Da Vinci’s Later Paintings (1490-1516)

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Paintings of the 1490s

In the 1490s, the most widely known and popular of Leonardo Di Vinci’s paintings is the Last Supper. Started in 1495, the painting depicts the final meal between Jesus and his disciples shortly before he was captured and executed. This piece of Leonardo da Vinci’s artwork in particular relays the exact the moment when Jesus announces that he will be betrayed.

The painting shows an entire story with each disciple reacting in their own manner. Vasari’s biography goes into great detail in the methods Leonardo took in painting the mural, and the time it took him. Some days he would paint for hours and other days he would simply stare at the wall for hours and eventually spent days walking through the city trying to find a suitable face for Judas.

The painting was finished in three years and immediately hailed as a masterpiece. However, the problem with the painting was the fact that it could not remain on the wall for longer than a decade or so before it began to flake free. Leonardo, in a rare instance of failed experimentation, tried to use new binding agents for his painting instead of the reliable old method of Fresco. It quickly molded and flaked off. However it has remained one of the most reproduced works of art on earth. How many other paintings did Leonardo da Vinci paint in his latter years though?

Paintings of the 1500s

After finishing the Last Supper, the art of Leonardo Da Vinci actually became more impressive as he took to another masterpiece that the world has been fawning over ever since. This work, the Mona Lisa, has become one of the most enduring works of art, with the knowing smile that has captivated five centuries of fans. This particular painting first utilized Leonardo’s sfumato technique, or the use of blending shadows for ambiguous lines. When Leonardo Da Vinci created the painting, female head perspective was still quite underdeveloped. Located in the Louvre today, the Mona Lisa is also one of Leonardo’s best surviving works of art and a pinnacle in understanding the subtleties of human emotion.

Many consider The Virgin and Child with St. Ann Da Vinci’s most underrated work. It is another famous composition set in landscape during these later years of his career. The figures are once more set at odd angles, much like the earlier unfinished St. Jerome piece. The painting is slightly different as Mary is seated on the knee of her mother and leans forward to support Christ as he plays with a lamb. This painting introduced numerous trends of superimposition into the landscapes that Venetian painters such as Tintoretto would pick up in later years.

In 1508, Da Vinci painted the famously lost composition of Leda and the Swan, depicting the mythical woman standing naked beside her swan, overlooking two sets of twins below, recently hatched from egg shells. Today, only copies and no original of Leonardo Da Vinci’s paintings survive to relay the image, similar to the fate of Michelangelo’s famous Leda and the Swan painting, depicting the two in the throws of love making.

Another painting that has been disputed from this era is the famously multi-credited St. John in the Wilderness painting, depicting St. John holding a stick in the wilderness with a laurel and fruit. It is unknown who painted this exactly, but its discovery has been attributed to Da Vinci’s workshop.

Completed in 1516, St. John the Baptist is considered to be Da Vinci’s last known painting. Only recently attributed to him, the painting depicts a lightly smiling St. John pointing heavenward. Heavy comparisons have been made between this painting and that of the Mona Lisa as well as the self portraits of Da Vinci to which both sets of facial features compare so readily.

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