Mike & Leo’s Excellent
New York City Adventure
Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci are having a moment at the Big Apple: a massive Met show of drawings of the former is enchanting crowds, and a work attributed to the latter just broke records at an auction yesterday. Not bad for the two Renaissance superstars who’ve been dead for five centuries.
Michelangelo’s Divine Draftsman and Designer brings to the city the largest number of drafts ever assembled for a show. And suspicions about Salvator Mundi, a newly-discovered 1500 painting of da Vinci, didn’t prevent it from reaching a staggering $450 million at an equally crowded Christie’s session.
New Yorkers have it good and don’t even know it. Don’t quote us on that, but an unscientific survey could show that museum attendance by residents is declining, as ‘voluntary’ entry fees went up. But we can always count on our lovely tourists to gladly pick up the slack.
And until they ban cellphones at these places, they’ll keep on increasingly becoming madhouses, with selfie-takers colliding with each other in the rush to impress their social media followers. Sadly, despite ever so eager to be seen as hip, many miss out on the very experience of being in the presence of a work of art, glaring at their faces.
No wonder curators bend backwards to fashion and the culture of celebrities, hoping they’ll attract a fresh crowd of art-seekers, despite having centuries of appreciation to prove the worth of their wares. In the end, the famous also take their own annoying selfies, strictly to post them on Web accounts. And walk away, ushered by handlers.
SKETCH COLLECTION OF A TITAN
The reinvigorating quality of a master such as Michelangelo, born 543 years ago next March, is that every new sighting of his works turns out another revelation. These Metropolitan Museum of Art drawings trace back the pictorial genius at the core of his innate creative verve.
Every small draft, whether it found or not its way to the splendor at the ceiling of the Vatican’s Capela Sistina, started as a subtle dialog, a tenuous answer to whatever turmoil he already had in mind, about fulfilling his task. To completely realize them, he’d need a few lifetimes.
But mankind is grateful of what he managed to accomplish in just one. Despite having to hide at times from the politics of his age, or persevere even when the other gargantuan contemporary of his had but contempt about his art, he’d live to almost 90, as if in a mission to give us all an eternal name.
THE REACH OF AN UNIVERSAL MAN
Leonardo took 67 years to explore and leave his imprint on almost as many disciplines of human knowledge, some that he discovered, others, that he redefined. Considering all his accomplishments as an inventor and artist, is astonishing that, among all, he’s known as (more)
* Museums of Something Else
* Marbled Heavenly Bodies
* Eye of the Beholder
one of the greatest painters of all time.
The multi-century popularity of the Mona Lisa (and its many versions) and The Last Supper, for instance, mask the influence of his genius in all that followed the Renaissance, including contemporary machines, engines, and gadgets we’re so familiar with. You’re probably getting this post through at least a couple of them.
That has little to do with the half a billion tag price for a painting some have doubts whether it’s really his, or even from his era. Time will tell. The art market became an obscenity, and one fears for its ability to nurture the masterpieces that gave it birth in the first place.
EQUALS BUT HARDLY EVER BUDDIES
Historians like to speculate about perceived rivalries among the great and the gifted. As if their shine needs any help shining even brighter. Michelangelo and Leonardo did know each other but live in an Italy far from unified, with city-states and independent provinces, with own their dialects and often at war with each other.
It’s possible that, as admired (with reservations) as Michelangelo may have been, he disliked the spotlight, and preferred laboring in the seclusion and quietness of temple naves and basements. Leonardo, on the other hand, was an explorer, likely constantly on the prowl for new insights about the natural world.
Both depended on pleasing sponsors and benefactors, volatile kings and aristocrats of those tough times, who could change their minds on a whim. So it’s fun to imagine them today, crossing Central Park on their way to the Met and Christie’s. If you can guess what they’d be talking about, you’re certainly one of a kind too.