Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Leonardo da Vinci

Study for a Madonna's Head
c. 1481
size unknown
Musee du Louvre, Paris, France

Leonardo's metalpoint study of this female figure's head shows his confident and composed exploration of the anatomical and three-dimensional form of the human head. This metalpoint is thought to have been used as a preparatory study for the painting of the Madonna Litta (c.1480-81) Hermitage, Leningrad. The Madonna's head in Leonardo's metalpoint study is very similar to the Madonna's head in the Madonna Litta painting except that the virgin's eyes in the preparatory drawing seem to be much more open and visible to the viewer as compared to the eyes of the virgin in the actual painting whose seem to be partially closed and gazing downwards at the Christ child.
It is not certain whether Leonardo in fact painted the Madonna Litta himself or whether his workshop or one of his ardent followers painted the work. Some scholars have even claimed that the painting of the Madonna Litta is too awkward to have been done by Leonardo. Regardless of the artist, however, the virgin's head in both works seems to resemble the other quite closely.

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (1452 - 1519) was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal.
He was born in the small Tuscan town of Vinci in the region of Florence as the son of a wealthy notary and a peasant woman. He was handsome, persuasive in conversation, and a fine musician and improviser.
He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.
Renaissance humanism recognized no mutually exclusive polarities between the sciences and the arts, and Leonardo's studies in science and engineering are as impressive and innovative as his artistic work. These studies were recorded in 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, which fuse art and natural philosophy (the forerunner of modern science), made and maintained daily throughout Leonardo's life and travels, as he made continual observations of the world around him.
A creator in all branches of art, a discoverer in most branches of science, and an inventor in branches of technology, Leonardo deserves, perhaps more than anyone, the title of Homo Universalis, Universal Man.

In the normal course of events many men and women are born with remarkable talents; but occasionally, in a way that transcends nature, a single person is marvelously endowed by Heaven with beauty, grace and talent in such abundance that he leaves other men far behind, all his actions seem inspired and indeed everything he does clearly comes from God rather than from human skill. Everyone acknowledged that this was true of Leonardo da Vinci, an artist of outstanding physical beauty, who displayed infinite grace in everything that he did and who cultivated his genius so brilliantly that all problems he studied he solved with ease. (by Giorgio Vasari in the edition of Lives of the Artists, 1568)