Renaissance 174 Notes

Renaissance 174

### Leonardo’s Late Works (1506–16)
– During the decade of 1506–16, Leonardo worked on three spiritual paintings which we have to discuss, if for no other reason than they lead up to our episodes on the Mona Lisa.
– In his last decade, Leonardo was mesmerized by the pointing gesture, the signal of tidings borne by a mysterious guide who has come to show us the way.
– There were two sexy as fuck paintings of Saint John the Baptist
– one of them converted into a rendering of Bacchus many years later,
– There was also a painting of an angel of the Annunciation which has been lost
– All of them feature an androgynous young man with an enigmatic aura, looking directly at the viewer and pointing a finger.
– Probably all modelled on Salai.
– It wasn’t the first time he had painted someone pointing, but now they are looking at the viewer while they are doing it.
– If you look at the earlier paintings with pointing fingers – eg The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist and Saint Thomas in the Last Supper, they are pointing upwards while looking at other people in the paintings.
– Now they are looking directly at us.
– It’s sexy, creepy, profound and I think it might be original to Leonardo.
– The pointing finger was around before him.
– Pointing gestures can be found in earlier medieval and Renaissance art, often used to direct the viewer’s attention to a particular element or to convey a specific message or symbolism.
– These gestures can be seen in religious contexts, such as saints pointing to heaven or to significant religious symbols.
– Or…. It’s just a phallic symbol.
– This erect finger is my erect penis.
– Or, more likely, “helloooo! I’m gay and LOVIN’ it!”
– “Mystery to Leonardo was a shadow, a smile and a finger pointing into darkness.” (Kenneth Clark)
– Why does Leonardo have them staring at us?
– Is it an invitation to explore the spiritual meaning of the painting?
– Or is he just trying to do sneaky porn?
– Hey look everyone – here’s my new painting. Oh what? It’s making you hard and/or wet? Gee. I had no idea.
– I think he’s trying to push the boundaries.
– Oneupmanship on Botticelli.

### Criticisms and Interpretations
– Some critics have asserted that Leonardo marred the spiritual nature of these pieces by giving them an erotic allure.
– In 1625, a cataloguer complained that the Saint John painting “does not please because it does not arouse feelings of devotion.”
– Kenneth Clark wrote, “Our whole sense of propriety is outraged,” adding that the depiction of Saint John is “almost blasphemously unlike the fiery ascetic of the Gospels.”
– I say fuck that.
– I love it.
– And I think Jesus would have loved it too.
– He was DTF.
– Everyone in history who started a cult is basically doing it for the pussy.
– Or the cock.
– Or both.
– Why would JC be any different?

### Saint John the Baptist
– From sketches in his notebook, Leonardo had already begun working on his portrait of Saint John the Baptist while in Milan in 1509.
– He carried it around with him and intermittently enhanced it until the end of his life, focusing on the saint’s eyes, mouth, and gesture.
– Leonardo’s use of chiaroscuro conveys a powerful feeling of John’s role as witness to the true Light.
– on walnut wood
– Scholars have often thought it was completed between 1513 and 1516, it is believed to be his final painting.
– But Carlo Pendretti argues it was completed by 1509
– Its original size was 69 by 57 centimetres (27 in × 22 in).
– The painting is in the collection of the Louvre.
– But don’t go looking for it there until next year.
– In November 2022, it was loaned to Louvre Abu Dhabi for two years as part of the museum’s fifth anniversary.
– John emerges from the shadowy background.
– Nothing to see behind him, no rivers or Rocky Mountains high in Colorado.
– HIs upper body is naked and sexy as fuck.
– Could be a woman’s body.
– Soft and voluptuous.
– His bottom half is dressed in furs, has long curly hair and is smiling in an enigmatic manner reminiscent of Leonardo’s famous Mona Lisa.
– It’s hard to see because it’s so dark, but He holds a reed cross in his left hand, while his right hand points up toward heaven
– The reed cross represents a connection to John’s preaching in the wilderness, where reeds would have been abundant.
– In the New Testament, John the Baptist is described as a preacher in the desert, calling for repentance and baptizing people in the River Jordan.
– The reed, a simple and humble material, emphasizes John’s ascetic lifestyle and his message of humility and repentance.
– The reed cross also symbolizes the transient nature of life, as reeds are flexible and can bend but not break, just as the soul is eternal despite the body’s fragility.
– Reed Cross Howard Is Ron Howard’s Redhead Son, Richie Cunningham.
– Prior to this work, Saint John had traditionally been portrayed as a gaunt ascetic.

