The works of Italian Renaissance Master Leonardo Leonardo (1452-1519) have enthralled the world for 500 years now. With advances in technology, new details of his methods continue to emerge. The latest edition of TASCHEN Book's massive Leonardo da Vinci: The Complete Paintings and Drawings by Frank Zollner coincides with the 550th anniversary of the Master’s birth, and is one of the most impressive studies of his work ever published.
For a man born in the 15th century, Leonardo lived a relatively long 67 year life. His accomplishments were so vast that scholars devote their entire lives to studying him. There are the masterpieces such as The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa of course, and his interest in science remains a topic of interest as well. It is science we have to thank for many of the revelations detailed in The Complete Paintings and Drawings.
With X-ray and infrared technology, scholars have discovered Leonardo treasures that have been literally “hidden” for centuries. These are the various “underdrawings” that were painted over. These abandoned pieces range from landscapes to human figures, painted over to produce the final works we are so familiar with.
These underdrawings have produced controversies of their own. Were they the work of the Master himself, or of his students? It is an ongoing question, and one which is certain to keep researchers busy for decades to come. With his interest in science, one can only imagine what Leonardo himself would have thought of this development. On one hand, he obviously did not intend for these preliminary efforts to be presented to the public, but on the other, he may have been impressed (on a purely scientific level) with the technology that made this possible.
One of the things that comes to mind when looking through The Complete Paintings and Drawings is how contemporary his art seems. Actually, “contemporary” is probably the wrong word, more to the point might be “timeless.” This may be because most of us have been exposed to his work all of our lives. In any introduction to art, children are shown such pieces such as the Mona Lisa as examples of the greatest art in history.