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by Archaeology Newsroom

Alberti and Leonardo’s discourses on Art (a book review)

In her book, Marina Lambraki Plaka presents the artistic principles of two great Renaissance artists, Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) and Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). In the 14th century, Giotto, a Renaissance pioneer, had already brought back the human form to the forefront of painting. On the other hand, the portrayal of nature, still remained traditional. The Florentine architect Brunelleschi brought about the change and in turn, this change was spread abroad by his pupil Alberti. In his theoretical writings, the latter gives a scientific basis to the art of perspective. Da Vinci, in turn, “condenses and brings to a head the scientific ambitions of the quattrocento Florentine artists.” Lacking Alberti’s humanist discipline, Da Vinci has a far more restless spirit, and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. His observations, queries and his drawings fill thousands of manuscripts. Believing the painter to be Lord of the Universe, he seeks out nature’s vital forces, animate and inanimate and expresses them vigorously in his work. He is a pioneer in his search for psychic expressions in man, and in place of Alberti’s static perspective, he discovers the perspective of colour and atmosphere. One is reminded of the sculptor Praxiteles’ atmospheric moulding of his figures, in the way a diffused atmospheric light saturates the outlines of Leonardo’s figures.