Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
The personality and work of Leonardo da Vinci has always been of great interest. Leonardo was too extraordinary a figure for his time. Books and articles are printed, feature films and documentaries are released. Art historians turn to scientists and mystics, in an attempt to find the solution to the mystery of the genius of the great master. There is even a separate direction in science, exploring the heritage of the painter. Museums are opening in honor of Leonardo da Vinci, thematic exhibitions are constantly held around the world, breaking all attendance records, and Mona Lisa stares at crowds of tourists for days on end from the armored glass. Real historical facts and legends, scientific achievements and fiction are closely intertwined around the name of one genius.
The fate of the great master
The future great artist and scientist was born on April 14, 1452 from an extramarital affair of a wealthy notary public, Sir Pierrot, with either a peasant woman or the mistress of a tavern from the town of Vinci. The boy was named Leonardo. Katerina, that was the name of the artist’s mother, raised her son for the first five years of his life, after which the father took the boy to his house.
Although Pierrot was officially married, he had no other children than Leonardo. Therefore, the appearance of the child in the house was warmly and cordially welcomed. The only thing that the artist has remained deprived of, being fully supported by his father, is inheritance rights. The early years of Leonardo passed serenely, surrounded by the picturesque mountain nature of Tuscany. He will carry his admiration and love for his native land through his whole life, perpetuating his beauty in his landscapes.
The peace and quiet of the provincial life ended with the family moving to Florence. Life began to play, they began to bustle with all the colors of a real metropolis of that time. The city was run by representatives of the Medici clan, known for their generosity of philanthropists who created ideal conditions for the development of arts on their patrimony.
During their reign, Florence became the cradle of the cultural and scientific revolution known as the Renaissance. Once here, young Leonardo was at the very center of events when the city was approaching the peak of its heyday and glory, the peak of greatness, of which the young artist became an integral part.
But greatness was ahead, but for now, the future genius just needed to get an education. Being an illegitimate son, he could not continue the work of his father, as well as becoming, for example, a lawyer or a doctor. Which, in general, didn’t hurt the fate of Leonardo.
From a very early age, the young man demonstrated outstanding artistic abilities. Pierrot could not ignore this when he made a decision regarding the fate of his only son. Soon, his father sent eighteen-year-old Leonardo to study at a very successful and advanced painting workshop. The instructor of the artist was the famous painter Andrea del Verocchio.
A talented and broadly minded sculptor and artist, Verocchio did not preach medieval aesthetic views, but tried to keep up to date. He was keenly interested in samples of ancient art, which he considered unsurpassed, in his work he sought to revive the traditions of Rome and Greece. Nevertheless, recognizing and respecting the progress, Verocchio made extensive use of the technical and scientific achievements of his time, thanks to which the painting was getting closer to realism.
Flat, sketchy images of the Middle Ages were moving away, giving way to the desire to fully imitate nature in everything. And for this it was necessary to master the techniques of linear and aerial perspective, to understand the laws of light and shadow, which meant the need to master mathematics, geometry, drawing, chemistry, physics and optics. Leonardo studied with Verocchio the basics of all exact sciences, while simultaneously mastering the techniques of drawing, modeling and sculpture, acquired skills in working with plaster, leather and metal. His talent was revealed so quickly and clearly that soon the young talent went far from his teacher in the skill and quality of painting.
Already at twenty years old, in 1472, Leonardo became a member of the honorable Florentine Guild of artists. And even the lack of his own workshop, which he acquired only a few years later, did not prevent him from starting his own path as an independent master. Despite the obvious engineering abilities and remarkable talent for exact sciences, society saw in the artist only an artisan who did not yet have great prestige. The ideals of freedom and creativity were still far away.
The fate of the artist of the XV century entirely depended on influential patrons. So throughout his life, Leonardo had to look for a place of service among the powerful, and the fulfillment of individual secular and church orders was based on the principle of a simple trade agreement.
The first ten years of the artist’s life passed in creative searches and work on a few orders. So far, once Leonardo heard a rumor that the Duke of Sforza, the ruler of Milan, needed a court sculptor. The young man immediately decided to try his hand.
