Photographer's Note


I have been remiss in my activities on Trekearth lately. A few days ago our new book, “Leonardo’s Universe,” was released by National Geographic Books, and this curious post is meant as a present to art lovers. It was from Dr. David Alan Brown, the pre-eminent Curator of Renaissance Art at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, that I first heard about the uncanny resemblance of the model used by Andre del Verocchio for his statue of “David” and the portrait in profile of the elderly Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) produced by the great artist’s apprentice, Francesco Melzi.

We touched upon this story in our book, but neither I, nor our publisher, the National Geographic, which has long defined great photography, had on hand a close–up of Verrocchio’s statue in the Bargello Museum in Florence when the book went to press last August. Accordingly, this diptych was not included in the book. As the book was being printed (in China), however, I was briefly in Florence. And armed with permission from the Bargello’s Director, I took a number of close-up portraits of the dark bronze statue, perched on a high pedestal. I held the camera at the top of a monopod extended to full length, and the camera set in self-timer mode. The bronze statue is thought to have been cast by Verrocchio (1435-1488) around 1469-1470, when Leonardo was 17-18. The drawing of Leonardo in his mature years was produced by Leonardo’s loyal assistant, the talented Milanese artist, Melzi (1491-1570), around 1510, when Leonardo would have been around 58, and Melzi only 17-18. The drawing is in the Queen’s Collection at Windsor Castle.

The similarities in the contour of the noses, in the upper and lower eye-lids, the cheeks, the lips... suggest Dr. Brown’s observation was right on the mark, that we have here Leonardo’s likeness forty-years apart. In an accompanying workshop the full-size statue of “David” can be seen, and in the background, the marble bust known as “Lady with a Bouquet of Flowers,” another work by Verrocchio. Verrocchio ran one of the most effective art studios, ‘botegas,’ in Florence, and his apprentices, along with Leonardo, included Botticelli and Lorenzo de Credi. It also included Ghirlandaio, who in turn would train Leonardo’s rival, Michelangelo.

Regards in the New Year to all my Trekearth friends,


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Additional Photos by Bulent Atalay (batalay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6809 W: 476 N: 12169] (41257)
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