Leonardo da Vinci’s Unfinished Work Heads to the French Chateau Where He Died | Leonardo DeVinci

When Italian polymath and Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci swore allegiance to the King of France in 1516 and accepted Francis I’s invitation to settle in France, he brought with him three of his most famous works. Saint Jean Baptistthe Madonna and Child with Saint Anne and his most famous painting, mona-lisa – all now hang in the Louvre in Paris.

Some Leonardo experts suggest, however, that he may have arrived in France with another painting – one that remained unfinished – a work he took up and improved but never completed, although she kept it near him for more than 30 years.

The mysterious Saint Jerome in the desert, which Leonardo began in the 1480s, rarely leaves its permanent home in the Vatican Museums. Today, however, following an exceptional loan agreement, it is on display at the Clos Lucé mansion – near the former royal castle of Amboise on the Loire in western France – where Leonardo lived for just over two years until his death in 1519.

“Five hundred years after the death of Leonardo da Vinci, we will have the painting here for 100 days,” said François Saint Bris, whose family owns Clos Lucé. Observer.

“It is extremely moving for us to have this work loaned to us. It’s a singular canvas, a work in progress that comes to life the more you look at it. We see the functioning of Leonardo da Vinci’s brain, his techniques, his intelligence, his drawing. We hope that visitors will come here to see it.

Fewer than 20 paintings by Leonardo are believed to have survived so far. Saint Jerome in the desert is not the best nor, in fact, the brightest: the dark, largely colorless painting depicts the emaciated, penitent 4th-century saint – considered the father of the Christian church – beating his chest with a stone. At the bottom of the canvas, the outline of the lion from whose paw Jerome extracted a famous thorn is sketched and unusually fierce, a change from his usual docile depiction.

Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), painted c1510. Photography: Getty

Saint Jerome, a scholar credited with translating the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into Latin during his years in the desert, was a popular subject during the Renaissance period, symbolizing both humanism and religion. Leonardo stripped him of his usual portrait garb of scarlet cardinal robes, hat and beard and depicted him with emaciated features in rags and without a Bible.

The work was commissioned while Leonardo was living in Florence in 1481 and remained unfinished when he moved to Milan in 1482. But who commissioned it and why it was never completed remains a mystery. The painting disappeared and resurfaced several times over the centuries, finally ending up at a pawnshop in 1856, where it was acquired by Pope Pius IX.

Guido Cornini, a Vatican curator, said the fact that it is unfinished makes it even more interesting to art historians and experts who have used it to decipher many of Leonardo’s techniques and characteristics as a painter. ‘artist.

“You can see the stages of painting. We don’t know why he stopped. There is a theory that Da Vinci kept this painting with him throughout his life.

“He could have kept it with him intentionally unfinished, come back to it from time to time, improve it, change it,” Cornini said. Francesca Persegati, curator of the Vatican Museums, said there was evidence that Leonardo used his fingers to paint part of the painting. “We can actually see where he pressed the thick paint with his palm and finger. We can imagine the artist actually touching that paint and actually becoming part of the work.

Leonardo’s house

Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums, said the painting rarely left the permanent collection and only when its integrity and safety could be assured. But it had been exhibited in Rome, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and at the Louvre in 2019 for the anniversary of the artist’s death.
“There are many reasons to celebrate and share a symbolic work of art from the Vatican’s collection by returning it to where it was likely to be during the great Leonardo da Vinci’s stay and death in France. Hypotheses and several documents kept in Milan lead us, in fact, to believe that the painting was in Clos Lucé when he died on May 2, 1519,” Jatta said.

“It is an undisputed masterpiece…it is precisely because of its ‘unfinished’ character that it is considered one of his most interesting works and one of the few paintings in the world. artist whose authenticity has never been questioned.”

She added: “It was important to bring the painting here to where Da Vinci lived and died. We wanted to allow people to visit the historic place and share not only the history and technical art of Leonardo da Vinci, but also the figure of Saint Jerome, one of the fundamental figures of the church, and his life. .

The exhibition of the Château de Clos Lucé painting, and other works related to Leonardo and Saint Jerome, continues until September 20. Visitors can tour the castle, including the visitation rooms used by Leonardo and the galleries illustrating his work as a painter, mathematician, engineer, scientist and inventor.

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