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Exhibition Featuring Work of Leonardo da Vinci to Open at High Museum in October 2009

ATLANTA, GA.- The first exhibition to explore Leonardo da Vinci’s profound interest in and influence on sculpture will premiere at the High Museum of Art in October 2009. “Leonardo da Vinci and the Art of Sculpture: Inspiration and Invention,” will feature over 50 works, including more than 25 sketches and studies by Leonardo, some of which will be on view in the United States for the first time. The exhibition will also feature work by Donatello, Verrocchio, and Rustici—including Rustici’s three monumental bronzes from the façade of the Baptistery in Florence that comprise “John the Baptist Preaching to a Levite and a Pharisee,” which was recently restored and has never left Florence .

Through an examination of the sculpture that Leonardo da Vinci studied, the sketches and studies he created for his own sculptural projects (the majority of which were never realized), and his interactions with other Renaissance sculptors, the exhibition will shed new light on Leonardo’s seminal role in the development of Renaissance sculpture and the work of artists who followed him. Organized by the High Museum of Art, “Leonardo da Vinci and the Art of Sculpture” will premiere in Atlanta October 3, 2009, through February 21, 2010. A slightly modified version of the exhibition will subsequently travel to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles (March 23 through June 20, 2010).

“Though Leonardo was only able to create a small number of sculptures and few of them survive, this exhibition will reveal the enormous impact that Leonardo had on the field of sculpture, and how his study of ancient and Renaissance sculpture influenced future generations,” said Michael E. Shapiro, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. Director of the High Museum of Art. “Following in the tradition of Verrocchio’s ‘David’ and Ghiberti’s ‘The Gates of Paradise,’ this exhibition underscores the High’s commitment to collaborative partnerships that promote new research, advance scholarship, and bring great works of art to Atlanta and other major U.S. cities.”

Leonardo, Student of Sculpture
The exhibition will begin with a look at Leonardo’s wide ranging interest in sculpture, including an examination of those sculptors whose influence can be seen in his work. “Leonardo, Student of Sculpture” will pair Leonardo’s drawings with the works of ancient and early Renaissance sculpture that inspired him, illustrating the process of his three-dimensional drawings. A life-sized bearded prophet by Donatello from the Florence Campanile (ca. 1418–1420), the model for the standing figure in Leonardo’s unfinished “Adoration of the Magi,” has never been seen outside of Florence, Italy, and is being restored in preparation for this exhibition.

The exhibition will also look specifically at the relationship between Leonardo and his master, Andrea del Verrocchio, to demonstrate the influence of earlier generations of sculptors on Leonardo.

Leonardo, Sculptor
The second section of the exhibition, “Leonardo, Sculptor,” will feature drawings associated with Leonardo’s plans for other works of sculpture, including an in-depth examination of Leonardo’s plans to create the world’s largest and most technically complex statue, a work which was to depict Duke Francesco Sforza mounted on horseback. By November of 1493, Leonardo had completed a 24-foot tall clay model of the horse alone. Unfortunately, when war interrupted his work the planned bronze casting was discontinued and the clay model was subsequently destroyed.

In addition to the Sforza monument, two of Leonardo’s other equestrian projects for Gian Giacomo Trivulzio and King Francis I of France will be examined through the artists’ compositional and anatomical studies as well as drawings for proportioning, modeling, and casting the enormous Sforza monument.

Leonardo, Model and Mentor
The exhibition will conclude with a look at Leonardo’s influence on a younger generation of sculptors. “Leonardo, Model and Mentor” will examine artists such as Giovanni Francesco Rustici who created works in response to Leonardo’s monumental “Battle of Anghiari” fresco in the Palazzo Vecchio, which has since been painted over. Additional small bronze horses and warriors inspired both by the “Battle of Anghiari” and Leonardo’s equestrian projects will demonstrate the range and depth of Leonardo’s influence.

The final section of the exhibition will also feature Giovanni Francesco Rustici’s three larger-than-life-sized bronze figures that comprise “John the Baptist Preaching to a Levite and a Pharisee,” which has been recently restored and will be shown in the United States for the first time. Leonardo has long been credited with greatly influencing the work, as much of the group was modeled between March and September 1508 while Leonardo and Rustici were sharing living quarters. Artist and biographer Giorgio Vasari acknowledged Leonardo’s involvement in the project:

“[Leonardo] proved himself in sculpture with the three bronze figures over the north door of San Giovanni which were executed by Giovanni Francesco Rustici but finished with Leonardo’s advice; they are the most beautiful casts both for their design and for their perfection that have yet been seen in the modern age.”

Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) is widely recognized as a scientist, inventor, philosopher, writer, designer, sculptor, architect, and painter. His artistic apprenticeship took place in Florence in the workshop of painter and sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio. In 1482, he left Florence for the court of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, where he was to spend much of his career. During his early Milanese period he painted his iconic Last Supper. He fled Milan after the French invasion of the city in 1499 and returned to Florence, where he painted the Mona Lisa, and continued his technological, geographical, and scientific studies. He returned to Milan in 1506, and after spending some time at the Papal Court in Rome, accepted an invitation from Francis I, King of France, to work at his court, where he remained until his death.

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