The fact is that Milan at that time was one of the largest centers for weapons production, and Leonardo was immersed in his latest hobby – the development of drawings of original and ingenious machines and mechanisms. Therefore, the possibility of moving to the capital of engineering, he was very inspired. The artist wrote a letter of recommendation to the Duke of Sforza, in which he dared to offer himself as not only a sculptor, artist and architect, but also as an engineer, claiming that he could build ships, armored vehicles, catapults, guns and other military equipment. The duke was impressed by Leonardo’s self-confident letter, but only partially satisfied him: he was in the mood for the artist to be a sculptor. The first task of the new court sculptor was the manufacture of a bronze statue of a horse, designed to decorate the family crypt of Sforza. The funny thing is that due to various circumstances, for the seventeen years that Leonardo spent at the court of Milan, the horse was never cast. But the interest of young talent in military affairs, mechanics and technology in weapons workshops only grew. Almost all of Leonardo’s inventions date back to this period.
Throughout his life, the ingenious da Vinci has created numerous drawings of weaving, printing and rolling machines, metallurgical furnaces and a woodworking machine. He was the first to think of the idea of a helicopter screw, ball bearings, a slewing crane, a mechanism for driving piles, a hydraulic turbine, a device for measuring wind speed, a fire telescopic ladder, an adjustable wrench, and a gearbox. Leonardo developed models of various military vehicles – tanks, catapults, submarines. In his sketches there are prototypes of a spotlight of a diving bell, an excavator, a bicycle, and fins. As well as his most famous designs, based on a painstaking study of the technique of bird flight and the structure of the bird’s wing – an aircraft very similar to a hang glider, and a parachute.
Unfortunately, Leonardo was not able to see the embodiment of the vast majority of his ideas in life. The time has not yet come for them, there was no necessary raw materials and materials, the creation of which was also foreseen by the genius of the 15th century. All his life, Leonardo da Vinci had to put up with the fact that his grandiose designs too far ahead of the era. Only at the end of the XIX century, many of them will receive their implementation. And, of course, the master did not suspect that in the 20th and 21st centuries, millions of tourists will admire these inventions in special museums dedicated to his work.
In 1499, Leonardo left Milan. The reason was the seizure of the city by French troops led by Louis XII, the duke of Sforza, who had lost power, fled abroad. For the artist began a difficult period in his life. For four years, he constantly moved from place to place, nowhere for long without stopping. So far, in 1503, he, fifty, again had to return to Florence – the city where he once worked as a simple apprentice, and now, at the peak of skill and fame, he worked on the creation of his brilliant Mona Lisa.
True, he returned to Milan da Vinci, after several years of work in Florence. Now, he was there the court painter of Louis XII, who at that time controlled the entire Italian north. Periodically, the artist returned to Florence, fulfilling a particular order. Leonardo’s ordeals ended in 1513 when he moved to Rome to see the new patron, Giuliano Medici, the brother of Pope Leo X. For the next three years, da Vinci dealt mainly with science, orders for engineering developments and technical experiments.
Already at a very advanced age, Leonardo da Vinci moved again, this time to France, at the invitation of Francis I, who succeeded Louis XII on the throne. The rest of the life of the brilliant master passed in the royal residence, the castle of Lmboise, surrounded by the highest honor from the side of the monarch. The artist himself, despite the numbness of his right hand and constantly worsening state of health, continued to make sketches and engage students who replaced him with a family that was never created by the master during his lifetime.
Gift of observer and scientist
From early childhood, Leonardo had a rare observer talent. From an early childhood to the end of his life, an artist, fascinated by natural phenomena, could peer for hours at a candle flame, monitor the behavior of living beings, study the movement of water, plant growth cycles and the flight of birds. A lively interest in the world around him gave the master a lot of invaluable knowledge and the keys to many secrets of nature. “Nature has arranged everything so perfectly that everywhere you find something that can give you new knowledge,” said the master.
During his life, Leonardo made transitions through the highest alpine passes to explore the nature of atmospheric phenomena, traveled through mountain lakes and rivers to study the properties of water. Throughout his life, Leonardo carried with him a notebook in which he entered everything that attracted his attention. He attached particular importance to optics, believing that the eye of the painter is a direct tool of scientific knowledge.
