Leonardo 500

Leonardo 500 is a series of events marking the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, organised and supported by the Italian Cultural Institute, the Warburg Institute, the University of Kent, and the Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory at the Institute of Modern Languages Research.

Curating Leonardo: A Roundtable

11 November 2019, 6pm | Italian Cultural Institute, 39 Belgrave Square SW1X 8NX

Caroline Campbell (National Gallery), Per Rumberg (Royal Academy), Ana Debenedetti (V&A) and Catherine Yvard (National Art Library). Chair: Ben Thomas (University of Kent Canterbury)

The 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci has brought with it an impressive array of exhibitions including Leonardo da Vinci (Louvre), Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing (Royal Collection Trust), and Leonardo: Experience a Masterpiece (National Gallery). What have been the challenges for curators in addressing Leonardo's legacy? What have we learnt about Leonardo from the different approaches adopted? How can the complex and fragile artefacts associated with Leonardo be made accessible to today's public? A panel of leading curators will discuss these and other issues raised by the Leonardo anniversary.

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Leonardo's "Paragone" and Contemporary Art

2 December 2019, 6pm | Warburg Institute

Humphrey Ocean (RA), and a sculptor TBC

Chair: Ben Thomas (University of Kent Canterbury)

Leonardo da Vinci argued that 'the sculptor undertakes his work with greater bodily exertion than the painter' and that sculpture is 'an extremely mechanical operation, generally accompanied by great sweat which mingles with dust and becomes converted into mud. His face becomes powdered all over with marble dust, which makes him look like a baker'. By contrast, the painter is a cultured intellectual wearing fine cloths and painting to the accompaniment of music and poetry recitals. Partly made for comic effect in a courtly setting, Leonardo's arguments for the superiority of painting over sculpture - the so-called Paragonedebates - are at the heart of his conception of the visual arts as noble because they required a theoretical understanding of nature. A deeper reading of Leonardo's arguments reveals his profound interest in sculptural problems such as lighting and view-point, and an awareness that pictorial challenges like creating the appearance of relief on a flat surface ('rilievo') requires a knowledge of sculptural form. To what extent are these questions and concerns relevant to the practice of the visual arts today? Leading contemporary artists will reprise Leonardo's arguments, relating them to their own practice.

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Aby Warburg’s Leonardo Lectures: A Reconstruction

16 December 2019, 6pm | Warburg Institute

A reading of a special translation – the first in English - of Aby Warburg’s foundational lectures on Leonardo da Vinci, along with an exhibition of items from his original accompanying photographic exhibition. The Warburg Institute holds the finished texts of the lectures, which given in 1899 at the Hamburg Kunsthalle, and all the original exhibition images. This event will be the first hearing of the Leonardo lectures in English, and the first viewing of the exhibition for more than a century.

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