Download e-book for iPad: Veronese by Stefano Zuffi

By Stefano Zuffi

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33 He conducted major experiments with the camera obscura, a device that was well known to the painters of his era. Leonardo describes how he cast light on the opposite wall in dark rooms through a little hole and there saw the outside world standing on its head. These experiments brought him to the realization that the eye functions like a camera obscura. The pupil corresponds to the hole through which the light falls; the image originates on the retina. 34 The sketch illustrates one of Leonardo’s strengths—drawing parallels between the known and the unknown—to which he owed many of his most original achievements.

Then the rays make a sharp bend, and just as the lens of the eye refracts light in reality, the water on the curved base of the bowl refracts the light. When the rays leave the lens again in bundled form, they travel to the back of the eyeball and produce an image on the retina. When the man holds his head into the bowl, he can observe precisely what happens in the retina of a real eye. Now Leonardo could use this setup to conduct all kinds of experiments. What would happen, for instance, if the candle were moved farther from the bowl?

If you stand in front of Raphael’s picture, you soon notice that this painting is far less compelling than its model. The difference goes beyond the magic of the names Mona Lisa and Leonardo. The lady with the unicorn is certainly beautiful and the skill of her creator estimable, but the painting fails to move us. The effect of the Mona Lisa can be summed up in two words: She lives. The British art historian Martin Kemp, a Leonardo expert, has provided this apt description of how her face engages her spectators: “She reacts to us, and we cannot but react to her.

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Veronese by Stefano Zuffi

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