Course Code
HARC 0088
Course Type
Subject Credit
Course Availability

2019 was the quincentenary of the death of the most famous artist of all time: Leonardo da Vinci. This occasion was marked by major exhibitions and publications, providing an opportunity to appraise the artist’s canon and legacy. This tutorial/seminar examines the life and works of Leonardo, his place in Renaissance visual art, science, and thought, and the reasons behind his enduring, and increasing, fame. We look at his relationships with pupils, followers, and patrons, and consider the concept of artistic genius, as it evolved in the Renaissance.  We place a particular focus on Leonardo’s paintings and theoretical writings, which acted as testbeds for his innovative experimental science, and look at how Leonardo, who received no formal education, sourced knowledge.

The course is taught by Dr Margaret Dalivalle, one of the scholars involved in the discovery and authentication of the Salvator Mundi, which recently achieved $450 million at auction. Her book, Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi; and the Collecting of Leonardo at the Stuart Courts, co-authored with Prof. Martin Kemp and Dr Robert Simon, was published by Oxford University Press in 2019, to coincide with the exhibition of the painting at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and the Louvre, Paris.

Sample Syllabus

  1. Fortuna: Why is Leonardo the most famous artist in history?
  2. Neo-Platonic networking: Leonardo da Vinci in Medicean Florence
  3. Reviving the arts in Sforza Milan: A polymath at court
  4. Plinian problems: Sfumato and atramentum varnish
  5. Natural philosopher: Perspective and verisimilitude
  6. The body of the Earth: Engineer and Geologist
  7. Physiology and physionomy: The Windsor Volume; St Jerome in the Desert
  8. Heavenly bodies: Leonardo, astronomy and theology