Monday, October 07, 2013

Book Review: Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King

Leonardo and the Last SupperLeonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Own. Kindle.


This was a very kind birthday present from my brother.  I had a hard time enjoying it, unfortunately.

King gives some biographical information about Leonardo and his patron, Ludovico Sforza and discusses the period during which they live.  The time is a time of wars and rumors of war, of shifting alliances and treachery.  The power and influence of the individual Dukedoms was great, and as Sforza was a powerful Duke, his patronage of Leonardo included the contract to paint The Last Supper.  The histories were interesting, but I'm not sure how important the raging wars were to the book itself. 

And then the history section was abruptly stopped.

King then digs into different parts of the painting and how they reflect on Leonardo's interests, lifestyle, and studies.  For several chapters, he focuses on different parts of the painting itself.He discusses perspective, hands and hand gestures, faces, hair, a long discussion on the Apostle John and that he's clearly not Mary Magdalene.  He shows that anti-Semitism was not the intent of Leonardo in his figure of Judas.  King discusses Leonardo's preoccupation with flying things, math, the Vitruvian man and his tendency to not complete what he's begun. (Although he did complete The Last Supper)

And then the history starts again.  Sforza is overthrown; Leonardo becomes a wanderer; both die in France.  King talks about the centuries of attempts to save and protect the mural from decay and loss. 

The book seemed choppy to me.  It didn't hold my interest, I had to force myself through it and the writing could have been more engaging.  The black and white of the Kindle did not do justice to the snippets of paintings throughout the book.  I don't read a lot of Art History, perhaps this is more typical of the genre.

I'm glad to be done and to have read this book; there was value in reading it.

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