Leonardo da Vinci died in 1519. The 500th anniversary of his death is bringing out commemorations around the globe. Due to the extreme scarcity of his work, opportunities to view his art in America are few and far between.
Leonardo painted fewer than 20 oil paintings throughout his career, most of which hang in the Louvre or Florence’s Uffizi Gallery. Those paintings are lent with the frequency of Chicago Cubs World Series titles. While more examples of his drawings exist, their fragility greatly restricts their public exhibition.
Still, three wonderful opportunities to admire the hand of Leonardo are available in the U.S. this summer.
Any mention of Leonardo in the United States starts with the National Gallery of Art in Washington. D.C., owner of the only oil painting by da Vinci on permanent exhibition in the Americas: Ginevra de’ Benci.
This portrait of a wealthy Florentine banker’s daughter was commissioned when Leonardo was in his early 20’s. As the story goes, the painting was in the possession of Lichtenstein’s royal family until 1966 when the royals needed extra cash to throw a wedding bash for their son. The National Gallery swooped in, snatching up the masterpiece it had been eyeballing for years.
According to the National Gallery’s website, the piece was purchased for $5 million, “the largest sum ever paid for a work of art until that time.”
That’s $40,000,000 in today’s dollars, an extraordinary bargain for a Leonardo with unblemished provenance and authorship considering one of uncertain background, Salvator Mundi, fetched $450,000,000 at auction in 2017–now the greatest sum ever paid for an artwork.
After purchase by the National Gallery, Ginevra de’ Benci was flown–first class–in a suitcase on a commercial airliner delayed by snow in New York before going on exhibit in D.C. March 17, 1967. Salvator Mundi is now believed to reside on a $500 million superyacht.
Every da Vinci artwork seemingly brings with it a backstory worthy of cinematic adaptation. That is certainly the case with his drawing of Leda and the Swan, now on view at Sotheby’s in New York through September 13 as part of its breathtaking Treasures from Chatsworth exhibit.
Leda and the Swan was likely acquired for the Devonshire Collection by the second or third Duke of Devonshire in the first half of the 18th century. The drawing was apprehensively loaned by the 10th Duke of Devonshire in 1939 to an exhibit in Italy.
As feared, the drawing became a prisoner of war, spending World War II in storage in Rome. When it was returned, it did so with a conspicuous white spot in its middle.
In addition to the Leonardo, 42 other works from the celebrated Devonshire Collection–ranging from historic objects like family jewels and coronation gowns to artworks by Canaletto, Rembrandt, Thomas Gainsborough, John Singer Sargent and Lucien Freud–are on view, representing 500 years of collecting by one of England’s most respected noble families.
The items come straight from Chatsworth House in central England, home to the Cavendish Family and the Dukes of Devonshire since the 16th Century. Putting a modern spin on this historic collection, Treasures from Chatsworth, which is free and open to the public, incorporates a dramatic exhibition design by David Korins, the award-winning creative director and scenic designer behind Hamilton.
According to Sotheby’s, da Vinci completed Leda and the Swan while he was working on the Mona Lisa. Leda and the Swan is a mythological preparatory drawing in pen, ink and wash; the painting for which this drawing served as a study has not survived.
Sotheby’s Treasures from Chatsworth exhibition will mark the first public viewing of Leda and the Swan in the United States since The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York’s 2003 exhibition Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman.
Speaking of The Met, that’s the final stop on this American search for Leonardo.
A special loan from the Vatican Museums brings Saint Jerome Praying in the Wilderness, begun ca. 1483, on display July 15–October 6. The Met says, “this monumental, exquisitely rendered painting is in an unfinished state, providing viewers with extraordinary insights into the artist’s creative process.”
Close examination of the work’s surface has revealed Leonardo’s fingerprints. Researchers believe the artist “used his fingers to distribute the pigments and create a soft-focus effect in the sky and landscape.”
You won’t be able to get that close, but you’ll be in the same room, a room designed to inspire awe. The Met will display the painting in a gallery by itself, starkly illuminated in an otherwise darkened space. The presentation borrows on the tradition of funerals given Italian master artists which typically feature one of the deceased’s works as part of the service.
“We are thrilled to honor Leonardo da Vinci’s legacy by displaying this rare and exceptional painting, as it provides an intimate glimpse into the mind of a towering figure of Western art,” said Max Hollein, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Scholars over centuries have hotly debated, rightly or wrongly, the attribution of certain paintings by Leonardo, but the Vatican Museums’ Saint Jerome is one of possibly six paintings whose authorship by Leonardo has never been questioned.”
This painting features an aged Jerome, crouched inside a cave, with a lion at his feet. The same lion out of whose paw Jerome pulled a thorn we are to assume.
Five centuries following his death, Leonardo remains one of the most remarkable people and artists to ever walk the earth. Now’s your chance to see what all the fuss is about.
Original Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/chaddscott/2019/07/09/where-to-find-leonardo-da-vinci-in-america-on-500th-anniversary-of-his-death/#3636ee447b86