Saturday, July 10, 2010

Leonardo: A Tuscan Landscape

Leonardo da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519)
La vallata dell'Arno verso Pisa 5th August 1473
Pen and two shades of brown ink, 19.4 x 28.5 cm (whole drawing).
Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, Florence

Of this drawing, the art critic James Hall wrote in The cult of the Renaissance sketch:

" Here we have what is believed to be the earliest European landscape drawing, made when Leonardo was working in the studio of the great sculptor-painter-draftsman, Verrocchio.

This landscape, partly inspired by the backgrounds of northern oil paintings, is fascinating not solely because of Leonardo’s concern to show he has really observed a corner of Tuscany – he signed it “on the feast of Santa Maria of the Snow / 5 August 1473” – but also because of the stylized way in which it is drawn.

Executed in at least two phases, it seems woven as much as sketched, so rhythmical is the mark-making. A waterfall on the side of a rocky precipice is as neat as a banner suspended from a window ledge, while the branches of the trees near its summit fan out like a peacock’s tail.

The feast of Santa Maria celebrates a miracle whereby snow fell in Rome in high summer to form the ground plan of S Maria Maggiore. This miracle – the discovery and creation of pattern and symmetry in nature – is one that Leonardo tries to recreate. His waterfall has become a vertical nave."

Here is a commentary on this famous drawing of a Tuscan landscape by Barrington Barber in Through the eyes of Leonardo (2004):