Refusing to follow the path beaten by contemporaries, Leonardo looked for his own answers to the questions of harmony and proportionality of all things (the world around him and the man himself) that worried him. The artist realized that if he wants to capture the person himself and the world around him in his works without distorting their essence, he must study the nature of both of them as deeply as possible. Starting with observation of visible phenomena and forms, he gradually delved into the processes and mechanisms that govern them.
Mathematical knowledge helped the painter to understand that any object or object is a whole, which inevitably consists of many parts, the proportionality and proper location of which gives rise to what is called harmony. An incredible discovery of the painter was that the concepts of “nature”, “beauty” and “harmony” are inextricably linked with a specific law, following which absolutely all forms in nature are formed, starting from the farthest stars in the sky, and ending with flower petals. Leonardo realized that this law can be expressed in the language of numbers, and using it to create beautiful and harmonious works in painting, sculpture, architecture and any other field.
In fact, Leonardo was able to discover the principle by which the Creator of Genesis himself created this world. The artist called his discovery "Golden, or Divine Proportion." This law was already known to philosophers and creators of the ancient world, in Greece and Egypt, where it was widely used in a wide variety of art forms. The painter walked along the path of practice, and preferred to gain all his knowledge from his own experience of interaction with nature and the world.
Leonardo did not skimp on sharing his discoveries and achievements with the world. During his lifetime, he worked with the mathematician Luke Pocholi to create the book "Divine Proportion", and after the death of the master he saw the light of the Golden Section treatise, based entirely on his discoveries. Both books are written about art in the language of mathematics, geometry and physics. In addition to these sciences, the artist at different times was seriously interested in the study of chemistry, astronomy, botany, geology, geodesy, optics and anatomy. And all in order, in the end, to solve the tasks that he set himself in art. It was through painting, which Leonardo considered the most intellectual form of creativity, he sought to express the harmony and beauty of the surrounding space.
Life on canvas
Looking at the creative heritage of the great painter, you can clearly see how the depth of Leonardo’s penetration into the foundations of the foundations of scientific knowledge about the world filled his paintings with life, making them more and more true. It seems that with the people depicted by the master, you can easily have a conversation, objects painted by him, turn in your hands, and enter the landscape and get lost. In the images of Leonardo, mysterious and surprisingly realistic at the same time, depth and spirituality are evident.
To understand what Leonardo considered a real, living creation, you can draw an analogy with photography. Photography, in fact, is only a mirror copy, documentary evidence of life, a reflection of the created world, not able to achieve its perfection. From this point of view, the photographer is a modern embodiment of that of whom Leonardo said: “A painter, sketching senselessly, guided only by practice and the judgment of the eye, is like an ordinary mirror that imitates all objects opposed to it, not knowing anything about them.” A true artist, according to the master, while studying nature and recreating it on a canvas, must surpass it, "himself inventing countless forms of grass and animals, trees and landscapes."
The next step in mastery and the unique gift of man, according to Leonardo, is fantasy. “Where nature has already finished producing its species, man himself begins to create countless kinds of new things with the help of nature.” The development of imagination is the first and most basic thing that an artist should do, according to da Vinci, that is what he writes about on the pages of his manuscripts. In Leonardo’s lips it sounds like Truth with a capital letter, because he himself has repeatedly proved it with his whole life and creative heritage, including so many ingenious guesses and inventions.
The irrepressible desire for knowledge of Leonardo has touched almost all areas of human activity. During his life, the master was able to prove himself as a musician, poet and writer, engineer and mechanic, sculptor, architect and urbanist, biologist, physicist and chemist, connoisseur of anatomy and medicine, geologist and cartographer. The genius da Vinci found its application even in the creation of culinary recipes, the development of clothing, the compilation of games for palace entertainment and the design of gardens.
Leonardo could boast not only unusually versatile knowledge and a wide range of skills, but also an almost perfect appearance. According to contemporaries, he was a tall, handsome man, well-built and endowed with great physical strength. Leonardo sang perfectly, was a brilliant and witty storyteller, danced and played the lyre, had exquisite manners, was courteous and simply fascinated people with his presence alone.
