There has always been another image of Leonardo, one that associated him with hidden things, esoteric knowledge beyond common perceptions.
If you knew nothing about Matvey Levensteins work, but something about art history, you would find yourself in the pleasurable position of surveying his recent paintings at Kasmin Gallery the way I did, as an introduction to a painter who you really ought to know, and whose works hit you like an encounter with the unknown.
If you think yourself immune to the seductions of visual propaganda, go check out the current Met exhibition, The Medici: Portraits and Politics, 15121570. It will test you.
Here, Britain’s engagement with the outside world comes to the fore, and the galleries highlight both the oppression and the wealth brought on by precocious imperialist activity, industrialization, and commercial enterprise.
About midway through the National Gallerys exhibition Andrea del Verrocchio: Sculptor and Painter of Renaissance Florence, you find yourself standing in front of a beautiful young woman carved from marble that has mellowed to a honey-brown hue.
Is anyones art worth the effort of a sleepless six-hour redeye flight? Leonardo would not have hesitated to say yes. When praising the art of painting, he pointed out the great lengths people go to simply to enjoy pictures, and noted how people fell in love with paintings or worshipped them. Accordingly, when Leonardo installed a full-scale drawing made in preparation for a painting of the Virgin and Child with St. Anne in Florence in 1501, hordes rushed to see it. Apparently, some things havent changed.