Sunday, 27 April 2008

Leonardo



What a shame Leonardo wasted so much of his artistic genius, leaving behind a mere handful of works, some because of ill-judged scientific pioneering, ruined, like The Last Supper. There is a divinity to Leonardo's work that is of an order perhaps beyond all others, an aristocratic spiritual essence which makes his concern with producing fighting machines and the like somewhat puzzling. Which reminds me of Tarkovsky's final film, The Sacrifice, where another of Leonardo's unfinished masterworks plays a prominent supporting role- The Adoration of the Magi below, and a lead character, a strange mystic postman, says he has always been terrified of Leonardo. Perhaps there is something at times bordering on the repulsive, the fallen angel in his most mysterious creations, though certainly not in the bottom image. The occasional hint or sense of beauty threatening to spill over into decadence, such as his John the Baptist below- not a work I'm particularly gone on. Like Michelangelo, Leonardo's beings are also not of this world, archetypes who aspire to embody the mystery of being in its elusive fullness, but unlike Michelangelo's 'larger than life' creations who are in truth less than life, Leonardo's are 'alive', autonomous beings set free from their origin as mere two-dimensional illusions. Incidentally if I was to have one Leonardo image, it would probably be the uppermost image, the Saint Anne, Virgin and child and Saint John , unfinished as it typically is.

4 comments:

elberry said...

His drawings and sketches are his best, i think. It's an odd irony that often the least valued of an artist or writer's stuff lasts longest. So Shakespeare seemingly discarded his plays without a thought, but went to great trouble about his Sonnets. Not that the Sonnets aren't great but compared to Hamlet or Lear...

Andrew K said...

I'd be very slow to criticise his paintings. I haven't shown it but his Madonna of the Rocks is basically perfect...no, while I think drawing often is an underrated artform, I think Leonardo had absolute mastery of the art of painting. His problem was his decision not to devote his energies more sparingly in the artistic direction. I don't think his scientific achievements can seriously compare to what he'd have achieved if he'd worked more exclusively in the artistic field, though people tend to be in awe of the idea of the idea of the genius he embodies rather than his actual finished works. Who really gives a shit if he produced ideas for tanks & submarines?

Anonymous said...

Leonardo followed his instincts and he has no reason to apologise for not doing more paintings. You will often find that if someone excels at something, and then repeats it often, the dramatic effect becomes diluted. Perhaps Leonardos paintings were so good, partly because he would only devote certain amounts of his time to it, as opposed to doing the same thing day after day. Quality rather than quantity

Andrew K said...

Leonardo finished very few works, & naturally the quality of unfinished works is less than finished ones, such as The Adoration of the Magi. It can't really be argued that he left a whole lot to show for his artistic genius. And comparatively producing ideas for instruments of war seems a strange use of his talents, & overall his scientific importance is minimal compared to his artistic one. Doesn't mean he was wrong to be fascinated intellectually with the external world, but his actual achievements given his staggering genius are much less than claimed, in real terms.