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LEONARDO

(Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519) Skip to Images

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From "Sister Wendy's Story of Painting":

LEONARDO: RENAISSANCE POLYMATH

"There has never been an artist who was more fittingly, and without qualification, described as a genius. Like Shakespeare, Leonardo came from an insignificant background and rose to universal acclaim. Leonardo was the illegitimate son of a local lawyer in the small town of Vinci in the Tuscan region. His father acknowledged him and paid for his training, but we may wonder whether the strangely self-sufficient tone of Leonardo's mind was not perhaps affected by his early ambiguity of status. The definitive polymath, he had almost too many gifts, including superlative male beauty, a splendid singing voice, magnificent physique, mathematical excellence, scientific daring ... the list is endless. This overabundance of talents caused him to treat his artistry lightly, seldom finishing a picture, and sometimes making rash technical experiments.The Last Supper, in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, for example, has almost vanished, so inadequate were his innovations in fresco preparation.

"Yet the works that we have salvaged remain the most dazzlingly poetic pictures ever created. The Mona Lisa has the innocent disadvantage of being too famous. It can only be seen behind thick glass in a heaving crowd of awe-struck sightseers. It has been reproduced in every conceivable medium; it remains intact in its magic, forever defying the human insistence on comprehending. It is a work that we can only gaze at in silence.

"Leonardo's three great portraits of women all have a secret wistfulness. This quality is at its most appealing in Cecilia Gallarani, at its most enigmatic in the Mona Lisa, and at its most confrontational in Ginevra de' Benci. It is hard to gaze at the Mona Lisa because we have so many expectations of it. Perhaps we can look more truly at a less famous portrait, Ginevra de' Benci. It has that haunting, almost unearthly beauty peculiar to Leonardo da Vinci.

 

A WITHHELD IDENTITY

"The subject of Ginevra de' Benci has nothing of the Mona Lisa's inward amusement, and also nothing of Cecilia's gentle submissiveness. The young woman looks past us with a wonderful luminous sulkiness. Her mouth is set in an unforgiving line of sensitive disgruntlement, her proud and perfect head is taut above the unyielding column of her neck, and her eyes seem to narrow as she endures the painter and his art. Her ringlets, infinitely subtle, cascade down from the breadth of her gleaming forehead (the forehead, incidentally, of one of the most gifted intellectuals of her time). These delicate ripples are repeated in the spikes of the juniper bush.

"The desolate waters, the mists, the dark trees, the reflected gleams of still waters - all these surround and illuminate the sitter. She is totally fleshly and totally impermeable to the artist. He observes, held rapt by her perfection of form, and shows us the thin veil of her upper bodice and the delicate flushing of her throat. What she is truly like she conceals; what Leonardo reveals to us is precisely this concealment, a self-absorption that spares no outward glance.

 

INTERIOR DEPTH

"We can always tell a Leonardo work by his treatment of hair, angelic in its fineness, and by the lack of any rigidity of contour. One form glides imperceptibly into another (the Italian term is sfumato), a wonder of glazes creating the most subtle of transitions between tones and shapes. The angel's face in the painting known as the Virgin of the Rocks in the National Gallery, London, or the Virgin's face in the Paris version of the same picture, have an interior wisdom, an artistic wisdom that has no pictorial rival.

"This unrivaled quality meant that few artists actually show Leonardo's influence: it is as if he seemed to be in a world apart from them. Indeed he did move apart, accepting the French King Francis I's summons to live in France. Those who did imitate him, like Bernardini Luini of Milan (c. 1485-1532), caught only the outer manner, the half-smile, the mistiness.

"The shadow of a great genius is a peculiar thing. Under Rembrandt'sshadow, painters flourished to the extent that we can no longer distinguish their work from his own. But Leonardo's was a chilling shadow, too deep, too dark, too overpowering."

