LEONARDO 500. Modern Artists Draw Inspiration from the Year for Leonardo da Vinci’s Anniversary


Jolė Jūraitė

This year the world commemorated the 500th death anniversary of the great genius Leonardo da Vinci. Although it has been half a century since the untiring creator of art, science and military strategies walked this Earth, his restless spirit is as thriving and passionate in the studios of the modern-day artists, inspiring them to take a new look at the genius’ works, study them, interpret them and strive for ingenious perfection.

Tossed by fate and passions of life, the artist has left his footprint in the Swiss city of Locarno, where the defensive ravelin that he designed, currently hosts il Rivellino Leonardo da Vinci Gallery, owned by the brothers Arminio and Paolo Sciolli. The creative fire, constantly tended in this hearth of art, breaks out into the world in various shapes and forms.

On 1–2 May

(2 May is the death day of Leonardo da Vinci) il Rivellino Gallery began the sequence of events, dedicated to the genius and attended by artists from various countries. During live painting sessions Doncho Dochev from Bulgaria produced huge canvases on the topics of Leonardo da Vinci’s life and works. The Italian-American painter Alberto di Fabio, Luca Ferrario, photographer of the well-known architect Mario Botta) and the Lithuanian artists Irma Leščinskaitė and Zita Tallat-Kelpšaitė introduced their works as well. The Swiss Doctor of Musicology Pietro Bianchi from Vienna University performed music using an ancient instrument – a hurdy-gurdy (It. Ghironda) that he made himself, based on the drawings by Leonardo da Vinci.

After the exhibition, the pieces by Irma Leščinskaitė, Doncho Donchev and

Zita Tallat-Kelpšaitė were purchased by art collectors.

In June

Il Rivellino Gallery hosted an event, presented a Swiss Army knife kit, designed by EXPO artist Ottavio Mangiarini for the Italian Alpine army corps in honour to Leonardo da Vinci.

In July

Peter Greenaway’s The Missing Nail, a 10-minute performance, telling the story of the making of The Last Supper at Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery in Milan. Greenaway was reading the texts, while the Architorti quintet of composers played the music.

In August

During the Locarno Film Festival, the gallery hosted an exhibition For Leonardo by a Chinese painter Wang Yigang, also various conferences and live painting performances. Sandra von Rubenwill introduced her calligraphy works Kabalah on the walls of il Rivellino Gallery. Jura Canton citizen Oksana Mazourik anticipated, together with the Swiss Film Commission, her movie Once Upon a Time in Switzerland, whose first two chapters are set in Locarno`s Visconi-Sforza castle and Verzasca dam, filmed in Golden Eye James Bond franchise.

On 7 September, Palacinema, the new cinema house of Locarno, screened various experimental films by the famous British director, writer and artist Peter Greenaway about Leonardo da Vinci or inspired by his creative works. The event was attended by the Swiss national authorities and introduced in great detail by the Swiss National TV Network.

In October and November

Il Rivellino hosted the artist Nicole Patrick from USA.

In December 2019

The year of Leonardo da Vinci will be concluded with the closing on Doncho Donchev’s exhibition about Leonardo. On 18–23, the Crivelli House where Leonardo`s Belle Ferronniere spent the last years of her life (currently this wonderful portrait, painted by Leonardo da Vinci, is residing at Abou Dhabi Louvre (UAE), although during the year of Leonardo this charming lady had returned to the Louvre in Paris and was visited by nearly half a million of admirers), will host a live portrait painting marathon by the Bulgarian artist, who will produce canvases, related to the life and works of Leonardo da Vinci.

The year, dedicated to

Leonardo da Vinci,

was marked by a few new projects with Peter Greenaway. The end of summer saw the conclusion of the long feature film Walking to Paris, which tells the story of the life and works of the early 20th c. Romanian and French sculptor Constantin Brancusi. This film will be featured at the Cannes Film Festival next May. Before that, in April, Greenaway is planning to organise an exhibition of drawings at the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. According to plan, the exceptional chairs, designed by Greenaway, inspired by Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, should be produced in Lithuania as well.

The year of Leonardo da Vinci brought new creative impulses to creators of various fields. Professors Carlo Pedretti and Pietro Marani, the major experts of Da Vinci’s life and works, who wrote the prologue and several other texts for Leonardo in Locarno, written by Professor Marino Vigano in 2009, are currently gathering material for a new book, which will feature their latest studies and discoveries on Leonardo da Vinci’s military projects.

Professor Vigano is also an author of a 2 volume encyclopaedia Italian Architects and Military Engineers in the 15th-18th c.: from the Atlantics to the Baltics (Architetti e ingegneri militari italiani all`estero dal XV al XVIII secolo: dall`Atlantico al Baltico). The encyclopaedia introduces the architects of Ticino, who worked on Vilnius Cathedral and the Palace of the Grand Dukes.

Studying the life and works of the colourful and rather controversial artist Leonardo da Vinci, Greenaway took a look at him

from a director’s perspective. He is making a 90-minute feature film on Leonardo between 1499 and 1507, when the Tuscan genius abandoned painting and was determined to serve the muse of war.

With the director’s permission, we offer our readers the synopsis of the future film.

Reading the script, which takes back to the late 15th and early 16th c., makes you realise that some things nearly haven‘t changed in this world. The aim to create a better world not for everyone, but for a certain group of interests prevails and, unfortunately, begins with a weapon in hand.


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