Two Little Leonardo Da Vinci Sculptures May Be Hiding In Plain Sight
Date: 29 Apr 2009 | | Views: 3721
A fascinating piece of detective work accompanies the High Museum show “Leonardo da Vinci: Hand of the Genius,” opening in October.
The exhibit will include the first U.S. showing of “Beheading the Baptist,” a silver relief depicting seven figures at the execution of John.
The question is who created the relief. For centuries it has been credited to Florentine sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio, who was Leonardo’s mentor. But Gary Radke, guest curator of the exhibit at the High, believes that two of the figures are the work of Leonardo himself.
The tableau depicts a soldier holding a sword aloft, while a kneeling, praying John accepts his fate. The two figures, an officer with a baton seen from the rear and a youth holding a plate, flank the central characters.
The recent cleaning of the relief, which the High Museum helped to fund, enabled Radke, a Syracuse University professor, to examine the work in detail. That’s when he observed that the 8-inch figures were different from, and superior to, the rest.
A specialist in Renaissance sculpture, Radke wondered whether the pieces might be Verrocchio at the top of his game before deciding that they represented the hand of the young Leonardo.
“Reattribution is a dangerous and tricky business,” he said in an interview from New York. “It’s not something I sought to do.
“But when I had the privilege of looking at the figures from both front and back, two of them jumped out at me. … They are brilliantly posed and extraordinarily modeled down to the last detail.”
Unlike the others, for instance, they were created fully in the round, despite the fact that the backs wouldn’t be visible to viewers.
Radke’s theory —- presented at a scholarly conference in October —- is the first salvo of a vetting process that requires a consensus among Renaissance scholars.
In the meantime, visitors can see the relief with their own eyes and, with information the High plans to provide, draw their own conclusions about the figures.
The exhibit, which runs Oct. 3-Feb. 21, explores Leonardo’s interest in and influence upon sculpture. It will feature some 20 of his sketches and studies as well as sculpture by Donatello, Rubens, Verrocchio and Rustici.