- From "Sister Wendy's Story of Painting", by Sister Wendy Beckett

 

 LEONARDO_ST_ANNE

LEONARDO da Vinci The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne 1510 Oil on wood 168 x 130 cm (5 1/2 x 4 1/2 ft.) Musee du Louvre, Paris

 LEONARDO_ROCKS

LEONARDO da Vinci The Virgin of the Rocks 1503-1506 Oil on wood 189.5 x 120 cm (6 x 4 ft.) National Gallery, London

 LEONARDO_proports

LEONARDO da Vinci Study of proportions from Vitruvius's De Architectura Pen and ink 34.3 x 24.5 cm (13 1/2 x 9 5/8 in.) Accademia, Venice

 LEONARDO_MONALISA

LEONARDO da Vinci Mona Lisa 1503-1506 Oil on wood 77 x 53 cm (30 x 20 7/8 in.) Louvre, Paris

 LEONARDO_MAGI

LEONARDO da Vinci The Adoration of the Magi 1481-1482 Yellow ochre and brown ink on panel 246 x 243 cm (8 x 8 ft.) Uffizi, Florence

 LEONARDO_MADONNA_LITTA

LEONARDO da Vinci Madonna Litta c. 1490-91 Tempera on canvas, transferred from panel 16 1/2 x 13 in. (42 x 33 cm) Hermitage, St. Petersburg

 LEONARDO_leonardo_warrior

LEONARDO da Vinci Head of a Warrior Study for "The Battle of Anghiari" c. 1504-06 Red pencil on cream-colored paper 22.7 x 18.6 cm (9 x 7 3/8 in) Szepmuveszeti Museum, Budapest

 LEONARDO_leonardo_virginuk_d

Leonardo da Vinci The Virgin of the Rocks Detail of Virgin 1503-1506 Oil on wood 189.5 x 120 cm (6 x 4 ft.) National Gallery, London

 LEONARDO_leonardo_virgin_d2

Leonardo da Vinci The Virgin of the Rocks Detail 1483-86 Oil on panel 77 5/8 x 47 5/8 in (199 x 122 cm) Musee du Louvre, Paris

 LEONARDO_leonardo_virgin_d1

Leonardo da Vinci The Virgin of the Rocks Detail 1483-86 Oil on panel 77 5/8 x 47 5/8 in (199 x 122 cm) Musee du Louvre, Paris

 LEONARDO_leonardo_virgin

Leonardo da Vinci The Virgin of the Rocks 1483-86 Oil on panel 77 5/8 x 47 5/8 in (199 x 122 cm) Musee du Louvre, Paris

 LEONARDO_leonardo_tetracendron

LEONARDO da Vinci Geometric Figure: Tetracendron elevatus vacuus Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan

 LEONARDO_leonardo_study_supper

LEONARDO da Vinci Study for the Composition of the Last Supper Accademia, Venice

 LEONARDO_leonardo_stanne_cartoon

Leonardo da Vinci The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and the Young St. John the Baptist c. 1501 Charcoal and touches of white on paper 55 3/4 x 41 1/4 in (141.5 x 104.6 cm) National Gallery, London

 LEONARDO_leonardo_self-portrait

LEONARDO da Vinci Self-Portrait c. 1512 Red chalk 33.3 x 21.3 cm (13 1/8 x 8 3/8 in) Biblioteca Reale, Turin

 LEONARDO_LEONARDO_REARING_HORSE

LEONARDO da Vinci Rearing Horse c. 1483-1498 Red chalk 15.3 x 14.2 cm (7 1/8 x 5 5/8 in) Windsor Castle, the Royal Library

 LEONARDO_leonardo_musician

Leonardo da Vinci The Musician c. 1485 Oil on panel 16 3/4 x 12 1/8 in (43 x 31 cm) Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan

 LEONARDO_LEONARDO_MUSCLES

LEONARDO da Vinci Muscles of the neck and shoulders c. 1515 Pen and ink, black chalk, wash 29.2 cm (11 1/2 in) high Anatomical Studies, fol. 137v Windsor Castle, the Royal Library

