• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The Character of Leonardo

Extracts from this document...


Part Two: The Character of Leonardo's Art Alexander Nagel's Leonardo's Sfumato opens with a quote in French by Paul Valery. Translated it states, "The particular case of Leonardo da Vinci proposes one of the many remarkable coincidences for us to return to our practice of spirit and to alarm our attention to the medium of ideas which were transmitted to us". Leo Steinberg also shares this outlook on the study of Leonardo's art. Like Nagel, Steinberg advocates an exhaustive study and attention over each detail. Additionally, Nagel and Steinberg share an understanding for the importance of the relationship between art and ambiguity. For Steinberg, ambiguity denotes more than the multiple meanings and moments condensed in Leonardo's picture. Ambiguity affects the entire mural, determining and over-determining everything about it, from the structure of space down to the individual painterly mark. Ambiguity also asks the key question: is all of this ambiguity a feature of the object and meticulously planned and plotted by the artist, or is it a property of interpretation itself and happenstance through the analysis of critics? Steinberg suggests in his essay Critique of Formalism that when critics approach unfamiliar art practices "they hold their criteria and taste in reserve. ...read more.


One of Leonardo's earliest paintings, the Madonna of the Carnation reveals the artist's painterly and compositional skill. The holy figures interact with one another in an emotionally evocative and harmonious manner. The Madonna, depicted in contemporary dress, shares a flower with her son. Both this and the small crucifix in the child's hand refers to the beginning and end of the life of Christ, the flower representing the baby's birth and the crucifix depicting the ultimate death of Christ on the cross. One of the most distinctive features from this painting is evidence of Leonardo's study of shadow and sfumato. The shadows are such that it appears that the painting's light source shines from above the viewer's shoulder, as if from heaven. Both mother and child are furnished with halos, a religious symbol of purity and holiness. The Virgin has a rounded, glowing face, typical of much of Leonardo's earlier work. Her expression exemplifies part of what set Leonardo's work apart from that of his contemporaries; she looks winsome and fresh and is without the inelegance of other artists' Madonnas from the time. Leonardo's Portrait of a Musician is an oil on wood painting composed in 1490 in Milan, Italy. ...read more.


The presence of the ermine offers several interpretations of significance. Ermines have an association with aristocracy and could very well represent a high social status. They are also used as a symbol of chastity and purity. The Lady with an Ermine is a captivating image of exquisite elegance and reveals the artistic genius of Leonardo's artwork. It is evident in Leonardo's artwork to witness the treatment of sfumato and application of ambiguous lines and shapes. His accomplished study of such forms of art launched Leonardo to be a highly esteemed philosopher and artist. Leonardo da Vinci's ingenuity and brilliance promotes his work to be some of the most critiqued and appreciated forms of art not only during his time but is maintained today. While his genius continues to be a source of much debate and study, what the world can uniformly agree with is that Leonardo's work will never fully be understood and appreciated. Perhaps that is the predominant reason why Leonardo's artistry continues to amaze both critics and students alike. 1 Steinberg, Critique of Formalism. 2 Nagel, Leonardo's Sfumato, part 1. 3 Nagel, Leonardo's Sfumato, part 1. 4 Windsor 1970, The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle 5 Gombrich, "Blurred Images," p. 175. 6 Richter 492 ca.1492. 5 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Art section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Art essays

  1. How does the Steinbeck present Lennie as a sympathetic character

    Lennie however doesn't understand that, and he does what his instints tells him to do.

  2. The boundaries between culture and nature have collapsed and the body has become flexible

    We then worked with the idea of afflictions. Each participant had brought props which helped to focus and make their chosen affliction visible, and presented their performative piece to the group. Again, personal stories were very resonant, with some real insights and passion, whilst the permission giving of the group dynamics which we had created enabled everyone to take risks.

  1. To what extent do you sympathise the character of George

    The real burden Lennie brings to George and his willingness to carry this burden make me sympathize with him more and any other character. The last reason I sympathize with George is that he has to make the cruel but the only decision: shoot Lennie himself.

  2. Free essay

    History Coursework Pickering Castle

    What does this mean? I can only suggest that he used some alternative sources for his interpretation. The Chapel was built in the early 13th century; this makes sense, as it was obviously a very important building to the many people living within the castle walls who would have been religious.

  1. The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci

    order in which they occur in the originals would at all fulfil his intentions. No reader could find his way through such a labyrinth; Leonardo himself could not have done it. Added to this, more than half of the five thousand manuscript pages which now remain to us, are written

  2. The Scream: A Description and Interpretation.

    Life may not be constrained by strict rules, but it is pressured by unwritten expectations. And, in spite of medical advances many people do still die young, less from plagues and disease but now from cancer due to pollution and chemicals in food, water and air.

  1. Contrast the priorities of the northern and southern Renaissance.

    The eccentric wandering Swiss doctor Paracelsus had also deliberately set aside the teachings of Galen and other Ancients in favour of a fresh approach to Nature and medicine and to the search for new remedies for disease. These discoveries were all made by men from the northern renaissance, which may

  2. Steinberg and the Attention to Detail

    His book interprets the placement, pose, and gestures of each. Apart from the image of Christ, Judas is arguably the most controversial and fascinating character depicted. Painted as a dark, swarthy man, Judas' long shaggy and unkempt hair is found sprawled over his face.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work