Perhaps it was precisely this extraordinary nature of it in almost all spheres of life that caused such a cautious attitude of the conservative majority towards him, apprehensively accepting innovative ideas. For his genius and out-of-the-box thinking, he was repeatedly branded as a heretic and even accused of serving the devil. Apparently this is the destiny of all the geniuses who come to our world in order to break the foundations and lead humanity forward.
In word and deed, denying the experience of past generations, the great painter said that "the picture of the painter will be little perfect if he takes the paintings of others as an inspiration." This applied to all other areas of knowledge. Leonardo paid great attention to experience as the main source of ideas about man and the world. “Wisdom is the daughter of experience,” the artist said, it cannot be acquired just by studying books, because those who write them are just intermediaries between people and nature.
Each person is a child of nature and the crown of creation. He has uncountable possibilities of knowing the world, inextricably linked with every cell of his body. Through exploring the world, Leonardo knew himself. The question that torments many art historians is what interested Da Vinci more – painting or cognition? Who in the end was he – an artist, scientist or philosopher? The answer is essentially simple, like a true creator, Leonardo da Vinci harmoniously combined all these concepts in one. After all, you can learn to draw, be able to own a brush and paints, but this will not make you an artist, because real creativity is a special state of feelings and attitude towards the world. Our world will reciprocate, become a muse, discover its secrets and allow only truly loving him to penetrate the very essence of things and phenomena. From the way Leonardo lived, from everything that he did, it was obvious that he was a passionately in love person.
Images of the Madonna
The work "The Annunciation" (1472-1475, Louvre, Paris) was written by a young painter at the very beginning of his career. The painting depicting the Annunciation was intended for one of the monasteries not far from Florence. She generated a lot of controversy among researchers of the great Leonardo. Doubts relate in particular to the fact that the work is a completely independent work of the artist. I must say, such disputes around authorship are not uncommon for many works by Leonardo.
Performed on a wooden panel of impressive dimensions – 98 x 217 cm, the work shows the moment when Archangel Gabriel, who came down from heaven, tells Mary that she will give birth to a son, whom Jesus will call. It is traditionally believed that Mary at that time was reading the very passage of Isaiah’s prophecies, which mentions a future fulfillment. The scene is not accidentally depicted against the backdrop of a spring garden – the flowers in the hand of the archangel and under his feet symbolize the purity of the Virgin Mary. And the garden itself, surrounded by a low wall, traditionally refers us to the sinless image of the Mother of God, fenced off from the outside world by her integrity.
An interesting fact is associated with the wings of Gabriel. It is clearly distinguishable in the picture that they were finished later – an unknown artist lengthened them in a very crude painting style. The original wings that Leonardo depicted remained discernible – they are much shorter and, probably, were sketched by the artist from the wings of a real bird.
In this work, if you look closely, you can find several mistakes made by Leonardo, who was still inexperienced, in building a perspective. The most obvious of which is the right hand of Mary, visually located closer to the viewer than her entire figure. There is no softness in the draperies of clothes yet; they look too heavy and frozen, as if made of stone. Here we must take into account that this is what Leonardo taught his mentor Verocchio. This angularity and sharpness is characteristic of almost all the works of artists of that time. But in the future, on the way to finding his own picturesque realism, Leonardo will develop himself and lead all other artists.
In the painting “Madonna Litta” (circa 1480, the Hermitage, St. Petersburg), Leonardo managed to create an incredibly expressive female image using almost the only gesture. On the canvas we see a full of thoughtfulness, a tender and pacified mother, admiring her child, concentrating in this look the whole fullness of feelings. Without such a special inclination of the head, so characteristic of many works of the master, which he studied for hours creating dozens of preparatory drawings, much of the impression of boundless motherly love would have disappeared. Only the shadows in the corners of Maria’s lips hint at the possibility of a smile, but how much tenderness this gives to the whole face. In size, the work is very small, only 42 x 33 cm, most likely that it was intended for home worship. Indeed, in Italy of the 15th century, the picturesque images of the Madonna and Child were quite popular, they were often ordered by wealthy citizens. Presumably, “Madonna Litta” was originally written by a master for the rulers of Milan. Then, changing several owners, she moved to a private family collection. The modern name of the work comes from the name of Count Litta, who owned a family art gallery in Milan. In 1865, it was he who sold it to the Hermitage together with several other paintings.
