The Atlantic

Leonardo da Vinci’s Unexamined Life as a Painter

A new show marks the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death, and reveals some of his innermost thoughts.
Source: Musée du Louvre

PARIS—The Leonardo drawings were what did it for me. Their intimacy, their vitality and freshness, the way they captured figures simultaneously at rest and in motion. The Virgin Mary washing a young Jesus’s little feet in a basin. Faces—a full inner life captured in a few strokes of ink. Sketches for background figures in The Adoration of the Magi. Bridling horses, the flow of water, the sinews of an arm, the leaves of a mulberry tree, compasses, water on the moon.

The blockbuster exhibit, “Leonardo da Vinci,” opened at the Louvre last month, the product of a decade of work and as the Iran nuclear-accord deal. The show itself is stunningly beautiful., it does not include painting, which broke records when it sold for $450 million in 2017 and subsequently disappeared. The exhibition runs through February and presents a rare opportunity to spend some time inside the mind and world of the artist.

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