Monday, April 27, 2009

Works Newly Attributed to Leonardo da Vinci to be Unveiled at High Museum

Recent Restoration of Verrocchio’s Relief for the Silver Altar Led to Findings; Will be Displayed in Atlanta for the First Time Outside of Florence

“Leonardo da Vinci: Hand of the Genius” First to Explore Leonardo’s Significant Role in Renaissance Sculpture; Will Feature 20 Drawings by Leonardo

The High will unveil two works newly attributed to Leonardo da Vinci with the opening of “Leonardo da Vinci: Hand of the Genius” in October 2009. The recent cleaning of Andrea del Verrocchio’s “Beheading of the Baptist” (1477–1483) relief for the Silver Altar of the Florentine Baptistery has enabled a detailed examination of its individual components, revealing that two of the figures were made very differently than the others. Gary Radke, guest curator of the exhibition and Dean’s Professor of the Humanities at Syracuse University, recently proposed that the two figures, each of which is no more than eight inches high, were created by Leonardo da Vinci and not Verrocchio, who was his teacher. All the figures in the relief were created separately and inserted into the background, allowing for more than one artist to have contributed to the composition.

The new attribution is based on comparisons of the figures in the relief to one another and to similar works by Verrocchio and Leonardo. Two figures, the youth with the salver at the far left and the turbaned officer with a baton seen from the rear on the right, stand out from the other five. Unlike the other figures, which are all posed parallel to the relief plane and chased with insistent linearity, the youth and officer are conceived and modeled with remarkable three-dimensionality and naturalistic detail. As a youth Leonardo was already renowned for his obsessive observation of the world around him, leading Radke to conclude that the two figures were most likely produced by Leonardo just as he was becoming an independent artist.

On view for the first time outside of Florence, the relief will be a focal point of “Leonardo da Vinci: Hand of the Genius,” which will provide visitors with the tools to make their own comparisons and learn more about Radke’s rationale for attribution. The exhibition will shed new light on Leonardo’s seminal role in the development of Renaissance sculpture and the work of artists who followed him through an examination of the sculpture that Leonardo studied, the sketches and studies he created for his own sculptural projects (the majority of which were never realized) and his interactions with other Renaissance sculptors.

“Leonardo da Vinci: The Hand of the Genuis” will explore Leonardo’s profound interest in and influence upon sculpture and will feature more than 50 works, including more than 20 sketches and studies by Leonardo, some of which will be on view in the United States for the first time. The exhibition will also feature work by Donatello, Rubens, Verrocchio and Rustici—including Rustici’s three monumental bronzes from the façade of the Baptistery in Florence comprised by “John the Baptist Preaching to a Levite and a Pharisee” (1506–1511), which has never left Florence. Also included are works from world-renowned collections, including that of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Musée du Louvre, the British Museum and the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence.

Organized by the High Museum of Art, “Leonardo da Vinci: Hand of the Genius” will premiere in Atlanta October 3, 2009, and will be on view through February 21, 2010. A modified version of the exhibition will travel to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles (March 23 through June 20, 2010).

“Proposing a new attribution to Leonardo is not something I take lightly,” said Radke, “but when I saw the relief after it was recently cleaned and had the privilege of looking at the figures from both front and back, two of them jumped out at me. Verrocchio, who was Leonardo’s teacher, was a great artist and mentor, but these figures stand apart from the others. They are brilliantly posed and extraordinarily modeled down to the last detail. They pay homage to a very special teacher/student relationship and collaboration, recalling the presence of Leonardo’s splendid angel kneeling in the foreground of Verrocchio’s ‘Baptism of Christ.’”

The High has partnered with a number of Italian museums and institutions in the past, including the Casa Buonarroti, the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, the restoration laboratories of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure and the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, from which the silver relief comes. Some of these collaborations have resulted in conservation and new scholarship, and many have brought renowned works of art to Atlanta. The restoration of the Silver Altar from the Florentine Baptistery and the ensuing discovery of new Leonardo works follows the High’s 2007 exhibition of Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise from Florence. As part of extensive scientific and art historical collaborations in preparation for the exhibition, the High helped to fund the restoration of the Silver Altar, which originally stood inside the Florentine Baptistery for which Ghiberti’s Gates were made.
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