Category Archives: Art History

Da Vinci’s Demons

Prelude to this post : Friday night razzmatazz

Self portraitLeonardo di ser Piero da Vinci

The world depicted in the art of his day was self contained , fixed ,circumscribed .Leonardo set out to break the shell and to evoke movement. He painted souls not bodies with him modern art was born.

Therefore through Leonardo the 15th century which with its confidence in man ,its moral energy and its daring intellectualism had given the world so many masterpieces was drawing to an end, as Leonardo said his last words the 15th century lost a maverick and that was the beginning of the disasters which as well as glories the following century was to bring Italy.

Adoration of the Magi - Current Location Uffizi gallery FLorence

Adoration of the Magi – Current Location Uffizi gallery FLorence

Leonardo wrote on Mona Lisa “Paint the face in such a way that it will be easy to understand what is going on in the mind .Yet the most famous portrait in the world possesses a smile that has become the symbol of mystery.

The Mona Lisa : Current Location - Louvre ,Paris
The Mona Lisa : Current Location – Louvre ,Paris


Pleasure and pain are represented as twins ,as though they were joined together for there is never one without the other; and they turn their backs to each other .They have one and the same foundation ,for the foundation of pleasure is labor with pain ,and the foundations of pain are vain and lascivious pleasures. If you shall choose pleasure know that he has behind him one who will deal out to you tribulation and repentance.  – Leonardo

The Last Supper : Current Location – Santa Maria delle Grazie

Tu O Iddio ,tutto ci vendi a prezzo di fatica (Thou O God sellest everything at the price of hard work)

There may not be in the world an example of another genius so universal, so incapable of fulfilment, so full of yearning for the infinite, so naturally refined, so far ahead of his own century and the following centuries. .. Hippolyte

Virgin of the Rocks :Current Location Louvre ,Paris
Virgin of the Rocks :Current Location Louvre ,Paris

The Last years of da Vinci were passed in ease near Amboise in central France where he had gone to live at the invitaion of the king.His visitors avoided seeing his paralysed hands.Never had his talk been more versatile,never his presence more courtly,nor his smile more understanding .Perharps Death herself wore that smile that light on the lips of mystery and wisdom which da Vinci alone ever captured when she came for Leonardo on May 2,1519.-Donals Culross


The Art of progress

“Rome never produced great artists. She never was artistic ,any more than she had been spiritual .But just as in earlier times she had drawn spiritual forces to herself and used them, so now she attracted to herself and used the artistic forces of Italy.”

Colosseum Rome

They say that art is a guarantee of sanity and an expression by man of his pleasure in labour.I tend to believe that the rejection of Art throughout history and contemporary times represents the  tendency of man to denounce and ridicule aspects of life and culture that he may not understand and if he does, finds morally offensive or repugnant.

Only the artist truly understands the depth of what his work portrays holding on to the notion that his fellow men will someday do the same.Whether it is an evolution of  state of mind or a significant shift from ignorant ways, every work of art has its moment of adulation and glorification no matter how long it takes be it hundreds or thousands of years (i.e. if it survives).Van Gogh sold only one of his paintings during his lifetime, sad you may think , but the glory of art is not in its recognition only at its time of “birth” but in its ability to live  through progressive ages and ever changing generations , a glory that Van Gogh and many others managed to surpass.

Below are some quotes and excerpts collected from various Art journals and manuscripts read over the years..enjoy 🙂 .

….”And all this time da Vinci was painting like a god he dared to dream as few mortals have , of the conquest of the world by science.Leonardo painted souls not bodies with him , modern art and modern life were knocking at the door.That XVth culture which with its confidence in man,its moral energy,and its daring intellectualism , had given the world so many masterpieces,was drawing to an end.And that was the beginning of the disasters which, as well as glories the next century was to bring Italy.”

The Vitruvian Man – da Vinci

“Paintings which are today regarded as masterpieces – the sunflowers of Van Gogh,the landscapes of Cezzane – were looked upon 50 years ago with shock and even derision.Today the works of all these men are loved and understood: the priceless originals of them grace our museums;inexpensive reproductions grace our homes;”

Sunflowers of Van Gogh

Florence led Italy in painting ,in sculpture ,in philosophy, in sophistication .Of all Italian cities,Florence had been the cradle of the Renaissance.Thus while the 16th and 17th centuries saw changes of the greatest significance taking place in every field of human activity,the modern age was only in the process of formation.The Renaissance period is primarily important because it made possible the movements of the next century emphasising that “no period of world history is in any way detached from the earlier or later period unless it be a forgotten civilisation”

Florence Italy

Artists – “These men of faith of whom the world was not worthy; concerning whom it is written that.”They died not having received the promises,but having glimpsed them from afar off “were persuaded of them and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims upon earth.and truly if they had been mindful of that century from whence they came ,they might have had the opportunity to have returned.But now they desire a better country one that is heavenly,”

Thomas Kinkade :Almost heaven

Is this the revival of an age old craving for God,or rather the irrational knocking at the door of our hearts? Anyhow one thing is certain that to-day we can both understand the methods of the middle ages.], and appreciate alike two contradictory procedure – that of the XIVth century whose artists  brought God down to earth and that of the XVth artists who raised man up to God.By both methods they attained perfection in the field of art, and this testimony to human grandeur which we owe to them was an exemplar for the generations that succeed them.And will be for generations yet unborn.

Michelangelo Buonarroti- The creation of adam

Where there is a foundation of ability ,no matter how vile or base the beginning may appear ,steady progress is invariably made until the peak of glory is attained, without any pause by the way.This is clearly shown in the base and humble origin of the house of Bellini and in the rank to which they afterwards attained by means of painting: – Jaccopo , Giovanni and Gentile Bellini

Gentile Bellini – Madonna And Child..

After the death of Giotto  ,Lorenzo the Magnificent (patron of the arts in 15th Century) had this epitaph carved on the painters tomb

“Lo I am whose right hand all was possible ,by whom dead painting was brought to life , by whom art became one with nature.For I am Giotto”

Giotto – Crucifixion

Sandro Botticelli’s art coincided with the beginning of the crisis of Florentine culture at the end of the XVth century.This crisis was of a moral order;Faith in man and his omnipotence was failing and desperate efforts were being made to cling to old world transcendent values,belief in which was ceasing to be possible.Botticelli had not the spirit of a reformer as regards either to his religion or his life; he merely sighed and in that delicate nostalgia consists the peculiar charm of his art.The total sincerity of his art where his deeper feelings are involved makes him one of the most appealing figures of the XVth century , which spiritually if not literally ended with him.

Allegory of Spring(Primavera) – Sandro Botticelli

Between Botticelli and Michaelangelo as between Bellini and Giorgione a miracle intervened which once again changed the whole aspect of painting and that miracle was Leonardo da Vinci


“If a painter wishes to see beauty that enraptures him, he has the power to create it .

If he wishes to see things that are grotesque, are laughable, or are truly pathetic he is the lord and master of them.

Whatever lies in the universe whether in essence or imagination he has first in his mind and then in his hand.”