2003-01-23 / Arts & Entertainment

Da Vinci Drawings Now On Exhibit At Met Museum

Da Vinci’s pioneering anatomical researches are documented in a drawings such as the one above of a human skull.Da Vinci’s pioneering anatomical researches are documented in a drawings such as the one above of a human skull.

The first comprehensive exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s (1453-1519) drawings ever presented in America, Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman, a landmark international loan exhibition, will bring together nearly 120 works by one of the most renowned masters of all time—the very embodiment of the Renaissance ideal of the universal genius.

On view at The Metropolitan Muse-um of Art now through March 30, Leo-nardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman will survey Leonardo’s staggering contribu-tion as artist, scientist, engineer, theorist, and teacher. Gathered from more than 25 private and public collections in Europe and North America–with unprecedented loans coming from the Royal Library of Windsor Castle, the Musée du Louvre, and the Gallerie dell’ Accademia in Venice–the exhibition will include many rarely exhibited works and an astounding variety of drawing types, reflecting virtually every aspect of the artist’s artistic and intellectual achievement. Of special importance are the numerous studies for some of his most famous paintings—including the Virgin and Child with St. Anne, the Adoration of the Magi, The Last Supper, and the now-lost Battle of Anghiari—as well as the extraordinary loan of the Vatican Museums’ St. Jerome Praying in the Wilderness, an unfinished painting that shows much of the artist’s original underdrawing.

Comprehensive in scope, the exhibition also features many of Leonardo’s celebrated anatomical and plant studies and designs for machines.

Philippe de Montebello, Director of the Metropolitan, commented on the exhibition:"Perhaps no other artist be-fore or after him has engendered such a wide-ranging appreciation for his gifts of eloquent observation, refinement of technique, and boundless intellectual curiosity. The selection of works vi-vidly illustrates the full spectrum of Leonardo’s astonishing output, from spontaneous notations of scientific principles to highly finished presentation drawings for his most acclaimed masterpieces."

Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawing, “The Head of a Virgin.”Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawing, “The Head of a Virgin.”

Leonardo da Vinci, Master Drafts-man will survey the rich variety of draw-ing types for his artistic projects—from quickly sketched primi pensieri (first thoughts) to highly finished preparatory and presentation drawings—as well as landscape, botanical, anatomical, and military engineering drawings of monumental expression.

Among the first highlights encountered in the exhibition will be a comparative presentation of the large finished studies of young women’s heads by Leonardo’s teacher, the Florentine master Andrea del Verrocchio (ca. 1435-88), whose style and techniques the young Leonardo closely imitated. These drawings—known since the 16th century as teste divine (divine heads) for their exquisite drawing technique and elegiac beauty of form—transcend their original function as exercises in drafts-manship.

The exhibition brings together some 12 compositional and figure studies believed to be related to Leonardo’s unfinished altarpiece of the Adoration of the Magi (Uffizi, Florence), one of his first independent commissions, begun in 1481. Also from the artist’s early maturity comes one of the exhibition’s most important objects— the panel painting of St. Jerome Praying in the Wilderness (Vatican, Vatican City). Left unfinished, like the Uffizi Adora-tion, it will provide visitors with an extraordinary glimpse into Leonardo’s creative process, as he moved from underdrawing to the realization of forms in paint.

The exhibition will also bring to-gether a group of drawings for the be-loved painting Virgin and Child with Saint Anne (Paris, Musée du Louvre), offering an opportunity to redefine the chronology and evolution of this complex late project. The magical study for the head of the Virgin (at left) also provides insight into the development of Leonardo’s innovative graphic tech-niques—most particularly his use of sfumato, an art-historical term created to describe his seamless blending of tone in the manner of smoke.

His pioneering anatomical researches are documented in a double-sided sheet of studies of the human skull (Royal Library, Windsor Castle), based on direct observation and rendered in ex-quisitely fine parallel hatchings, and a drawing, inscribed "Tree of Veins" (also from Windsor Castle), illustrating the main organs relating to the blood vessels.

The exhibition will also be featured on the Museum’s Web site, www.metmuseum.org. For more information call (212) 535-7710.

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