When you hear the word “Renaissance”, you probably start to think of magnificent architecture and paintings, different scientific experiments, and the rebirth of culture in general. Without a doubt, one of the most important figures of this period was Leonardo da Vinci, who has become a real symbol of Italian art and painting. He was a genius and left a great cultural heritage - sketches and paintings, sculptures, and brilliant ideas that inspire people even now, in the 21st century.
As for the painting, he is believed to have learned it himself. His life was a life of search and test, experiments and development. When you look at his works of art, you feel the character of a person, emotion, and essence. Leonardo played with light and texture, he depicted a human body with precision, created new compositions, and tried to represent 3D objects on a flat 2D surface. His curiosity and desire to reach perfection led to a great number of complex fine arts and a bunch of unfinished works. In this article, we will get closer to famous da Vinci artworks and take a look at the details and history behind them.
Lady with an Ermine
The woman depicted on Leonardo’s Lady with an Ermine was the mistress of the Duke of Milan. Leonardo was in service of Ludovico Sforza and therefore the painting is dated 1489 or 1490. Cecilia Gallerani was well-educated, she was good in literature and knew Latin. The painter managed to depict the beauty and youth of the 17 years old girl. There is something graceful and noble in her posture and tender in her gaze and hands holding ermine. The ermine itself was an emblem of the duke. And the skillfulness of its depiction is on top. It is also seen as a symbol of purity. Art historians also think this is a metaphor - Cecilia hold the ermine in hands, therefore the duke himself.
This artwork shows Leonardo’s deep knowledge in anatomy as every single body line and detail look lifelike. The background is black which makes you focus on the portrait of the lady, her soft facial lines, and fashion of those days.
The Last Supper
Among Leonardo da Vinci best works, The Last Supper appears to be the most symbolic one. Created especially for the Dominican cathedral in Milan, it was commissioned by Leonardo’s patron. With the help of light, shades, and precision the master recreated a famous scene. The background gives a sense of continuous perspective. It is also notable that the figure of Christ is depicted in the geometric center of the painting.
But the main task was to show the reactions of apostles on Christ's words about a traitor among them. The picture shows a storm of emotions: you can see it in poses, facial expressions, and gestures. The illustration of human nature is one of the most complex tasks and Leonardo succeeded in it.
This painting doesn’t need to be presented. Everyone knows it already. It has become a symbol of the mysterious nature of woman, her grace and beauty. The masterpiece is made in dark colors, and the master's patience in creating details is just striking.
Thin veil, realistic hair depiction, and stunning background make this artwork unique. Leonardo also used a sfumato technique while creating Mona Lisa - facial lines are not sharp, but on the contrary blurry and soft.
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Ginevra de' Benci
Ginevra de' Benci is one of the earliest works of Leonardo: he made it when he was around 20 years old. What’s so special about this portrait? The revolutionary technique in portraiture was represented by da Vinci. Previously, models’ faces were drawn in a profile, while the Italian master broke the tradition and started to depict models on a three-quarter view. The picture itself is believed to be cut, so its format is square.
Among the details of art, one should note: a woman is depicted without excessive jewelry; the fashion and hairstyle are traditionally Florentine; the fine texture of the hair is opposed to the harsh texture of the background flora. Nevertheless, the portrait is an iconic painting of all times that had an impact on future portraiture.
We cannot go by without leaving the famous, yet questionable painting - Salvator Mundi. It’s worth mentioning that lots of critics and historians do not believe it was made by da Vinci. The representation of posture was not typical of Leonardo’s previous works and the skillfulness in depicting face was not as high. Still, the painting is quite interesting. It shows Jesus wearing blue colored clothes which is traditional for the Renaissance. With his right hand he makes a cross gesture, while holding a transparent glass sphere in the left hand. The background though is pitch black which attracts attention to the figure itself.
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Head of a Woman
This painting is not colored, but it is as beautiful and fine as many others. The sketch of a face is done with every single detail. It is so sharp and focused that it contrasts to a blurry background and woman’s hair that seems to be floating. The artwork shows the tenderness and softness of a face: downcast eye, thin lips, and overall expression. The main element of this art is a play with light which highlights a face and shade which creates a contrast.