2015: A Big Year for Leonardo da Vinci in U.S. Theaters and Museums

Welcome to another installment of TV Spyglass, the Saturday edition if you will. I just published an article about the new screening dates for the documentary “Inside the Mind of Leonardo 3D” (2D at select screenings). It stars Peter Capaldi (“Doctor Who,” “The Thick of It”) as Leonardo da Vinci, the Renaissance artist celebrated for both his scientific studies and artistic talents. The focus is generally on the Codex Atlanticus, one of Leonardo’s many journals.

If you are lucky enough to see the documentary later this month or in January 2015 (or on DVD later?), you may be wondering how to enhance your Leonardo experience. Sorry, I couldn’t help but put a spin on the master’s own reference to himself as a “disciple of experience.” The big question therefore is this: Do I have to travel to Europe? The good news for those of us on this side of the pond is a resounding “no.” Fortunately, I know of four different places where you can go, two of which are in fairly close proximity.

On this journey, one of your stops is the state of Arizona for the upcoming Leonardo exhibition in the Phoenix Art Museum, running from January 24, 2015 to April 12, 2015. You’ll be able to view the Codex Leceister in the display that highlights the “artist’s curiosity, direct observation, and thinking on paper.” These aspects comprise an important part of “Leonardo’s active mind and working method,” according to the gallery’s site. It’s a nice way to see another one of his journals, because Julian Jones’ documentary is based on the Atlanticus.

The second place on my list is Virginia, which means a coast-to-coast flight. A lovely red chalk drawing of a girl’s head will be on display, along with pages from the “Codex on the Flight of Birds” at the Muscarelle Museum of Art. The exhibition, at the College of William & Mary, is called “Leonardo da Vinci and the Idea of Beauty” and runs from February 21st to April 5th. If you’re going to examine beauty (and if you’ve seen Leonardo’s face studies), you’ll know to expect something on the idea of the grotesque as well and how these concepts were thought to reveal a person’s inner character.

If for some reason you miss this time table at William & Mary, don’t despair. The same exhibit moves after that to Boston, Massachusetts, reopening at the Museum of Fine Arts. Perhaps you’d prefer to wait anyway, as the gallery rooms open on Leonardo’s birthday, April 15th, and runs until July 12th. If the birthday connection is of little interest, then the William & Mary stop would be more convenient, because you should definitely make it a point to visit the final destination on my list: Washington, D.C.

Everything I’ve covered so far deals with journal extracts and drawings. It’s all very well and good, even quite exciting and fascinating. Yet you may be feeling a little put out, having concluded that the U.S. only houses sketches done by the Renaissance artist. I’m afraid that’s where you’re rather mistaken. What’s even better is the fact that this next piece is not part of a temporary or special exhibition. It’s been part of an American collection since the 1960s. On top of that, admission is free.

Leonardo da Vinci, Ginevra de' Benci, c. 1474/1478. Oil on Panel. National Gallery of Art, Washinton, D.C. Photo by Pat Cuadros.
Leonardo da Vinci, Ginevra de’ Benci, c. 1474/1478. Oil on Panel. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Photo by Pat Cuadros.

You’ll be heading out to the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, D.C. By the section of Italian Renaissance artwork in a relatively quiet hallway, you’ll find this little gem on a wall: the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in any gallery on the Western Hemisphere. As opposed to a visit to his more famous piece at the Louvre, you can walk right up to this one and have at least a minute or two to get your camera settings right. (No jostling with crowds at a distance behind ropes and security here!) Who is this lovely lady? She’s Ginevra de’ Benci, the daughter of wealthy Florentine banker. You won’t see this painting covered during “Inside the Mind of Leonardo 3D,” but it’s certainly a must-see.

It would be a nice touch if Submarine Deluxe and History Films decide to partner with any or all of these institutions to add screenings of “Inside the Mind of Leonardo” in their auditoriums. Exhibition and documentary attendees could really add to their experience of understanding Leonardo da Vinci’s art and thoughts both on the big screen and in person. In any case, you’d be remiss not to attend these events. 2015 is certainly a big year for anything related to Leonardo da Vinci.


Author: Pat Cuadros

TV & Film Blogger @blogcritics

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