In the right hand of the baby Jesus, a nestling almost invisible at first sight is hidden, serving in the Christian tradition as a symbol of the Son of God and His childhood. There are disputes around the canvas, caused by too clear contours of the picture and some unnatural posture of the child, which leads many researchers to assume that one of Leonardo’s students took an active part in creating the picture.
The first painting, in which the master’s talent was revealed, was the painting “Madonna in the Grotto” (circa 1483, Louvre Museum, Paris). The composition was ordered for the chapel altar in the Milanese church of St. Francis and was supposed to be the central part of the triptych. The order was divided between three masters. One of them created side panels with the image of angels for the altar image, the other – carved framing of the finished work of wood.
The clergy signed a very detailed contract with Leonardo. It stipulated the smallest details of the picture, down to the style and technique of performing all the elements and even the color of the clothes, from which the artist should not deviate one step. So, a work was born telling about the meeting of the baby Jesus and John the Baptist. The action takes place in the back of the grotto, in which the mother and son take refuge from the persecutors sent by King Herod, who saw in the Son of God a direct threat to his power. The baptist rushes to Jesus, clasped his hands in prayer, who, in turn, blesses him with a gesture of his hand. A silent witness to the sacrament is the angel Uriel, looking towards the viewer. From now on, he will be called to protect John. All four figures are so skillfully arranged in the picture that they seem to form a single whole. I want to call the whole composition “musical” with so much tenderness, harmony and smoothness in its characters, united by gestures and glances.
This work was given to the artist is very difficult. The time frame was strictly stipulated in the contract, but, as often happened with the painter, he could not keep within it, which entailed legal proceedings. After a long lawsuit, Leonardo had to write another version of this composition, which is now stored in the National Gallery of London, we know it as “Madonna in the Rocks”.
The famous fresco of the Milan monastery
Within the walls of the Milanese monastery of Santa Maria della Grazie, more precisely in its refectory, one of the greatest masterpieces of painting and the main national treasure of Italy are kept. The legendary fresco "The Last Supper" (1495-1498) occupies a space of 4.6 x 8.8 m, and describes a dramatic moment when, surrounded by disciples, Christ utters the sad prophecy "One of you will betray me."
The painter, who was always attracted to the study of human passions, wanted to capture ordinary people, not historical characters, in the images of the apostles. Each of them responds in its own way to the event. Leonardo set his task with the utmost realism to convey the psychological atmosphere of the evening, to convey to us the various characters of its participants, exposing their psychic world and conflicting experiences with the accuracy of a psychologist. In the variety of faces of the heroes of the picture and their gestures, there is a place for almost all emotions from surprise to furious anger, from confusion to sadness, from simple disbelief to deep shock. The future traitor Judas, whom traditionally all artists had previously been separated from the general group, sits in this work together with the others, clearly distinguishing himself with a gloomy expression and a shadow, as if enveloping his entire figure.Given the principle of the golden ratio that he discovered, Leonardo verified the location of each student with mathematical precision. All twelve apostles are divided into four almost symmetrical groups, highlighting the figure of Christ in the center. Other details of the picture are designed not to distract attention from the characters. So, the table is intentionally made excessively small, and the room itself, in which the meal takes place, is simple and simple.
Working on The Last Supper, Leonardo conducted an experiment with paints. But, unfortunately, he invented the composition of the soil and paint, for which he combined oil and tempera, was completely unstable. The consequence of this was that only twenty years after writing, the work began to rapidly and irreversibly deteriorate. The stable, which was arranged by Napoleon’s army in the room where the fresco was located, exacerbated the already existing problem. As a result, restoration work has been carried out on this monumental canvas almost from the beginning of its history to the present day, only thanks to which it is still possible to preserve it.
Having started his long life, Ciu Leonardo da Vinci created no more than twenty paintings, some of which remained unfinished. Such fertility, surprising at that time, did not alleviate customers, but the unhurriedness with which the master used to work on his paintings completely became a byword. Reminiscences of the monk of the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, who observed the work of the painter on the famous fresco "The Last Supper". Here is how he described Leonardo’s working day: in the early morning the artist climbed the forests erected around the painting, and could not part with his brush until late at night, completely forgetting about food and rest. But another time, he spent hours, days, looking closely at his creation, without applying a single smear. Unfortunately, despite all the efforts of the master,due to an unsuccessful experiment and materials, the fresco from the Milan monastery became one of the artist’s most powerful disappointments.
