The prolific Exhibitions on Screen strand takes a step away from its normal practice of surveying specific gallery spaces by assembling a virtual exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings in a way no art gallery – not even the Louvre (currently showing seven) – can manage.
The result is undeniably impressive: a whistle-stop tour of masterpieces that hops from one Leonardo venue to another. London’s National Gallery shows off its Virgin of the Rocks, the Uffizi in Florence its Annunciation, St Petersburg’s Hermitage its Benois Madonna, the National museum in Krakow’s Lady With an Ermine. (A nice touch: the local curators get to wax lyrical about their particular Leonardo.) Of course, viewing a painting through the documentary lens is never quite the same, but the cumulative effect of seeing one masterwork after another roll across the screen is amazing.
Formally, Leonardo: The Works conforms to the makers’ customary style – long, lingering closeups, authoritative if occasionally stilted comment from art historians and curators, key quotes from original documents read in booming voiceover. The aim is maximum clarity and it works well, even if the five minutes or so each picture gets inevitably seems brief.
Then, of course, there is the Salvator Mundi question. Careful not to strike any controversial notes, the painting is placed without comment in the roll call of works – no hint given of the financial power plays attendant on its official attribution to Leonardo in 2011, or the radical transformation in its appearance after its sale in 2005 as “after Leonardo”. No doubt that’s to be expected; the film-makers are not looking to rock the boat, and their footage of it was recorded before the painting disappeared from public view, its whereabouts currently unknown.
But it’s a minor detour, even if it does unintentionally emphasise the relentless confrontation between money and art that underpins the blockbuster-exhibition eco-system. As gallery films go, this is pretty monumental.
Source: The Guardian