 LEONARDO_leonardo_mona_d

Leonardo da Vinci Mona Lisa Detail c. 1503-4 Oil on wood 77 x 53 cm (30 x 20 5/8 in.) Musee du Louvre, Paris

 LEONARDO_leonardo_lastsup_d3

Leonardo da Vinci The Last Supper Detail of Matthew 1498 Fresco 460 x 880 cm (15 x 29 ft.) Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie (Refectory), Milan

 LEONARDO_leonardo_lastsup_d2

Leonardo da Vinci The Last Supper Detail of Philip 1498 Fresco 460 x 880 cm (15 x 29 ft.) Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie (Refectory), Milan

 LEONARDO_leonardo_lastsup_d1

Leonardo da Vinci The Last Supper Detail of Christ 1498 Fresco 460 x 880 cm (15 x 29 ft.) Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie (Refectory), Milan

 LEONARDO_leonardo_jerome

Leonardo da Vinci St. Jerome c. 1480 Tempera and oil on panel 40 1/8 x 29 1/4 in. (103 x 75 cm) Musei Vaticani, Rome

 LEONARDO_leonardo_isabella

LEONARDO da Vinci Portrait of Isabella d'Este 1499 Pierre noire with red chalk and yellow pastel 63 x 46 cm (24 7/8 x 18 1/8 in) Musee du Louvre, Paris

 LEONARDO_leonardo_head_body

Leonardo da Vinci study of the porportions of the head and body Windsor Castle, Royal Library, London

 LEONARDO_LEONARDO_HEAD

LEONARDO da Vinci Head of a Woman Drawing Musee Bonnat, Bayonne

 LEONARDO_leonardo_grotesque

LEONARDO da Vinci Study of Grotesque Heads c. 1490 The Royal Library, Windsor Castle

 LEONARDO_leonardo_ginevra_d2

Leonardo da Vinci Portrait of Ginevra Benci Detail of face 1474-1476 Oil on wood 42 x 37 cm (16 1/2 x 14 1/2 in.) National Gallery of Art, Washington

 LEONARDO_leonardo_ginevra_d1

Leonardo da Vinci Portrait of Ginevra Benci Detail of landscape 1474-1476 Oil on wood 42 x 37 cm (16 1/2 x 14 1/2 in.) National Gallery of Art, Washington

 LEONARDO_leonardo_giant_cannon

LEONARDO da Vinci Drawing depicting the casting of giant cannon The Royal Library, Windsor Castle

 LEONARDO_leonardo_ermine_d

Leonardo da Vinci Lady with an Ermine Detail of ermine 1489-1490 Oil on wood 54.8 x 40.3 cm (21 3/8 x 15 3/4 in.) Czartoryski Collection, Kracow

 LEONARDO_leonardo_duodecendron

LEONARDO da Vinci Geometric Figure: Duodecendron elevatus vacuus Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan

 LEONARDO_leonardo_dreyfus

Leonardo da Vinci The Dreyfus Madonna (The Madonna with a Pomegranate) c. 1469 Oil on panel 6 1/8 x 5 in (15.7 x 12.8 cm) National Gallery of Art, Washington

 LEONARDO_leonardo_distance

LEONARDO da Vinci Distance from the Sun to the Earth and the size of the Moon Cod. Leicester, fol. 1v Royal Library, Windsor Castle

 LEONARDO_leonardo_closed_eyes

LEONARDO da Vinci Head of a Woman Uffizi, Florence

 LEONARDO_leonardo_cats

LEONARDO da Vinci Study of Cat Movements and Positions The Royal Library, Windsor Castle

 LEONARDO_leonardo_benois

LEONARDO da Vinci Benois Madonna c. 1478 Oil on canvas, transferred from panel 19 1/2 x 12 1/2 in (49.5 x 31.5 cm) Hermitage, St Petersburg

 LEONARDO_LEONARDO_BELLE

LEONARDO da Vinci Portrait of a Lady from the Court of Milan, called La Belle Ferronniere 1490-95 Oil on wood 63 x 45 cm (24 3/4 x 17 3/4 in.) Musee du Louvre, Paris

