Leonardo, reigns over the Louvre

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Leonardo da Vinci, Portrait of a young man holding a partition,  The Musician, ca 1483-1490, Milan, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, © Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana.

To celebrate the 500 th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death (1452-1519), the Louvre has assembled 160 of his works including 11 paintings. Mona Lisa stayed in her own room so that visitors can keep coming to see her but the “Virgin and child” from the Duke of Buccleuth’s collection, and the “Belle Ferronière” are there to testify of the artist’s genius. “St Ann, the Virgin and Jesus” from the Louvre as well as “Isabelle d’Este” are also attending. After the marvelous drawing exhibition at Buckingham palace this spring and the tantalizing Verocchio retrospective in Florence, the Louvre is surpassing itself thanks to Vincent Delieuvin et Louis Frank, co curators of the show.

La Scapiliata, ca 1501-1510. Parme, Galleria Nazionale, © Licensed by the Ministero per i beni e le attività culturali – Complesso Monumentale della Pilotta- Galleria Nazionale di Parma.

The one hour and fifteen minute visit of the exhibition is perfectly scanded by drawings (those from Windsor are beautiful), sculptures by contemporaries and mysterious “reflectographies”,  which allow everyone to see the first coat of painting by infrared light. A very large room of drawings is dominated by a 1505-1509 copy by Marco d’Oddogiono (his disciple), from the Ecouen museum, of the fresco of the last supper. The feet of Christ and the apostles were at eye level and I particularly enjoyed watching them in their trendy sandals.

The last supper by Marco d’Oddogiono and some of the many drawings, photo Antoine Mongondin

Everyone was talking to each other at the opening which was very jolly, young people with their grandparents and many erudite English curators. But also some American artist looking passionates. The first room opens on drawings by Andrea del Verrochio and by Leonardo, when he was working as his assistant. They represent drapes on linen and are striking, especially those of the kneeling figures. Do not pass them.

Large bronze by Verrochio of “Christ and St Thomas”, surrounded by drawings by the two artists, photo Antoine-Mongodin

I particularly liked the botanical drawings, Star of Bethlehem, Anemone of the woods and Euphorbes, including one in sanguine, lent by the Queen. The “Scapiliata” with its fabulous frame is of course another jewel of the show. It was lent by the Galleria Nazionale of Parma.

Saint Jérôme pénitent, ca 1480- 1490. Musei Vaticani, Pinacoteca Vaticana, Photo © Governatorate of the Vatican City State – Vatican Museums. All rights reserved.

Leonardo lived in Milan where he worked for Ludovico Sforza  and painted the “Last supper” of which a copy by his disciple Marco d’Oddogiono is in the show. He also painted St Ann and St John the Baptist before leaving Italy in 1506 at 54. Pope Leon X only loved Michelangelo and Raphael, and this seems to be why he accepted François 1er’s offer to come to Amboise.

Portrait of a lady in the court of Milan, “La Belle Ferronnière”, ca 1490, musée du Louvre, © RMN-Grand Palais Michel Urtado.

You will find that you are not alone in the galleries (booking is mandatory), but the crowds are gentle and passionate and bumping into each other makes the visit more lively. Take your time with the drawings.

Leonardo da Vinci, until February 24 at the Louvre

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