Published on [Permalink]
Reading time: 3 minutes
Posted in:

Recent Random Notes on 'The Last Leonardo' So Far

A rose-colored cloak smoky with sfumato

Leonardo wore a rose cloak, to the knees, shorter than was fashionable. A pink cap. People have diary entries about him, describing visits to his studio and seeing the Mona Lisa. Marginalia in a book in which someone took note he was working on the Mona Lisa in 1503.

Would flit between projects. A diary entry from someone saying he was working on something and then rushed to the Last Supper to paint a few lines in, and then left.

The Salvator Mundi: The lack of distortion/refraction in the orb, though there is some in the underpainting; but rather than a lack or mistake, this is probably so that it wouldn’t distract. (Bonus points. This is what I thought when I read that people criticized that the orb does not have reflections on its surface of the room. Picasso did something similar in my opinion in Family of Saltimbanques. The father’s hand behind his back is blurry, sketched in, because it shouldn’t be noticed; it’s unimportant.)

The sharpness of detail in the hand but a blurriness in the face; matches Leonardo’s instruction to pupils, and yet there is fine detail in the hair. The blue clue, as the author calls it: Depictions of Jesus at the time would invariably have him wearing a red tunic and blue robe. In this painting the clothing is only blue. The frontalness of the composition is also a problem, not the contraposto that Leonardo usually included and advised to pupils, and yet if it were for a patron it would likely be mandated to match devotional compositions of Christ.

Would start with dark paint and slowly build up glazes of lighter paint, whereas the usual technique was to start light and create shape with darker paint.

Had up to 15 apprentices at a time in a busy, rollicking studio, creating paintings of varying quality to fit different price ranges.

Lack of documentation with the restoration(s). The second restoration was an attempt to re-create the original, more than just filling in what was damaged, which was the focus of the first restoration.

There are problems with the provenance.

Though officially ascribed to Leonardo da Vinci and sold as such, some scholars ascribed it to “Leonardo and workshop” and a few as from a student after Leonardo’s death. There are about 20 other Salvator Mundis, apparently from his workshop, leading to the assumption that there was one by Leonardo himself that his assistants were copying.

Leonardo was “a dreamer, a doodler, and a dawdler.” Always questing for knowledge. Always a student.

Cover of The Last Leonardo, Audible version

Listening to: The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World’s Most Expensive Painting by Ben Lewis. Read by Peter Noble. 🎧 📚 (Audible)