Leonardo in Rome

by Danilo Brunetti

A splendid new exhibit at Villa Farnesina explores the artistic connections between Da Vinci and Raphael. Tiffany Parks has the details.

One of Rome’s most underrated and sublime museums, a gem of Renaissance art that sits in an enchanting garden on the Trastevere side of the river, is hosting an exhibit that takes its already respectable collection up a notch. On occasion of the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo Da Vinci, Villa Farnesina is celebrating the life and work of the original Renaissance man. Leonardo in Rome: Influences and Legacy explores Da Vinci’s output, and in particular that of his atelier, during 1513 and 1517, the brief years he resided in the Eternal City. It also delves into the lasting effect that his work had on the city of Rome itself, specifically with regards to that other Renaissance genius, Raphael Sanzio.

The exhibit studies the reciprocal influences the two artists had on one another, and their mutual inspiration by classical models. What better place for this dialogue to be carried out than at Villa Farnesina, where Raphael’s exquisite fresco The Triumph of Galatea resides, as well as the Loggia of Psyche, with its glorious ceiling frescoes designed by the master from Urbino and carried out by his atelier. In this setting, visitors will find the surprising Nude Mona Lisa, a work by Leonardo’s studio based on one of his compositions and on loan from the Fondazione Primoli, as well as a number of female portraits by Raphael, and the models of ancient iconography that likely inspired both artists. Meanwhile, the theme of legacy will look at a selection of works based on some of Leonardo’s well-known subjects, such as Leda and the Swan and St. John the Baptist by the master’s Rome-based students, both direct and indirect, some of whom have not been recognized until now for their connection with the work of Da Vinci. Perhaps most intriguing is the reconstruction of Leonardo’s Studio in the Villa’s garden, a project made possible by the support of the Accademia dei Lincei.

On all month at Villa Farnesina.