Geneva Anderson digs into art

“Leonardo LIVE,” a remarkable HD walk-through of the National Gallery of London’s blockbuster Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition comes to local movie theatres this Thursday, February 16, 2012

Next Thursday, February 16, 2012, the museum world will jump onto the HD (high-definition) streaming bandwagon with Leonardo Live, the first HD tour of a fine art exhibition created for movie theater audiences.  Presented by NCM Fathom, BY Experience and, Leonardo Live, will screen for one night only, Thursday, and will allow audiences to experience the old master coup of the century, The National Gallery of London’s Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan. In case you haven’t heard about the show, blockbuster fully applies.  By the time it officially opened in November, 2011, it was sold-out through January and the demand for tickets was insatiable, prompting all sorts of gray-marketing.   The museum offered extended viewing hours; let 180 people in every 30 minutes; shortened its audio guide and this frenzy continued until the show closed last weekend, February 5, 2012.   While nothing beats the experience of seeing art in real-life, taking in a show like via HD is a wonderful opportunity.

Leonardo Live was captured live in HD on November 8, 2011, just before the exhibition’s opening, and provides a virtual walk-through, with exclusive commentary from British art historian Tim Marlow, the exhibition’s curator Luke Syson, well-known media host Norwegian Mariella Frostrup, and others. 

This exhibition displayed more than 60 paintings and drawings by Leonardo, focusing on the art he created in the late 1480’s and 1490’s as court painter to Duke Lodovico Sforza in Milan and the interesting connections between his secular court art and religious art.   The real draw was being able to see the paintings, all in proximity to each other.  Leonardo produced very few, probably 20, around which some scholaraly debate still continues, and the 9 that were in the National Gallery exhibition were all from his years in Milan.   The National Gallery’s newly-restored The Virgin of the Rocks (1483-86) was a focal point as well as a later version of the same painting borrowed from the Louvre.   The two paintings have never been exhibited together in the same room before and Leonardo himself never saw them together in his lifetime.  The Louvre’s earlier version was the first painting Leonardo completed as Duke Sforza’s court painter.  It is more delicate and meticulous than the National Gallery’s much later version, which is more sculptural, monumental and much brighter due to its recent restoration.  

“Salvator Mundi” (“Savior of the World”),(1499 or after) a work recently conserved, studied and controversially attributed to Leonardo is a focal point of “Leonardo Live,” an in-depth walk-through of “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan.”

Mary’s tender expression, the crumpled golden folds of her clothing, caught in the light, create the sense that she is alive but frozen in time by art.  The paintings are so cherished because they evoke the essence of Leonardo’s gift for expressing the delicate balance between the idealized and the imaginative, the human and the spiritual.  These paintings radiate a special inner life.

Also included, in varying states of condition, due to overrestoration and aging, are Portrait of a Musician (Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan), the Saint Jerome (Vatican, Rome), The Lady with an Ermine (Czartoryski Foundation, Cracow), the ‘Belle Ferronnière’ (Musée du Louvre, Paris) the Madonna Litta (The State Hermitage, Saint Petersburg), the newly discovered, never-exhibited painting, the Salvator Mundi, and Giampietrino’s full-scale (32 feet-wide) copy, made in 1520, of the Last Supper, on loan from The Royal Academy of Arts, London.     

While numerous exhibitions have looked at Leonardo da Vinci as an inventor, scientist or draftsman, this is the first show to be dedicated to his aims and techniques as a painter.  These pictures show how Leonardo, benefiting from his salaried position, used his artistic freedom to find new ways of perceiving and recording the natural world and how he mastered human anatomy and was able to depict the emotional life of a being like no artist before him.  Leonardo’s portraits have always been disputed but you’ll get a up close look at his signature features—moist spherical eyes, rippling curls, the obsession with the fall of light, the whiff of melancholy and, most of all, the suggestion of movement.   Before Leonardo, Renaissance

“Lady with an Ermine” (1489-90), one of Leonardo’s rare panel paintings, and one of only four female portraits painted by Leonardo, is a portrait of Cecilia Gallerani, the mistress of the Duke of Milan. Leonardo painted this, considered by many to be the first truly modern portrait, while in the Duke’s service. Photo: The National Gallery

paintings were very closely representational but static and what he imparts in that hint of movement is a sentient emotional being, taking painting to an utterly new realm. 

The hypnotic Lady with an Ermine (1489-90), one of Leonardo’s rare panel paintings, and one of only four female portraits painted by Leonardo, also makes an appearance, shown with some of Leonardo’s animal syudies.  The delicate beauty is Cecilia Gallerani, the mistress of the Duke of Milan and Leonardo painted this, considered by many to be the first truly modern portrait, while in the Duke’s service.  Cecilia is caught illusively turning towards something or someone beyond the canvas, while the ermine in her arms is completely still.  On loan from the National Museum in Krakow, this masterpiece  made a brief appearance in 2003 at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor during its Leonardo da Vinci and the Splendor of Poland exhibition. 

The exhibition also brought together more than 50 of Leonardo’s drawings, including 33 owned by the Queen that were purchased during the reign of Charles II and left in the bottom of a chest until they were rediscovered in 1778, during the reign of George III.

Details:  Leonardo Live will be screened Thursday, February 16, 2012, at 7 PM, in the Bay Area at San Rafael’s Cinemark Century Regency 6, Napa 8 (Napa), Century 9 at San Francisco Center and San Francisco Cinearts Empire 3.   Tickets are available at participating theater box offices or online at  (Click here to download a PDF of participating theatres throughout the U.S.)

February 11, 2012 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment