Leonardo da Vinci…Not That Great After All…

(L’uomo vitruviano, 1490)

So, Leonardo da Vinci…

The great Renaissance man? The genius? The artist, inventor, poet, researcher? Or the lazy rich boy who coasted through the years, living in comfort with servants and being trained by some of the masters of the time?

I think the latter description suits him better…

First I must say that I do think he was a great illustrator and painter. No doubt. But I also must ask myself, how many other young students of art also painted as good…or better…than the famous Tuscan? If other young lads would have had the same opportunity to train with the great Master Andrea del Verrocchio, like Leonardo had, thanks to his rich father, I am sure they too would have created incredible works of art.

(Andrea Verrocchio)

Leonardo da Vinci hardly ever finished what he started. When he found the going rough, he abandoned the project. The famous fresco «The Last Supper», which he painted on the wall of the refractory of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the church and convent of the Dominican Order in Milan, has had to be restored many times because it was painted using tempera and now little of the original remains. What kind of artist…with the experience of Leonardo…would be so careless?

Leonardo left many paintings unfinished, not only the «Monna Lisa» (which I will return to promptly), but «The Virgin and Child with St. Anne», «Saint Jerome in the Wilderness», «The Adoration of the Magi» as well as many other projects. All of his inventions were left unfinished and none of them would have worked had they ever been built, which they were not. Actually Duke Ludovico Sforza only engaged Leonardo to make entertaining objects, and such that could be used for decoration. The equestrian statute he commissioned from him was never even started, it remained as a sketch.

One of his greatest failures was the fresco of The Battle of Anghiari (1505) which he was commissioned to paint on the walls of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence ,and which he never painted. Leonardo, (the great innovator?), tried to paint with oil but placed a much too thick undercoat with wax and when he applied the colours they began to drip and he gave up and abandoned the project.

(Peter Paul Rubens’s (1603) The Battle of Anghiari)

So, in conclusion…and in my opinion…Leonardo da Vinci was no greater…and much lesser…than his contemporaries, great artists, who truly worked hard, like: Michelangelo, Raphael, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Donatelo, and the master of masters, Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect/engineer/artist that truly kicked off the Renaissance in Italy.

Reference Monna Lisa

I look at it as a little painting of not much importance to me. I looked at it (when I visited Le Louvre) for less than a second and the painting did not really catch my eye. It is small, 77 x 53 centimetres and not very interesting. I would say it is a second rate portrait. Well, then why is it so famous? Because it was stolen and remained missing for two years and during that time it received a lot of press, making the painting famous…

(Monna Lisa, 1503-1519)

Can anyone really say that this painting, Monna Lisa, is better than this one:

(La dama del armiño, 1489-1491)

Now it is your turn to tell me what you think.


And I do think he was a great artist, a great illustrator but he did not really pay too much attention to his craft and gave up too quickly when things went wrong…

(His supposed Self-Portrait)


19 Comentarios

  1. janetsm dice:

    Your perspective has given me something to think about.

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    1. I really think that most of Art History…and the artists which hang in museums…needs to be re-examined. Thank you Janet.

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  2. spwilcen dice:

    I begin to wonder what Francisco Cabrera would have to say critically about that Bodo Vespaciano guy with all his improvizations and experimentation, which one might allow incorporate a number of unfinished and even failed projects? Hmm?

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    1. I would probably say the same thing, but Bodo doesn’t have a reputation for being lazy, does he? And, oh, yes, failed projects? I’ve hundreds of them, but…

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      1. spwilcen dice:

        The farther we venture into the shadow of the valley of death, the less we are remembered for what we felt were were our best efforts at art, at life, and with each new generation, a new disgust or adoration blossoms.

        Is it time for a glass of red yet? No. I see by the clock on the wall I should devote a few more hours to projects here at Chez Espie.

        Do well. I am myself trying.

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      2. You’ve certainly waxed poetically and philosophically Espie and said a great truth. I fully agree. A glass of red? Not yet. This is beer time (one before lunch and I eat at 2:30 pm). Good luck with those projects around the house my friend at at 7 pm I will raise a glass, to your health! Salut!

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    1. I hope it does create a good discussion Pat. Cheers…

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  3. pedmar10 dice:

    Its part of the history of Arts! Da Vinci copy others and others copy Da Vinci!! In all he did a wonderful contribution best shown at Amboise, been there several times…. Saludos

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    1. Thank you, saludos.

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  4. azurea20 dice:

    Eso siempre ha pasado. Grandes pintores han estado y estrán siempre en el anonimato. Un saldudo,

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    1. Asi es Azurea, hay muchos artistas a los que no se les ha dado el reconocimiento merecido. Gracias y un saludo.

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  5. beth dice:

    A whole new perspective

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    1. Something to think about…

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  6. I love him….but that’s the wonderful thing about all artistic expression….there’s something for everyone! Not everyone’s art is going to touch everyone’s soul…and that’s fine and perfect. Cheers and Thank You! 💕

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    1. I quite agree with your words. I too love and admire his works (some) but not the man…

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  7. Easymalc dice:

    A very thought provoking post my friend. I’ve no doubt that your assessment of him as an artist is correct – after all, your knowledge of art is far greater than mine. I suppose though, that I look at him as more than just an artist. To me he was gifted in other ways too. Some of his scientific thoughts and designs were way ahead of his time, and to me he was an all-round genius, but that’s only my opinion of course Francesc.

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    1. Of course my friend, and a wise opinion it is. Cheers Malc and a lovely middle of the week to you!

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