The Franco-Italian relationship has always experienced ups and downs. We are currently experiencing a rather "down" period, which undoubtedly reflects somewhat of a crisis in European identity. The Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at the Louvre could have been Franco-Italian! The two countries would have convened to offer the public an event promoting the great European and the Renaissance man that da Vinci was. This was entirely conceivable. In this respect, this exhibition may be tainted with a feeling of missed opportunity. The nationalist pressures that Italy has been expressing with regards to this emblematic figure echo a tendency towards self-assertion that is characteristic of nations in crisis of self-confidence, or even crisis of identity. The five hundred years since Leonardo da Vinci's death could have been a European year. In this circumstance, there were first unfortunate remarks by the French President and regrettable French actions in Libya, followed by an overreaction from the Italians. We are probably paying the price for these shared diplomatic mistakes.
In your eyes, what is grandiose about Leonardo da Vinci's work? Why does it bear such significance?
Leonardo da Vinci is the embodiment of modernity and his work, a picture of his multiplicity. Let us consider some of his drawings, which make him a true inventor of war machines, the mystery that emerges from his portraits, or even the fascinating rarity of his painted work: twenty canvases! Rembrandt, Goya have left humanity with a vast collection of paintings. Even Vermeer, less prolific, has offered us more than Leonardo da Vinci. But there is something else in the da Vinci work. A perpetual movement, away from frozen paintings, and one that raises questions. An irony in the Mona Lisa, a form of enigmatic mistrust in La belle ferronnière, a propensity to grasp the essence of what humanity is, drawings that are sometimes tender, elsewhere sensual, an extraordinary taste for details, the formidable modernity of his gaze, an unequalled ability to render the drape of a fabric, the practically photographic nature of some of his creations, reflecting his knowledge of anatomy...
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