Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Verocchio to Leonardo

The more clearly something approaches perfection, the more obvious its imperfections. The relative mediocrity of a work of art becomes exposed or imbalanced if an element of itself is of a distinctly higher excellence. The painting above, Verocchio's Baptism of Christ is to a large extent of interest due to the work of another hand on the painting, that other being the young Leonardo da Vinci, a student of Verocchio's. He is credited with the angel on the farthest left, and also the landscape above the angels' heads which is distinctly Leonardoesque, and would be echoed in later works such as the Mona Lisa. You can zoom in closer on the image, but unfortunately the resolution isn't high enough to do any real justice to the greatness of the art.

Verocchio is of course very famous in his own right and very far from mediocre, but look at the difference in the relatively heavy-handed rendering of John the Baptist's clothing compared to the drapery of Leonardo's far left angel. In a sense, the subject of the painting by which Leonardo's presence is announced on the artistic stage is extremely apt; it being the passing over from a strong and healthy, but ultimately more crude mode of being of the Baptist where man is bound by Law and obedience, to one of far deeper sublimity of consciousness of Jesus, and this movement into divinity echoed in the passing from the comparative crudeness of Verocchio's work to the perfection of Leonardo's.

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