A drawing…A line: Leonardo da Vinci
“Heavenly influences can bring extraordinary gifts upon human beings; it is an effect of nature, but there is something supernatural in the overflowing accumulation of beauty, grace and power in the same man: wherever it is exercised, each of his gestures is so divine that everyone is eclipsed and it is clearly understood that it is a divine favor that owes nothing to human effort.» It is in these terms that the Life of Leonardo da Vinci, Florentine painter and sculptor (1568) of the historian Giorgio Vasari. Born in 1452 in Vinci near Florence died in 1519 to the Clos Lucé à Amboise, Leonardo da Vinci is a genius who has excelled in many fields: architecture, sculpture, painting, civil engineering, anatomy and science. Drawing is a constant practice for him. Objects of study, observation, analysis, take shape on paper: geographical maps, human expressions, fortresses, muscles and organs, instruments of war or music, battle scenes, biblical or mythological, landscapes known or invented. Thousands of annotated drawings in incomprehensible handwriting“traced backwards with the left hand…decipherable only with a mirror” as specified by Vasari.
Drawing is for him vital, essential, a constant need. All processes and materials pass through his hands: the silver lead, the black pencil, the pen, the white paper of the manuscripts, the orange, blue or grey leaves of his albums. The light is expressed by highlights of whites, the complexions are highlighted by sanguine while the wash suggests solids and voids. Many of these sheets are kept at the Department of Graphic Arts of the Louvre, to the Bristish Museum in London, to the Uffizi Museum in Florence or to the Royal Library of Turin. But the most beautiful set of the artist’s drawings comes from the Queen of England’s collection, more than 500 sheets kept at the Royal Library. Part of this exceptional fund will be displayed at the Musée du Louvre this autumn on the occasion of the major retrospective devoted to the master italian (scheduled from 24 October 2019 to 24 February 2020).
2019 is the year Da Vinci. Several institutions in France and in Italy are about to celebrate the 500 years old of the death of this prodigy who revealed some wise advice in his Painting Treaty. Drawing summarizes reasoned experience; drawing becomes the intimate extension of knowledge. A drawing of a human embryo with details of the uterus and placenta; the profile of a young man on horseback whose mastery of the feather, ink, black stone and wash allows a subtle rendering of the costume. Prepared blue paper and metal tip for a study of horses celebrating the muscles of this noble animal; prepared red paper and three colours for this delicate study of the arm of the Virgin. While these drawings show concentration and temporal attention, it cannot be forgotten that a few pen strokes are enough to capture a face: a succession of sharp hatching, a few rose loops and here we see the right profile of a young man. It is obvious that each drawing is a wonder. Admired, copied, inspired, Leonardo da Vinci’s life is nothing more than a succession of drawings.
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