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May 13 - May 13 2023

Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo

Host: Smithsonian Associates
Date: May 13th
Time: 4pm to 10pm

Leonardo and Michelangelo. These towering geniuses of Western art grew up in the same city, shared the same patrons, and also shared an intense dislike for each other. But their fraught relationship was fueled by a secret mutual fascination and a fierce competition that spurred them—and their contemporaries—to new levels of artistic achievement.

In this richly illustrated program, art historian Nigel McGilchrist depicts the two artists as perfectionists and brilliant craftsmen of radically different kinds who revolutionized the received methods of painting and sculpting for all time.

The Consequences of Competition

Two ways of confronting the same world: Leonardo as the observer and Michelangelo as the idealist. The Florentine environment and early works that hint at even greater things: Leonardo’s Annunciation and Michelangelo’s David.

Techniques and Conservation

Leonardo’s search for the ultimate paint medium. Michelangelo as sculptor in painting and draughtsman in stone. The problems inherent in conservation of the Sistine Chapel frescoes on the one side and of Mona Lisa and The Last Supper on the other. Their influence on later European painting, compared with that of Titian.


Obsessions and Recurring Themes

Two ideals of beauty contrasted: Michelangelo’s meditations on mortality in his Pieta and Depositionsculptures and the Sistine Last Judgment, set alongside Leonardo’s portrayal of the female face in Ginevra de BenciMona Lisa, the Lady with an Ermine, and other works.

Writings, Dreams, and Nightmares

Leonardo’s notebooks and Michelangelo’s Sonnets and letters. The legacies of two minds with opposing views on science, religion, and the burning issues of the Renaissance.

McGilchrist was based in and worked in Italy for 35 years: he taught at the University of Rome, worked for the Italian Ministry of Arts in the field of wall painting conservation, and established the Anglo-Italian Institute in Rome.

  • May 13 - May 13 2023




Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo: Contrasts in Greatness