Beyond Invention: The Art of Leonardo da Vinci

Beyond Invention: The Art of Leonardo da Vinci
In 2011, London‘s National Gallery held an exhibition of the works of the legendary Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci. This showing elicited huge crowds and widespread critical acclaim, revealing Leonardo’s profound and persistent cultural and artistic relevance. We look back at this great figure and explore his revolutionary art.

When one thinks of Leonardo da Vinci, the first and most common conception is the huge variety of his inventions. He is also considered one of the finest and most important artists of all time. Da Vinci called himself ‘omo sanza lettere‘: ‘an expression of modesty’ – to mean that he did not get any education – and also of immodesty – to mean that his genius was genuinely unconstrained and ‘uneducated’.


Giorgio Vasari, Benvenuto Cellini, and many other Italian and French painters looked to him as a model. Michelangelo was his rival, but their different views now clearly show the two opposite natures of the Italian Renaissance. Da Vinci aimed at a natural and artistic harmony; he had a long and interesting life made up of travel, creation, and literature. In contrast, Michelangelo had a very tormented life: his art and poetry represent a different Renaissance, whose soul was already obscured by passion and disquiet.


Although Da Vinci gave an invaluable contribution to the Italian Renaissance, his free spirit and thinking pushed him away from Italy. He spent his last year in France, where his art and genius merited a superior treatment. This is also the reason why some of his masterpieces are now at the Louvre. In 2011, London’s National Gallery exhibited some of the works of this great artist. This showing offered a wide-ranging conception of Leonardo da Vinci. His paintings and drawings were displayed along with a good number of works by his followers. At this exhibition his famous portraits could be admired in all their beauty and a special place was given to a copy of his legendary ‘Last Supper’.


By Ilaria Mallozzi


Image courtesy: 1: WikiCommons