Tuesday, 11 January 2011

M/M Leonardo da Vinci: Master Draftsman

Image courtesy of the author. All rights reserved

Review by Nicola Linza

World famous for their sublime beauty and technical virtuosity, Leonardo's drawings were avidly sought by collectors even during his lifetime. In this day of being flooded with inferior music and art in the mass media it is without question that Leonardo da Vinci remains an icon of Italian art history and a pillar of Western civilization.

So much of his work has been sadly lost or is in an unfinished state, one key to his legacy is found in the body of his extant drawings and accompanying manuscript notes which have survived.

Yale University Press released a masterpiece publication published in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art to compliment the first comprehensive international loan exhibition of Leonardo's drawings in the United States. This book is the catalogue for the show held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from January 22 to March 30, 2003 and the Musée du Louvre, Paris, from April 28 to July 7, 2003.

This handsome volume offers a unified and fascinating portrait of Leonardo as a draftsman, integrating his diverse roles as an artist, scientist, inventor, theorist, and teacher. A chronological framework is also provided in order to shed light on his extraordinary life and career.

The essays and entries are brilliantly written by the world's leading Leonardo scholars. They survey the wide variety of drawing types that Leonardo used, and also examine a small group of works by artists critical to his artistic development in Florence and to his multifaceted activity in Milan.

This is an invaluable source of information on Leonardo. The Codex Leicester is examined as are the much copied studies of grotesques physiognomies. There is a discussion of Leonardo's drawings in Milan and their influence on the graphic work of Milanese artists providing useful clues to his enormous influence on those artists as well as the best artists of today. Leonardo's graphic oeuvre is examined as is his early drapery studies.

An impressive catalogue if that is what one could call this masterwork of publication it is a must for Italian art scholars and art connoisseurs period. This is no lightweight work at 512 pp. 50 b/w + 200 colorplates with detailed descriptions of 138 individual works surveying the wide variety of types within his portfolio of work. This is destined to be a highly sought after volume.