500 Years of Da Vinci: Leonardo’s Best Works in Italy

May 2nd 2019 marks the 500 year anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death. Throughout May 2019, events in celebration of the Renaissance’s greatest Great Master will take place across France (where he spent his later years) and Italy.

Many of Leonardo’s most famous artworks are in Paris’ Louvre, including his iconic Mona Lisa. However, Italy doesn’t lack artworks by the Renaissance’s greatest Great Master. Da Vinci’s masterpieces in Italy include The Last Supper, the Annunication and his only surviving self-portrait. We’ll break down exactly where you’ll find Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpieces in Italy.

Despite only producing 15 complete paintings, Leonardo da Vinci is considered one of the greatest artists of all time. Leonardo introduced subtle, psychological realism to Renaissance art. The quietly sparkling eyes of his subjects, and the mysterious half-smile of Mona Lisa, demonstrate his mastery of human expression.

Roma Experience are proud to offer 15% off all Roma Exprience tours in May with our code ‘DAVINCI’, in celebration of the great artist’s legacy.

Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan

Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper in Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.
The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci

In the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, you’ll find what might just be Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous work in Italy: The Last Supper.

The last supper was painted between 1495 and 1498, when Leonardo was in his 40s. Today, it’s a highlight of any visit to Milan. However, its quite a miracle The Last Supper survived the ages.

Leonardo used a new painting technique called a secco, which left the work particularly prone to decay. In the 17th century, the monks who lived in the convent tried to raise the floor — and removed the feet of Jesus in the process. In the 19th, over-eager restorers removed a lot of Da Vinci’s original work. Then, in the 20th, Santa Maria delle Grazie was bombed in WWII.

Despite all trials, The Last Supper has survived. Today, it remains an evocative rendering of Jesus’ final evening.

Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan

Within Milan’s historic library, the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, you’ll find a small but mighty collection of Renaissance art. Alongside Raphael’s sketches for The School of Athens (found in the Vatican’s Raphael Rooms) and Caravaggio’s Basket of Fruit, is Da Vinci’s Portrait of a Musician.

For many years, people believed the subject of Portrait of a Musician was the musician and composer Franchinus Gaffurius, who worked for Milan Cathedral. However, new Dutch research claims the drawing may be a young portrait of Leonardo da Vinci….

Gallerie dell’Academia, Venice

Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo’s scientific sketch books, known as Codexes, are scattered across the world. One Codex is owned by Bill Gates; another by the British Family.

Perhaps the most iconic remains in Italy. You’ll find the most famous sketch from Leonardo’s notebooks in Venice: his Vitruvian Man.

However, don’t plan a visit to see this work alone. Vitruvian Man is particularly susceptible to age damage because it was made on paper with ink. Because of this, Vitruvian Man is only displayed publicly irregularly.

Biblioteca Reale, Turin

On the ground-floor of Turin’s Royal Palace — a UNESCO World Heritage Sight — is a spectacular historic library which houses many of Leonardo’s most beautiful sketches.

The library houses Da Vinci’s study for The Baptism of Christ and Virgin of the Rocks, which are incredibly impressive in their own right. However, Biblioteca Reale can also claim Leonardo’s only verified self-portrait, sketched when he was 50 years old.

Galleria Nazionale di Parma, Parma

Head of a Woman, Leonardo da Vinci

Visit Parma for the food (proscuitto and parmesan, two Italian favorites, come from the region) and stay for the artwork. Galleria Nazionale di Parma boasts an incredible collection of Renaissance art, and among them is Da Vinci’s Head of a Woman.

Head of a Woman manages to capture internal thought on a painted subject, much like Leonardo did with his Mona Lisa. As well as a triumph of psychological subtlety, Head of a Woman is a triumph of beauty. Her lidded eyes are downward facing and she does not address the viewer; her skin is positively radiant.

Vatican Museums, Rome

There are a million reasons to tour the Vatican Museums in Rome. From Michelangelo’s magnificent Sistine Chapel ceiling to the extensive collection of Classical Statuary, you’d be hard-pressed to find a gallery more spectacular.

Among the reasons to visit the Vatican is Leonardo da Vinci’s unfinished St. Jerome in the Wilderness. Although this painting is sparse, the depiction of an emaciated St. Jerome, alone and looking to the cross, is a deeply evocative rendering of faith.

Uffizi, Florence

The Uffizi is Italy’s most popular gallery and why is no secret. Some of the greatest masterpieces of the Renaissance can be found in the Uffizi, including works by Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, Michelangelo — the list goes on and on.

Three works by Leonardo da Vinci can be found in the Uffizi, which is a special treasure considering only 15 of his paintings survive. Join an Uffizi gallery private tour and see his Annunciation, Baptism of Christ and Adoration of the Magi.

Discover Leonardo da Vinci’s Works in Italy

Italy is where Da Vinci was born, raised and become a great thinker. The fertile atmosphere of the Italian Renaissance set Leonardo da Vinci up for greatness. Now, a visit to Italy promises the chance to see many of the Great Masters most moving works.

by Annie Beverley

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