 LEONARDO_leonardo_baptist

LEONARDO da Vinci John the Baptist 1513-16 Wood 27 1/4 x 22 1/2 in (69 x 57 cm) Musee du Louvre, Paris

 LEONARDO_leonardo_annunc

Leonardo da Vinci The Annunciation c. 1472-1475 Oil and tempera on panel 38 1/4 x 84 5/8 in. (98 x 217 cm) Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

 LEONARDO_leonardo_anghiari

LEONARDO da Vinci Sketches for "The Battle of Anghiari" Accademia, Venice

 LEONARDO_lastsupp_apostles

LEONARDO da Vinci The Last Supper (with Apostles labelled) (after cleaning) 1498 Tempera on plaster 460 x 880 cm (15 x 29 ft.) Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie (Refectory), Milan

 LEONARDO_LASTSUPP

LEONARDO da Vinci The Last Supper (after cleaning) 1498 Tempera on plaster 460 x 880 cm (15 x 29 ft.) Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie (Refectory), Milan

 LEONARDO_HEAD

LEONARDO da Vinci Head of a Young Woman Accademia, Venice

 LEONARDO_GINEVRA

LEONARDO da Vinci Portrait of Ginevra Benci 1474-1476 Oil on wood 42 x 37 cm (16 1/2 x 14 1/2 in.) National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

 LEONARDO_ERMINE

LEONARDO da Vinci Lady with an Ermine 1483-1490 Oil on wood 53.4 x 39.3 cm (21 x 15 1/2 in.) Czartoryski Museum, Cracow

leonardo_The_Virgin_of_the_Rocks

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. The Virgin of the Rocks. 1506-1508. Oil on wood. National Gallery, London, UK

leonardo_Portrait_of_a_Young_Man_(Portrait_of_the_Musician_Franchino_Guffurio?)

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Portrait of a Young Man (Portrait of the Musician Franchino Guffurio?). c.1490. Oil on wood. Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan, Italy.

leonardo_St _John_the_Baptist

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. St. John the Baptist. c.1513-1516. Oil on wood. Louvre, Paris, France

leonardo_Madonna_Benois

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Madonna Benois. c. 1475-1478. Oil on canvas, transferred from panel. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

leonardo_Madonna_Litta

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Madonna Litta. c. 1490. Oil on panel, transferred to canvas. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

leonardo_Self-Portrait

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Self-Portrait. 1512. Red chalk on paper. Biblioteka Reale, Turin, Italy

leonardo_Madonna_with_the_Carnation

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Madonna with the Carnation. c.1475. Oil on wood. Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany.

leonardo_Antique_Warrior

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Antique Warrior. c. 1472. Metalpoint on prepared paper. British Museum, London, UK

leonardo_Arno_Landscape

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Arno Landscape. 1473. Pen and ink over a partially erased pencil sketch. Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

leonardo_St _Hieronymus

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. St. Hieronymus. c.1480-1482. Oil on wood. Vaticano, Pinacoteca Apostolica Vaticano, Rome

leonardo_Drawing_of_a_Flying_Machine

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Drawing of a Flying Machine. c.1486. Pen and ink on paper. Bibliotheque de l'Institut de France, Paris, France.

leonardo_Madonna_of_the_Rocks

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Madonna of the Rocks. 1482-1486. Oil on wood. Louvre, Paris, France

leonardo_Battle_Cart_with_Mobile_Scythes

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Battle Cart with Mobile Scythes. c. 1485. Pen and ink with wash on paper. Biblioteca Reale, Turin, Italy

leonardo_The_Proportions_of_the_Human_Figure_(Vitruvian_Man)

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. The Proportions of the Human Figure (Vitruvian Man). 1490. Pen, ink and watercolour over metalpoint. Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice, Italy

leonardo_Head_Measured,_and_Horsemen

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Head Measured, and Horsemen. c.1490 and 1504. Pen, ink and red chalk on paper. Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice, Italy.

