The Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei (in Latin, Prelatura Sanctae Crucis et Operis Dei) was formed in Spain in 1928 by the Catholic priest St. Jose María Escrivá. The organisation’s goal was to educate the public that everyone is capable of being holy, and leading an ordinary life is a path to holiness. The majority of their membership is lay people (i.e. not directly employed by the Vatican as priests) and many keep regular jobs, which is where the links with... Read more

The Lost Da Vinci masterpiece


Sep 18 2011 06:41PM | by Staff Editor

Oh no, can you hear that? It is the Dan Brown Da Vinci Code nuts coming out of the woodwork again. They are clutching their copies of the book, ready to browbeat you into submission. But wait. Hold on a second here. This time they really might be on to something. Could there really be a hidden Da Vinci artwork in the confines of the Palazzo Vecchio? Or is this just another attempt of Da Vinci fans to keep their master’s name in the press, and consciousness, of the global public? No, this is real. It involves the famous and reputable publication National Geographic, boffins with PhDs and photon cannons that analyse copper pigments. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. The search centres on the lost Da Vinci painting known as the Battle of Anghiari, now thought to be hidden behind a wall which displays the famous mural known as Battle of Marciano. This mural was painted by a man equally well known – Giorgio Vasari, the renowned 15th century historian, architect and painter. It would be fitting if the mystery involved two of the most famous men in Italian history – and here’s the catch. The murals are all... Read more

Da Vinci as “Da” Draughtsman


Sep 04 2011 09:18PM | by Staff Editor

"The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding." – Leonardo Da Vinci Leonardo Da Vinci was a smart guy, and one of the main ways he left us with evidence of his Shanghai World Financial Center high IQ was via his artwork. When we say artwork, of course, we do refer to Da Vinci paintings such as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. But did you know that oil paintings were in fact one of the least used mediums by Da Vinci to record and communicate his ideas? Instead, Da Vinci kept hundreds of journals and small sketchbooks where he drew and stored his detailed images of anything and everything that interested him – from horses to dogs, birds, tanks and even helicopters (his earliest verified drawing is a Landscape of the Arno Valley, 1473, completed when he was just 21-years-old. The drawing shows the mountains, a river, Montelupo Castle and the farmlands in extraordinary detail). Among the most famous Da Vinci drawings are the Vitruvian Man, the renowned study of the proportions of the human body. Other famous works include Head of an Angel, The Virgin of the Rocks, a black chalk drawing on coloured paper of The... Read more

Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi surfaces


Aug 07 2011 10:17PM | by Staff Editor

It’s almost too good to be true. After more than 500 years since Leonardo Da Vinci walked the earth, a rediscovered oil painting from the High Renaissance master will go on public display. Titled Salvator Mundi, meaning Saviour of the World, the Da Vinci artwork dates to around 1500 and shows Jesus Christ holding an orb. The work was known to have existed, but, having been missing for decades, many experts presumed it had been destroyed or lost. So what is its history, and where has it been all this time? Salvator Mundi was painted more than 500 years ago after Louis XII of France commissioned Da Vinci in 1506. He finished it seven years later, where it eventually ended up in the possession of King Charles I of England in 1649, and later in the Charles II collection. It was then auctioned by the son of the Duke of Buckingham in 1763 to an unknown buyer, where it remained in obscurity until 1900. The work was visibly damaged from previous restoration attempts, to the point that its authorship was unclear. At that time British collector Sir Frederick Cook bought the painting. It remained in the family for just over... Read more

If Gaga does da Vinci…


Jul 24 2011 09:54PM | by Staff Editor

The technology does not yet exist to pull the dance of images within the mind and transfer it in digital form to be played on an iPad (though Apple could surprise us all by perfecting the iBRain by Q3 next year). And not all of us can magically pluck threads of memory from our minds with a magic wand and dollop them into a Pensieve, like a wizard. If we could, the result would be an eclectic mash-up of faces and stories and events that seems coherent, and somehow Lady Gaga is there dressed as Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. And that’s just me, by most accounts, a regular person. So imagine – what about an interpretation of a dream from the same mind that brought The Persistence of Memory (aka the Melting Clocks) and Young Virgin Auto-sodomized by the Horns of Her Own Chastity? That’s right. As mentioned in a previous post, a movie is currently in production based on a dream by the noted Surrealist painter, Salvador Dali. This dream occurred to the artist in the twilight of his life after he had been on fire. Yes, fire. There had been a fire in his bedroom and he sustained... Read more