The mysterious Mona Lisa
For that, the painting "Mona Lisa" took a huge place in his life. From the moment of writing the famous canvas until the end of his life, Leonardo will be inseparable from him, as with his most precious treasure. What is the secret of that grand impression that this small-sized picture (only 77x53 cm) makes, millions of spectators have been wondering for centuries who have seen it at least once.
It is extremely surprising that in the recordings of Leonardo da Vinci there is not a single mention of this portrait. There is no information, neither who commissioned him to work on the canvas, nor who served as a model for him, nor how the process of its creation went. The artist, who has been recording all his life all his life, has never once mentioned an owl the greatest creation.
There is absolutely no documentary evidence, but the inquiring minds of specialists have extraordinarily far advanced in their guesses. At different times, the Duchess Matui Isabella d’Este, whose portraits Leonardo worked at that time, then a certain Florentine mistress named Pacifica Brandano, who was the mistress of the noble patron Giuliano Medici, became candidates for the heroine of the canvas. A number of researchers claim that there was no model at all, and Leonardo created the perfect collective image of a woman. Others are sure that he recreated from memory the features of his mother. Still others argue that this is a young man in women’s attire, a former student, and possibly a lover of the painter himself – Jnan Giacomo Kaproti, who has been with Leonardo for the past 26 years (by the way, it was the artist who bequeathed the painting to him). Well, the last, of the most popular versions,tells us that Mona Lisa is a self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci himself.
Absolutely all the guesses do not have any real evidence. There is also an official version. It states that the painting depicts the wife of the rich Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo – Lisa Gerardini. The exact date of the creation of the picture is also not known, it is believed that work on the Mona Lisa took place between 1503 and 1513. Presumably, the future “Mona Lisa”, and then just Lisa Gerardini, posed when she was about twenty-four years old. The prefix "mona", again, presumably, is nothing more than the abbreviation of the word "madonna", which in Italian means "lady, mistress."
The revived image
For the entire Renaissance, man was proclaimed the crown of nature, its most perfect creation. As a result, and in painting, which sought to imitate nature in everything, the ability to depict a person becomes a true indicator of the artist’s skill. Moreover, it was important to convey not only the characteristic features of the external appearance of the model. The most important was the ability to reveal the personality of the portrait. Here questions and searches begin, how to show the invisible, how to convey in the picture the temperament and hidden spiritual qualities inherent in the characters?
Leonardo, of course, had his own answer to these questions. The artist advised writing heroes with gestures that would reflect their state of mind. “If the figures don’t make certain gestures, and those that would express their souls by the members of the body, then these figures are twice dead: they are mostly dead because the painting itself does not live, but is only an expression of living objects without life, if the vitality of the movement (gesture) doesn’t join them, then they turn out to be dead one more time, ”the master considered.
At the same time, it is not necessary to resort to complex angles and intricate movements, the painter himself never did so. Leonardo was able to achieve the heights of mastery in creating the saturation and depth of the image with almost complete absence of external movement. The face of Mona Lisa is illuminated by a subtle smile that gives it some special expression. In a woman looking from a portrait, everything is simple, natural and at the same time very mysterious. She either thinks of something, or remembers something. Leonardo created, without exaggeration, a completely living face of a living person. He managed not to draw, but to recreate his model on canvas, revealing such a lively and inspired image that it is almost scary. It seems that not the viewer is looking at the Mona Lisa, but she herself looks at him with a deep, meaningful look. Many argue that,being in the same room with the picture, it seems that the look of "Mona Lisa" is always directed at the viewer, wherever he moves. Some also claim that Gioconda’s face changes, depending on how you look at her. It turns out that this is not a picture, but the real presence of a heroine created by the greatest genius of Leonardo da Vinci.
How did the painter manage to create such an amazing effect? How to make your own life a layer of paints on a flat surface of a wooden panel? What kind of magic did Leonardo use, using only a brush and a palette, so that millions of viewers believed in the “Mona Lisa”, as in real?!