leonardo_Two_Views_of_the_Skull

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Two Views of the Skull. 1489. Pen, ink over black chalk on paper. Windsor Castle, Windsor, UK.

leonardo_Coition_of_Hemisected_Man_and_Woman

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Coition of Hemisected Man and Woman. c.1492. Pen and ink on paper. Windsor Castle, Windsor, UK

leonardo_Five_Grotesque_Heads

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Five Grotesque Heads. c.1490. Pen and ink on paper. Windsor Castle, Windsor, UK.

leonardo_Portrait_of_an_Unknown_Woman_(La_Belle_Ferroniere)

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Portrait of an Unknown Woman (La Belle Ferroniere). c.1490. Oil on wood. Louvre, Paris, France.

leonardo_Grotesque_Portrait_Study_of_Man

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Grotesque Portrait Study of Man. c. 1500-1505. Black chalk on paper. Oxford, The Governing Body, Christ Church, UK.

leonardo_Bird's-Eye_View_of_a_Landscape

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Bird's-Eye View of a Landscape. 1502. Pen, ink and watercolour on paper. Windsor Castle, Windsor, UK.

leonardo_Madonna_of_the_Yarnwinder

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Madonna of the Yarnwinder. 1501. Oil on wood. Private collection.

leonardo_Virgin_and_Child_with_St

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Virgin and Child with St. Anne. c.1502-1516. Oil on wood. Louvre, Paris, France

leonardo_1603

Leonardo

Leonardo

Unknown artist before 1550 and Peter Paul Rubens c. 1603. Copy of the Battle of Anghiari by Leonardo. 1550-1603. Black chalk and ink heightened with lead white, over-painted with watercolour. Louvre, Paris, France.

leonardo_Copy_of_Leda_and_the_Swan_by_Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo

Cesare da Sesto(?). Copy of Leda and the Swan by Leonardo. c.1505-1510. Oil on wood. Earl of Pembroke, Wilton House, Salisbury, UK

leonardo_The_Neck_and_Shoulder_of_a_Man

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. The Neck and Shoulder of a Man. c.1509-1510. Pen and ink on paper. Windsor Castle, Windsor, UK.

_

Leonardo

Leonardo

N/A

leonardo_John_the_Baptist_(with_the_attributes_of_Bacchus)

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. John the Baptist (with the attributes of Bacchus). c. 1513-1516. Oil on canvas, transferred from panel. Louvre, Paris, France

leonardo_The_Baptism_of_Christ

Leonardo

Leonardo

Andrea del Verrocchio and Leonardo da Vinci. The Baptism of Christ. c.1472-1475. Oil and tempera on wood. Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

leonardo_The_Annunciation

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. The Annunciation. c. 1472-1475. Oil and tempera on wood. Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

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Leonardo

Leonardo

N/A

leonardo_The_Last_Supper

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. The Last Supper. c.1495-1498. Oil and tempera on plaster. Santa Maria delle Grazie, Refectory, Milan, Italy

leonardo_Adoration_of_the_Magi

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Adoration of the Magi. 1481-1482. Oil on wood. Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

leonardo_Burlington_House_Cartoon_(Mary,_Christ,_St

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Burlington House Cartoon (Mary, Christ, St. Anne and the Infant St. John). 1499 (?). Chalk on paper. National Gallery, London, UK

leonardo_Mona_Lisa_(La_Gioconda)

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Mona Lisa (La Gioconda). 1503-1506. Oil on wood. Louvre, Paris, France

leonardo_Portrait_of_Ginevra_de'Benci

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Portrait of Ginevra de'Benci. c.1478-1480. Oil and tempera on wood. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA

leonardo_Portrait_of_Cecilia_Gallerani_(Lady_with_an_Ermine)

Leonardo

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci. Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (Lady with an Ermine). c.1490. Oil on wood. Czartorychi Muzeum, Cracow, Poland