Art & Culture

Long live Leonardo Da Vinci

Cultural Reporter
After months of tensions between the governments of France and Italy, Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Sergio Mattarella joined Thursday to pay tribute to the great Renaissance master Leonardo Da Vinci.
On the 500th anniversary of his death, the two Heads of State moved to the town of Amboise, in the central valley of the Loire River, where Da Vinci had spent the last three years of his life.
The Italian genius was deemed as the Renaissance man archetype because of his incursion in many fields of knowledge and creation – painting, architecture, engineering, and design, among others.
He arrived in Gallic lands at the invitation of King Francis I and here he died on May 2nd, 1519.
As underscored by the local press, the homage turned out to be an opportunity for a new approach between Paris and Rome, which in recent months has experienced serious tensions mainly due to migration issues.
The Presidents visited the house mansion of Clos Luce, just 500 meters from the royal castle of Amboise, where Da Vinci settled in his last years of life.

In such house, it is preserved all the furniture used by the master and his designs of pieces of engineering very avant-garde for the time, like sketches of a helicopter or a war tank, whose models are displayed in the garden.
Although he left a prolific legacy that ranges from philosophical works to incredible engineering designs for his time, in the world he is known mainly for his painting The Giocconda, or The Mona Lisa, which today is exhibited in the Parisian Louvre Museum.
This Thursday’s tribute is part of the commemoration program ‘¬Long live Leonardo Da Vinci 2019’, which includes lots of activities aimed to pay homage to Da Vinci all year round, born in the city of Florence in 1492.
The Renaissance master
This year marks the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death. Widely considered one of the greatest polymaths in human history, Leonardo was an inventor, artist, musician, architect, engineer, anatomist, botanist, geologist, historian and cartographer.
Though his artistic output was small, Leonardo’s impact was great, reflecting his deep knowledge of the body, his extensive studies of light and the human face, and his sfumato (Italian for “smoky”) technique, which allowed for incredibly lifelike images. Leonardo regarded artists as divine apprentices, writing “We, by our arts, may be called the grandsons of God.”
Physical beauty
Leonardo created some of the world’s most beautiful works of art, including the “Last Supper” and the “Mona Lisa.” In his own day, he was known as an exceptionally attractive person. One of Leonardo’s biographers describes him as a person of “outstanding physical beauty who displayed infinite grace in everything he did.” A contemporary described him as a “well proportioned, graceful, and good-looking man” who “wore a rose-pink tunic” and had “beautiful curling hair, carefully styled, which came down to the middle of his chest.” Leonardo is thought to have entered into long-term and possibly sexual relationships with two of his pupils, both artists in their own right.
From scraps to notebooks
One of his best-known notebook drawings is the ‘Vitruvian Man.’ Leonardo da Vinci/Wikimedia Commons.
The paintings generally attributed to Leonardo number fewer than 20, while his notebooks contain over 7,000 pages. They’re the best source of knowledge about Leonardo, housed today in locations such as Windsor Castle, the Louvre and the Spanish National Library in Madrid. Their diverse content ranges across drawings – most famously, Vitruvian Man – notes of things he wanted to investigate, scientific and technical diagrams and shopping lists. They comprise perhaps the most remarkable monument to human curiosity and creativity ever produced by a single person. Yet when Leonardo penned them, they were just loose pieces of paper of different types and sizes. His friends bound them into “notebooks” only after his death.
In November 2017, one of the paintings attributed to Leonardo, “Salvator Mundi” (“Savior of the World”), set the record for the most expensive painting ever sold, fetching US$450 million. Painted in oil on walnut in about 1500, it depicts Jesus offering a benediction with his right hand while holding a crystalline orb that appears to represent the cosmos in his left. The painting had suffered from neglect and poor restorations and was long assumed to be the work of one of Leonardo’s students, selling as recently as 2005 as part of the estate of a Baton Rouge businessman for less than $10,000. Its current whereabouts are unknown.
Outsider’s education
As a result of his illegitimacy, Leonardo received a rather rudimentary formal education consisting primarily of business arithmetic. He never attended university and sometimes referred to himself as an “unlettered man.” Yet his lack of formal schooling also freed him from the constraints of tradition, helping to instill in him a determination to question authority and place greater reliance on his own experience than opinions expressed in books. As a result, he became a firsthand observer and experimenter, uninterested in serving as a mouthpiece for the classics.
Prolific procrastinator
Although Leonardo’s mind was extraordinarily fertile, he was also an inveterate procrastinator and even quitter. He frequently took months or years to begin work on commissions, sometimes keeping patrons at bay with lofty pronouncements regarding his creative process. A giant equestrian statue for the duke of Milan, requiring 70 tons of bronze to cast, might have been his grandest work – if it had ever been completed. Yet a decade after the 1482 commission, Leonardo had produced only a clay model which was subsequently destroyed when invading French soldiers used it for target practice.
Royal admirer
Soon after King Francis I of France captured Milan in 1516, Leonardo entered his service, spending the last years of his life in a house near the royal residence. When death came to Leonardo on May 2, 1519 at the age of 67, it is said that the king, who loved to listen to Leonardo talk so much that he was hardly ever apart from him, cradled his head as he breathed his last. Years later, reflecting on his friendship with the great man, King Francis said, “No man possessed such a knowledge of painting, sculpture, or architecture as Leonardo, but the same goes for philosophy. He was a great philosopher.”

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