Art historians have carefully studied the picture. If we talk about the technique of its execution, then it should be noted that the work is made of almost transparent, unusually thin layers of applied color that cover the original drawing. When the previous coating dried, the master imposed the following, and so, many, many times, showing enviable patience and virtuosity.
The result of such painstaking work, this unusually multi-layered painting, was such a smooth transition of some colors to others that the original contour lines of the picture seemed to be dissolved. And it is precisely this lack of boundaries between light and shadow that gently merge with each other and create a sense of living volume. Another incredible achievement of Leonardo was an unprecedented picture of the thickness of air unprecedented for painting at that time. The artist fills the space of the picture with a barely noticeable haze, thanks to which depth appears in the work.
This effect of haze, diffused soft light, Leonardo called the Italian term "sphumato". The brush strokes of the artist were so small that neither an x-ray nor a microscope made it possible to detect any traces of his work or to determine the number of layers of paint applied. For hundreds of years, many artists have tried to repeat Leonardo’s technique, but none of them succeeded. Until now, "Mona Lisa" is considered unsurpassed in terms of painting techniques.
And all this despite the fact that we have the opportunity to see a rather altered picture. The masterpiece of the great Leonardo has been for many years, during this time some changes have occurred, in particular in the color palette of the canvas. The first biographer of the painter Giorgio Vasari, who lived in the 16th century, in his descriptions of the work admires raspberry shades in the colors of the palette used to write the face of Lisa Gerardini. Today, nothing like this can be seen in the picture.
The color ratio in the picture was also affected by the varnish coatings, which after Leonardo were applied to the surface of the masterpiece to ensure its better preservation, and they also created a cloudy effect. Now we are looking at the image of a lady who seems to shine through the thickness of sea water. The composition of the painting also underwent changes – two columns were completely lost, which were previously located on the sides of the main figure. But these architectural elements completely changed the perception of the composition, because thanks to them it was immediately clear that the heroine of the picture was sitting on the balcony of the track, and was not at all suspended in space, as it sometimes seems.
Laws of harmony
When creating a masterpiece, Leonardo naturally used the law of the "golden ratio" he discovered. All elements of the picture are located in a strictly defined way. They follow the law of divine, harmonious proportion. The figure of the Mona Lisa is correlated with the rule of the "golden triangle" with mathematical precision, perfectly matching all parts of the regular star pentagon. From the point of view of the viewer, which distinguishes surrounding objects in form, this is very important, although not recognized by the person himself.
Very often, intuitively, we find attractive and are attracted to those forms that obey the law of proportion. Ancient sages and masters knew this, and modern scientists have proved experimentally. This law is valid not only for painting, but also for psychology, industrial design. The creation of forms and images for modern advertising is based on the law of harmony, we just don’t know about it and don’t think about it.
The magic of true art
You can write a lot about the magic and incredibility of Leonardo’s masterpiece, but words are just words, to understand what “Mona Lisa” is, you need to see it. Just by looking into her eyes, you can feel everything that art critics, critics and ordinary people write about her.
Unfortunately, photographs and reproductions erase life from the face of the Mona Lisa, and the magic of her image disappears without a trace. Photography gives only a general idea of the work, it is only a hindrance for those who want to enjoy communicating with living creations. Photography is only a mediator, like any reasoning about a masterpiece of numerous art historians. Not a single book will tell you about what the stationary Gioconda will personally tell you. As the great creator of the picture himself said: "Who can go to the source, should not go to the jug." No knowledge will help to feel, in communication with true, living works of art you need only your own mental sensitivity. In a meeting with "Mona Lisa" everyone will have to look for a clue to her secret. It’s proven that in different people it evokes a variety of feelings and associations,someone revives personal memories, someone suggests. Some Sure that it is sad, others that pensive, the third it seems crafty, and even sinister to someone. Well, someone will decide that she does not smile at all, and all her mystical mystery is fiction.
