Leonardo, 500 years of painting, engineering and… caricatures


On May 2, 1519, Leonardo da Vinci. On this occasion, we walk again through the versatility and modernity of his genius, studying the countless areas of research to which he dedicated himself: painting as well as architecture, engineering (civil as the military), science, up to some aspects, perhaps less known, such as the one linked to his passion for music or to his (very cruel) “grotesque heads”.

The first painting in which Leonardo’s hand is seen is the Baptism of Christ (now in the Uffizi of Florence), painted by Andrea Verrocchio (1435-1488) around 1475 for the church of San Salvi. It was the antiquarian Francesco Albertini to reveal, in the early Sixteenth century, that the silhouetted angel (below) was, of course, Leonardo’s. Vasari cited the source again, adding that the student, “though he were a young man,” painted an angel so wonderful as to exceed the figures of the master, “that it was the cause that Andrea never wanted to touch the colors again, angered that a child knew more than he did.” In the Verrocchio’s workshop, Leonardo would have started to experiment with oil painting, but so far the confirmation that the angel was his was given by the comparison with the other figures of the table: the foreshortening of the face more daring, the drawing of the features softer, the tonal contrasts more muted. Today, x-rays, however, have established that Leonardo finished in oil not only the angel, but Christ’s complexion, and some parts of the landscape. (Lauretta Colonnelli)

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