Strokes of Genius: Leonardo da Vinci

F324520c-b45f-11e7-9efb-9d82974ed00c-780x1173Dmitri Levitin at Literary Review:

Indeed, the book at points reads almost like an enthusiast’s attempt to catalogue everything Leonardo ever did. This is by no means a bad thing. Isaacson is up to speed with the latest discoveries, from the definitive identification of Leonardo’s mother earlier this year, to the relatively early drawing of St Sebastian that was brought to a small French auction house in 2016, to the results of the infrared analyses that have helped date the two different versions of The Virgin of the Rocks. He does a good job of reminding readers that Renaissance art was almost always collaborative and of explaining how workshop collaboration actually worked. Above all, he conveys well the sense of his subject as an irrepressible perfectionist who could almost never finish the projects that hopeful patrons kept commissioning – among them the huge equestrian statue for Ludovico Sforza of Milan, the vast painting of the Battle of Anghiari for what is now the Palazzo Vecchio during his second period in Florence, and a scheme to divert the River Arno.

Perhaps most illuminating is Isaacson’s comparison of Leonardo’s theoretical statements about painting in his notebooks with their application in those artworks that have survived. Isaacson’s own art historical analyses are bold and he goes so far as to disagree with renowned specialists.

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