In our latest Art books article TASCHEN focuses on Renaissance Man, the creator of arguably the world’s most famous painting.
Even among the geniuses of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is a figure of exceptional significance. This updated edition of TASCHEN’s XXL monograph, comprising all of his paintings and almost 700 drawings, provides the most comprehensive and scholarly survey to date on the expert painter, sculptor, architect, and inventor.
With a range of full-page close-ups, this edition reproduces the finest subtleties of the brushstrokes that revolutionised art history in unprecedented detail. For authors Frank Zöllner and Johannes Nathan, da Vinci “epitomises the humanistic ideal of the Renaissance man: a peerless master of painting, sculpture, cartography, anatomy, architecture – and more.”
A man who simultaneously captivates art historians, collectors, and the millions who flock yearly to admire his works, Leonardo’s appeal is as varied as were his preoccupations. His images permeate nearly every facet of Western culture. ‘The Vitruvian Man’ is engraved into millions of Euro coins and ‘The Last Supper’ is considered the single most reproduced religious painting in history. The ‘Mona Lisa’ (1503-1506) with her elusive smile has entranced countless artists and observers for centuries and attracted countless copies of all kinds. These include Eugène Bataille’s ‘Le Rire’ (1883) where she smokes a pipe, Duchamp’s goatee, moustached Mona: ‘L.H.O.O.Q’ (1919) and Andy Warhol’s multiple Mona Lisa serigraph prints: ‘30 are better than one’.
The man born out of wedlock to a legal notary and working class woman in Anchiano, with Florence another possibility, was also a technological genius. Da Vinci dreamed up flying machines, a type of armoured fighting vehicle, parachutes, concentrated solar power and an adding machine. Few of his designs were constructed or even feasible during his lifetime, as the modern scientific approaches to metallurgy and engineering were only in their infancy during the Renaissance. Some of his smaller inventions, however, entered the manufacturing world immediately – such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine to test the tensile strength of wire.
TASCHEN’s expansive catalogue of nearly 700 of Leonardo’s drawings further illuminates the breadth of his pursuits. From diagrams of his intricately engineered machines to portraits of plump infants, they ooze his boundless and visionary technical imagination.
For the new edition, numerous illustrations have been replaced by new photographs. Zöllner’s preface considers the latest scholarly findings on Leonardo’s oeuvre and takes a critical look at the much-discussed painting of Christ as ‘Salvator Mundi’, sold at auction for a record EUR450 million in November 2017 to Prince Badr bin Abdullah.
The beautiful addition to any art lover’s bookshelf has already attracted high praise, with The Art Newspaper commenting: “Opening this lavishly illustrated book is a sumptuous celebration of the visual aspects of Leonardo’s oeuvre.”
Frank Zöllner wrote his doctoral thesis on motifs originating from antiquity in the history of art and architecture of the Medieval and Renaissance periods (1987). He is also the author of a postdoctoral treatise on motion and expression in the art of Leonardo da Vinci (2010). He has published numerous works on Renaissance art and art theory, and on 20th-century art. Since 1996 he has been Professor of Medieval and Modern Art at the University of Leipzig.
Johannes Nathan studied art history at New York University and London’s Courtauld Institute of Art, where in 1995 he earned his Ph.D. with a dissertation on the working methods of Leonardo da Vinci. He is the author of numerous art publications, the director of Nathan Fine Art galleries (Berlin and Zürich) and he teaches art history at the Technische Universität, Berlin.
Leonardo. The Complete Paintings and Drawings
Hardcover, 29 x 39.5 cm, 7.63 kg, 712 pages. ISBN 978-3-8365-8597-2. Edition: English (French, German and Spanish editions are also available). Price: €150.
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