### Saint John with the Attributes of Bacchus
– The other variation of Saint John was later altered to Bacchus.
– Also in the Louvre
– There was once a beautiful red-chalk preparatory drawing by Leonardo for this painting, stolen from a museum in 1973.
The painting was probably done in Leonardo’s workshop, maybe by Francesco Melzi, with some assistance from LDV
– Also based on Salai and it was in an inventory of Salai’s estate in 1525
– Which, I think, suggests Leonardo had it painted FOR him
– an Italian scholar and patron of arts and pen pal of Galileo, Cassiano dal Pozzo, remarked of the painting in its former state, which he saw at Fontainebleau in 1625, that it had neither devotion, decorum nor similitude
– the suavely beautiful, youthful and slightly androgynous John was so at variance with artistic conventions in portraying the Baptist, but a type of Leonardo’s invention, of a disconcerting, somewhat ambiguous sensuality,
– It was described in 1625 as a painting of St John
– But in a subsequent inventory of that collection done in 1695, the designation of Saint John is crossed out and replaced by “Bacchus in a landscape.”
– From this we can surmise that, sometime in the late 1600s, the painting was altered, perhaps for reasons of religious and sexual propriety,
– the Roman god of wine and revelry.
– Originally had a fur robe around his genitals, it was changed to leopard skin
– a wreath of ivy was put on his head, and his staff or cross was turned into a thyrsus.
– a wand or staff of giant fennel (Ferula communis) covered with ivy vines and leaves, sometimes wound with taeniae and topped with a pine cone, artichoke, or by a bunch of vine-leaves and grapes or ivy-leaves and berries, carried during Hellenic festivals and religious ceremonies, typically associated with Dionysus / Bacchus, and represents a symbol of prosperity, fertility, and hedonism similarly to Dionysus.
– He could convert it into a weapon by turning the pine cone into iron
– BTW, I’ve been reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses
– And Bacchus is a scary motherfucker
– As are his followers
– They had caused problems in Ancient Greece
– When they came to Rome, 200 years before Ovid, the religion was banned by the Senate for being too uncontrollable and dangerous to the public order
– pulling live animals apart and eating the whole of them raw
– drunken, disinhibited men and women of all ages and social classes cavorted in a sexual free-for-all five times a month
– Livy claims 7,000 devotees were arrested, most were executed.
– Gradually accepted into the Roman pantheon
– Jesus / wine / eucharist / Bacchus
– “I have seldom seen an original Leonardo of more revealing character,” wrote Carlo Pedretti, one of the world’s leading experts on the life and works of Leonardo da Vinci

### Angel of the Annunciation and Angel Incarnate
– Leonardo painted another pointing figure, an angel of the Annunciation, similar to that in Saint John the Baptist.
– The painting is now lost but known from copies made by some of Leonardo’s followers.
– There is an astonishing drawing known as the Angel Incarnate or Angel in the Flesh, showing a lewdly leering transgender version of the Angel.
Made around 1513, while Leonardo was in Rome
– Also modelled on Salai, maybe drawn by him also in one of Leonardo’s notebooks, as a joke
– he/she/it has a huge nipple and a huge erect penis and and dangling balls
– That someone tried to rub out
– Get it? Rub out? Erect penis?
– Anyway, all they did was make it more prominent by rubbing away the background
– Pedretti wrote a book about this drawing
– It was once part of the British royal collection but it was apparently stolen by a German scholar and rediscovered in 1990 in a private collection of a German family.
– Another story is that Queen Victoria got rid of it because it was too naughty

### Pointing Lady
– There’s also A poetic and sweet drawing known as the Pointing Lady, called “perhaps the most beautiful drawing by Leonardo” by the renowned scholar Carlo Pedretti.
The subject has the same mysterious and enticing smile as her male counterparts, and she likewise is looking directly at us, directing our attention to a mystery unseen. But unlike Leonardo’s various angels of the period, there is nothing devilish about her.

– The black-chalk drawing encompasses many facets of Leonardo’s life and work, filled with curls and spirals that Leonardo loved.

### Conclusion
– The black-chalk drawing is simple
The drawing may have been meant as an illustration for Dante’s Purgatorio or a costume pageant.
– It has also generated speculation as to her identity which includes Beatrice d’Este (the Duchess of Milan),
– Her features and smile have suggested Lisa Gherardini, (Mona Lisa).