Friday, November 3, 2017

Annunciation (1475–1480)‍—‌Uffizi
is thought to be Leonardo's earliest complete work

Leonardo first gained notoriety for his work on the Baptism of Christ painted in conjunction with Verrocchio. Two other paintings appear to date from his time at Verrocchio's workshop, both of which are Annunciations, One is small, (23 in) long and 14 (5.5 in) high. It is a "predella" to go at the base of a larger composition, a painting by Lorenzo di Credi from which it has become separated. The other is a much larger work, (85 in) long. In both Annunciations, Leonardo used a formal arrangement, like two well-known pictures by Fra Angelico of the same subject, of the Virgin Mary sitting or kneeling to the right of the picture, approached from the left by an angel in profile, with a rich flowing garment, raised wings and bearing a lily. Although previously attributed to Ghirlandaio, the larger work is now generally attributed to Leonardo.

Leonardo da Vinci Mona Lisa or "la Gioconda", Louvre, Paris, France

Leonardo da Vinci
Mona Lisa or "la Gioconda", Louvre, Paris, France
In the present era it is arguably the most famous painting

Among the works created by Leonardo in the 16th century is the small portrait known as the Mona Lisa or "la Gioconda", the laughing one. In the present era it is arguably the most famous painting in the world. Its fame rests, in particular, on the elusive smile on the woman's face, its mysterious quality perhaps due to the subtly shadowed corners of the mouth and eyes such that the exact nature of the smile cannot be determined. The shadowy quality for which the work is renowned came to be called "sfumato", or Leonardo's smoke. Vasari, who is generally thought to have known the painting only by repute, said that "the smile was so pleasing that it seemed divine rather than human; and those who saw it were amazed to find that it was as alive as the original".
Other characteristics of the painting are the unadorned dress, in which the eyes and hands have no competition from other details, the dramatic landscape background in which the world seems to be in a state of flux, the subdued coloring, and the extremely smooth nature of the painterly technique, employing oils laid on much like tempera and blended on the surface so that the brushstrokes are indistinguishable. Vasari expressed the opinion that the manner of painting would make even "the most confident master ... despair and lose heart." The perfect state of preservation and the fact that there is no sign of repair or overpainting is rare in a panel painting of this date.