Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452–1519) was a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer (military, civil, and aeronautical), inventor, anatomist, cartographer, theoretician, and musician. His instinctive curiosity led him to numerous discoveries and achievements, some of which we are still only beginning to comprehend from the thousands of pages of his surviving handwritten notes and drawings.
This focused exhibition examines just one facet of his prodigious talents: his activity in the field of sculpture. Ambitious and detailed plans for enormous equestrian monuments, which were never realized, can only be understood through his drawings. These fragile records are made even more precious by the fact that no work of sculpture can be definitively attributed to Leonardo.
Famous and breathtaking sculptures by Donatello (Italian, about 1386–1466), Leonardo's inspiration, and his close associate Giovan Francesco Rustici (Italian, 1474–1554)—some of which have never left Florence—convey a sense of Leonardo's astounding achievements.
The exhibition examines many of Leonardo's drawings, highlighting his working method of sketching ideas and notes for his artistic compositions and devices, which do not survive. Sketches for lost sculptures and paintings reveal an artist who used pen and paper to develop models for equestrian and human monuments and sculptures, medals and paintings, as well as to work out the engineering of mechanical devices such as water clocks, robots, and automata.
In sketches for a painting (now lost) in the image at left, Leonardo studied the playful interaction of a child with a lamb, turning the figures around in his mind. His first sketches were in black chalk (also visible), and he worked some of these up to different degrees in ink as he searched for the most satisfactory solution. The emphasis on three-dimensionality parallels Leonardo's habit of making small wax models of groups to visualize them from numerous angles.
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