Reflection of the great Leonardo
A popular fact is that when Leonardo’s self-portrait is applied to the image of Mona Lisa, the upper part of the face will almost completely coincide with a scientific point of view. Art historians say that as the Creator put his soul into man, the painter puts a part of himself in his creation. Feeling how incredibly strongly he is literally connected with each of his own works, Leonardo da Vinci repeatedly argued that “the created figures very often resemble their masters. This happens because our judgment is what moves our hand in creating all the outlines of this figure. ”
Looking at a work of art, the observer not only sees what is depicted on it. The most important thing that happens is that he comes into contact with the inner world of the painter and recognizes himself. Perhaps, therefore, the restrained, almost ephemeral smile of Gioconda has been exciting the hearts and minds of people with its incomprehensibility for so much time? It senses all the wisdom of knowledge of the true nature of surrounding objects, accumulated by Leonardo da Vinci. Perhaps, through his beloved brainchild, the artist himself looks at us with a slight grin. It seems that all the experience of the world, embodied in the form of a woman, is collected in this small portrait. To penetrate into the secret of the Mona Lisa is the same as to comprehend the genius of its creator.
And in Rome, and in Milan, and in his last refuge, the French Amboise, Leonardo never parted with this canvas. And after his death, he bequeathed "Mona Lisa" to his assistant and student, who soon sold the painting to the ardent admirer and last patron of the master, the French king Francis I.
Entire generations of monarchs admired the painting at Versailles, until Louis XV ordered to move it to the vault of the palace. After the French Revolution, Napoleon moved the masterpiece to his private bedroom in the Tuileries Palace. Later, "Mona Lisa" came to the museums of Napoleon in the Louvre. Where she was abducted from on August 21, 1911. The kidnapper was an Italian who immeasurably revered the works of a great master, named Vincenzo. He dreamed of returning the canvas to the artist’s homeland and for almost three years hid a masterpiece in his own house. All this time, until his return to the Louvre, the Mona Lisa did not leave the covers of magazines and newspapers around the world. So, already at the beginning of the 20th century, “Mona Lisa” became the most recognizable work in the history of world art, and debates and discussions about it continue to this day.
Look at yourself
Renaissance artists used to place the image of themselves somewhere in the depths of the paintings on which they worked. Perhaps Leonardo was no exception and portrayed himself in the role of a young shepherd in the preparatory drawing for the painting “Adoration of the Magi”. Among other things, it is believed that he often captured his features in order to study the proportions of the human face. Nevertheless, all this is only speculation, which has no indisputable evidence. The only portrait of the artist whose authenticity is beyond doubt is “Self-portrait” (Royal Library, Turin), painted around 1515, measuring 33 x 21 cm, which is now printed in every illustrated publication dedicated to the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci.
One of the artists of the 16th century, Giovannp Lomazzo described him this way: "His head was covered with such long hair, and his brows were so thick and his beard so impressive that he seemed to be a true personification of the noblest scholarship that the ancient Prometheus and Druid Hermes used to be."
The master created his “Self-portrait” when he was already about sixty years old. Leonardo spent his whole life studying the world around him, nature and people, and now that his creative and life path was drawing to an end, the moment came to look at himself. The artist did this not just as they look in the mirror, but looked at himself from the perspective of an artist who can penetrate the deep essence of things and with confident movements of his hand capture what he sees and knows on a flat surface of a sheet.
This self-portrait, better than anything else, exposes the master not only to others, but, first of all, to himself. Leonardo sketched a few lines with a piece of red sanguine, but it seems he could not be more honest. Only youth is the time for narcissism, maturity is no longer needed. Before us appears a man with the gaze of a sage, his features are harsh and at the same time calm. His image does not look like a weary old man, but rather a genius with incredible inner strength, whose soul is still full of passion. Leonardo is serious, focused, and as if full of determination. This quick drawing was able to convey the finished image, to which there is nothing more to add. The fate of the picture for a long time was not known. It was discovered only at the end of the 19th century,when the Italian monarch Karl Albert of Savoy bought it from an unknown collector and transferred it to the Royal Library of Turin for storage.
The great Leonardo da Vinci died on May 2, 1519. Centuries later, the master remains a symbol of the unlimited aspirations of the human mind, a creator, a genius and a seer, endowed with almost superhuman abilities. All attempts to penetrate the secrets that the artist left as a legacy to people are akin to the desire to understand the essence of art itself, as the highest manifestation of man.
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