Leonardo, The Man
Leonardo da Vinci is an enigmatic figure around whom many myths have taken shape. The real Leonardo is, however, an even more intriguing character than the legends suggest. This discussion will clarify the known facts of his life, allowing us to place his works in their proper historical and personal contexts.
Martin Kemp, Ross King
The (Two) Virgin of the Rocks and Vitruvian Man
The Virgin of the Rocks paintings; two versions of the same image. So why would Leonardo da Vinci, temperamentally ill-equipped to finish his pictures at the best of times, repeat himself in this way? The complex circumstances that brought about this unusual duplication exemplify some of the mundane difficulties Leonardo had in supporting himself through his art. But the many differences between the two versions also reveal an enormous shift in Leonardo’s thinking during the 1480s and ’90s about painting in general and religious image-making in particular — moving from unparalleled naturalism to a new kind of idealism — and still incorporating the possibilities of the ‘non finito.’ Luke Syson
Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man is a feat of artistry- in its unnecessary technical beauty- as well as one of mathematical precision. Yet in its entirety, it also embodies a moment when art and science combined to allow mortal minds to probe timeless questions about who we are and how we fit into the grand order of the universe. Take a deep dive into the iconic image and learn why Leonardo’s famed drawing is both an artistic and scientific feat, as well as how the work represents his times and philosophy. Walter Isaacson
The Battle of Anghiari: Artistic and Military Warfare
Created in competition with Leonardo’s archrival, Michelangelo, The Battle of Anghiari offers a fascinating window into how Leonardo battled with his fellow artists, as well as how he thought about actual war and its mechanics. This session will also address conflicts that have arisen as scientists, conservators, and local authorities consider whether to uncover what may be left of Leonardo’s unfinished masterpiece under later frescoes in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio.
Marco Cianchi, Gary Radke Moderator: Joel Achenbach
Science and Art: The Connection Between Leonardo’s Disciplines
How did Leonardo, who began his career as an artist and a technician in Verrocchio’s workshop in Florence, slowly transform himself into a scientist? The exploration of this process requires the juxtaposition of anatomy and art, of technology and science. We will see how Leonardo’s hands-on experience as a technician provided him mechanical models for the study of the natural world and how his study of biological processes enabled him to understand the history of the earth—the ‘body of man’ and the ‘body of the earth.’
Walter Isaacson, Domenico Laurenza Moderator: Eric Motley
Leonardo’s Accidental Masterpiece: The Last Supper in Historical Context
Virtually everyone can recognize The Last Supper. However, the historical circumstances of its creation—who commissioned it, why it was commissioned, and how, and even where, it was painted—are much less well-known. This illustrated lecture will put the painting in the context of its times, revealing how Leonardo tells the biblical story of The Last Supper through a series of fascinating historical details.
Inside Leonardo’s Mind: The Codices
In this two-part session, we will begin with an overview of the incredible world of the codices — the notebooks that Leonardo used to record thousands of observations, studies, and sketches from outside and inside his studio. We will analyze his “mysterious” handwriting and the many elements that make these pages at once a challenge to decipher and a faithful reflection of his brilliant mind. Next, we’ll take a closer look at Leonardo’s thought process by breaking into small groups and examining a few of the nearly 6,000 pages he created. Where on the blank page did the artist begin? What was the problem or idea Leonardo set out to explore? What is the relationship between word and image, and in what sequence does he use them? What can we learn about Leonardo’s analytic and creative process?
Domenico Laurenza, William Wallace
Mercedes T. Bass Lecture: Leonardo da Vinci and His World
What elements of a place and time spark and nourish creativity? One might say Leonardo was born at the right time — an extraordinary talent with the good luck to live when artistic expression and scientific exploration were deeply valued and financially supported (though Leonardo himself struggled to find steady patronage). How did the context of Renaissance Italy allow Leonardo and his contemporaries to experiment so boldly and reach such spectacular heights? We’ll explore Florence and Milan — with a short stop in France — to illuminate the particular aspects of the era’s political structure, patronage system, the Church, and key scientific debates and discoveries that yielded this magical mix. If Leonardo had been born elsewhere in another century, would he be the icon we revere today? What lessons can we apply to our own society?
Bill Cook, Martin Kemp, Ross King, Luke Syson, and William Wallace Moderator: Walter Isaacson
In Leonardo’s Ear
When Leonardo came to Florence from Vinci as a teenager, he partly supported himself by being a musician. What would the music he played have sounded like? What were his relationships with the most important musicians of his day – many of whom he met in the aristocratic circles of Florence and Milan and at the court of Francis I? How are some of his studies in the theory of the visual arts reflected in musical issues of his time?
Alan Fletcher with students from the Aspen Music Festival and School
The Mona Lisa
The Mona Lisa began life in an orthodox manner, as a commissioned portrait of a bourgeois woman. From there, as confirmed by the technical examinations, it evolved into a “universal picture” embodying Leonardo’s science of art – optics, geology, anatomy, psychology, and also expressing the notion of the “beloved lady” as evoked in poetry from Dante onwards. We will explore the origin, details, and universal reaction to this historic work.
Leonardo’s Legacy and the Nature of Genius
What did Leonardo’s artistic and scientific innovations ultimately yield for those who came after him? Where can we most clearly see his fingerprints in the art of the centuries after his death? Were his technological inventions ever made? How did his myriad insights and observations about the natural world contribute to our understanding of the universe, the earth, and its inhabitants? Has posterity always revered him as we do today? What do his life and accomplishments tell us the nature of the human mind, genius, about our own creative potential?
Ross King, Gary Radke, William Wallace Moderator: Elliot Gerson