Da Vinci and Mona Lisa – it’s hard to keep a good thing down


Jul 11 2011 12:02PM | by Staff Editor

A work of genius by a genius capturing an indefinable smile has led to scores of theories about the man or woman behind the Mona Lisa. The bulk of historians and art scholars believe the model to be Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo, a woman known to have modelled for Leonardo da Vinci. She died in Florence in 1542 and this month (May 2011) archaeologists and researchers are searching a crypt in the hope of identifying her body and using her skull to digitally recreate a face that will resemble the legendary artwork. The project to discoverer Del Giocondo’s body is a long time in the making. Researchers have spent years finding and corroborating historical documents. This month they started using geo-radar sounding to discover the underground tomb at the convent of Saint Orsula. According to records, Del Giocondo entered the convent to become a nun after the death of her husband, who was a wealthy silk merchant. She died there aged 63 on July 15, 1542. The researchers have also tracked down two of her children who are buried at the Santissima Annunziata church in Florence. Once all bodies have been confirmed they will be cross-DNA examined to determine if... Read more

Scheduling a Visit with the Leonardo da Vinci Last Supper


May 24 2011 11:42AM | by Staff Editor

Dan Brown's novel "The da Vinci Code" had created a fervor for all things relating to Leonardo da Vinci. People want to see the paintings and scour them for hidden meanings and secret truths. One painting in particular, the Leonardo da Vinci Last Supper has become increasingly popular with tourists. It's so popular, in fact, that you must buy your tickets for the viewing well in advance of your trip. The Last Supper is located in Milan at the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The original painting is extremely large, taking up one entire wall of the church. Figures are nearly life-sized. Only 25 people are allowed to see the Leonardo da Vinci painting at one time, and visits are restricted to 15 minutes. Tickets are sold well in advance, and often sell out entirely. People who do not buy tickets in advance can rarely, if ever, buy tickets at the door of the church. The painting is simply much too popular. Art lovers who do have tickets and can see the Leonardo da Vinci Last Supper for themselves may be in for a nasty shock. The painting is in a nearly constant state of repair. Only the wall... Read more

Rescue Leonardo da Vinci Via Videogame


May 03 2011 09:09AM | by Staff Editor

The best videogames transport players to a new, complete reality, full of challenges and surprises. Details must be realistic, and yet quirky enough to hold visual appeal. Games often take place in futuristic landscapes, but some game designers look to the past for inspiration. One such developer, Ubisoft, reached back to the Leonardo da Vinci biography for inspiration. The Assassin's Creed Brotherhood game released an update entitled "The da Vinci Disappearance" for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Players are transported to ancient Rome, where they are tasked with finding and rescuing the kidnapped painter and inventor Leonardo da Vinci. To do so, players must recover paintings by Leonardo da Vinci. In the game, the Hermeticists, who are determined to transform mankind, are holding Da Vinci. The theory here is that they could use the genius of Leonardo da Vinci to accomplish their final goals. This makes sense, as da Vinci was an accomplished creator of early weaponry. Having his experience available would be invaluable for people bent on doing harm. This aspect of the game is pure fantasy, as there is no evidence that da Vinci was ever kidnapped. The game takes place in multiple locations, and Leonardo da Vinci's... Read more

Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa Gets a Postmodern Treatment


Apr 26 2011 10:37AM | by Staff Editor

Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci has always had the power to amaze and inspire. Many artists have imitated her enigmatic smile in their own paintings. Other artists have imitated the beautiful skin tones and use of light and dark tones used in paintings by Leonardo da Vinci. But now, the Mona Lisa has entered the post-modern era, and she's become subject to an entirely new series of treatments and modifications. There are many ways to define postmodern art, and critics still debate over whether some methods of art are modern, postmodern or simply not art at all. In general, however, postmodern art can be thought of as art that rebels against standard formats. Simple portraits are obscured with apples or flying birds. Images of famous people are generated in collage form. Traditional meaning, including religious meaning, is replaced with an emphasis on form and fashion. Post-modern artists often create provocative images, meant to point out that "art" as a construct doesn't mean what we think it means, and that nearly anything can be art if it is presented in the proper format. In this context, the Leonardo da Vinci Mona Lisa is perfect for postmodern artists to toy with.... Read more

Who Posed for Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa"?


Apr 10 2011 05:52PM | by Staff Editor

The famous Leonardo da Vinci Mona Lisa has always been something of an enigma. Is the model just beginning to smile, or is her smile fading? Is she smiling at all? Where is she sitting, and why is the background filled with such a detailed landscape? Who is the model, and why was she chosen? A team of Italian researchers claims to have found the answer to that final question, and it may surprise you. Researchers from the Italian National Committee for Historical, Cultural and Environment Heritage claim that the model for the Leonardo da Vinci Mona Lisa was no woman at all. Rather, the researchers claim that the model was a male apprentice, affectionately known as Salai. It's been suggested that Salai and da Vinci had a romantic relationship. It is known that Salai often posed for other da Vinci paintings, including St. John the Baptist. Comparing the faces in St. John the Baptist and Mona Lisa, the researchers claim that it's easy to determine that the paintings began with the same sitter. Additionally, the researchers studied digital images of the Mona Lisa and claim to have found the letters "L" and "S" hidden within the paint. They suggest... Read more