Leonardo Da Vinci Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Leonardo Da Vinci

The Comparison

Theses of the Authors

Each of the articles is similar yet dissimilar. They are similar in that they all discuss Leonardo da Vinci in some respect, but differ in the subjects and theses in their discussion. The two articles that are most similar in the questions asked (or thesis presented) would have to be the article written by Martin Kemp and the article written by Patricia Rubin. Both of these authors approach da Vinci by trying to separate the man from the myth, the reality from the years of renowned celebration for his works. However, each approaches this task in a different way. Kemp begins by analyzing tangible evidence from da Vinci's life such as records for commissions, receipts from paid works, and written accounts by those who knew him, to piece together da Vinci's life as an artist during the High Renaissance. Rubin, on the other hand, addresses da Vinci's life, but through the lens of Vasari the art biographer. The effect from Rubin's point-of-view is more an analytical summary of Vasari's talent as a biographer, rather than giving a clear light on da Vinci. Kemp keeps an interesting investigative line into da Vinci's life with his liberal uses of concrete evidence, leaving the reader with the satisfaction of getting a glimpse into da Vinci's life.

The two theses that are the most dissimilar are "Seven Functions of The Hands of Christ" and the article written by Frank Zollner. "Seven Functions" goes into a lengthy discussion of, literally, the hand positions of the depictions of Christ in da Vinci's well-known religious works, comparing and contrasting their meanings. Zollner's thesis, however, has nothing to do with religion and stays exclusively to the discussion of the Mona Lisa, asking the same questions that every art historian seeks to answer about the infamous painting: who is she? Who was the patron? Was da Vinci trying to convey some secret meaning with the portrait?

Similarity of Sources

Though some of the sources are the same, the similarity of them between the articles was scarce. Kemp and Zollner had the most similar sources in both referencing an article written by Shell and Sironi called "Salai and Leonardo's Legacy." They also both referenced certain primary documenti's, specifically numbers 126, 127, and 128. Rubin and Zollner also had one primary source in common, which was referencing different sections of Vasari's "Lives." Although specific art pieces were mentioned in each article, the sources did not match up as some authors were referencing articles about the art, or referencing the art itself, and none of them seemed to match up. Oddly, Kemp and "Seven Functions" did not have any sources in common even though they each mentioned the highest number of da Vinci's pieces.

Approach of each Author

Kemp's article is highly analytical and organized, but not so much so that it misses the point or gets too detailed. He makes heavy use of his primary sources, the documenti's, which helps to prove his thesis and make the reader get a true feel for da Vinci's everyday life as an artist in the Renaissance. Each of his points is clearly laid out with enough supporting evidence and explanations of his point-of-view. However, the only downside I can see is that he quoted heavily from his primary sources, which sometimes took away from his point. Due to the language of the Renaissance, a follow-up explanation did not always make clear what was being said in the quoted text.

Rubin's article had more of a philosophical feel to it, and did not necessarily lay out a clear thesis or questions, but really sought to give an in depth study to Vasari's record of da Vinci. Rubin really focused on Vasari and his life compared to da Vinci and his, using selections of Vasari's book to illustrate her points about the two. Since both Vasari and da Vinci were both artists, and Vasari chose to write about his profession, Rubin saw obvious links. Rubin also uses Vasari's text to demonstrate how men are entranced by da Vinci and his extraordinary persona as an artist, mathematician, philosophizer, engineer, and inventor. Rubin's article seeks to separate the man from the myth, and her style of approach is deep and profound.

"Seven Functions" is highly literal in its presentation, by which the article lays out seven numbered bullets followed by explanations of various paintings and its relationship to the positions of the hands of Christ within each painting, their possibly meanings, and what other says about the positions. The approach is considerably dry, and monotonous. Although the article includes actual picture representations of the works in question, the results are uninspired. The topic is quite specific, and after awhile everything just blends in together. Perhaps the author could have opened up the topic a little more, or used a different comparison element to prove his point better.

Zollner's article had the best approach as far as organization, clarity, inspiration, and data. His approach was clear in that he was up front about exactly what topics he was going to cover with the Mona Lisa, and he proceeded to break up the article into five well thought out sections, and a concise conclusion. By the end of it, the reader is left with no doubts, questions, or confusion. In fact, his approach is so clear and inspiring that the reader is left with a feeling of urgency, wanting to take a plan to Paris to view the Mona Lisa in person and contemplate all she offers.


Kemp does seem highly credible in his field due to the numerous articles he has written on the subject of da Vinci, which he used several as sources for his article. Rubin also seems highly credible in her field due to the face that she works at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, and has an intimate knowledge of Vasari's works in question. "Seven Functions" does not seem very credible as there is no author listed, and the article is highly dry and lacking in substantive supporting evidence. Also lacking is an introduction and conclusion. Zollner seems highly credible in his field due to his extensive knowledge of the work in question, as well as his contacts in his field, and the intimate familiarity with his subject.

Bearing these in mind the least credible author would have to be "Seven Functions," which lacks a number a key components for a highly respectable article. In fact, this article lacks even a works cited, the author only includes some footnotes, and notes on the art pieces being shown. There is no author name on this article as well, so one has no way of knowing what institution this article is being written from, or what academic standing the author has within the art history community.

Post Comparison

If a choice has to be made Zollner is definitely a first pick for a meeting. Some questions that would be asked would have to be why the Mona Lisa and not something more obscure or less well-known? Another question would be does Zollner feel that his article is the most concise as far as all the questions that could be asked about the Mona Lisa have been answered, or is there more to learn? Of course, because of Zollner's excellent article, with all of the information presented the Mona Lisa is a first choice for an up close and personal viewing. How can one read all of this detailed background information about one of the most famous artworks in history and not want to study it in person? The particular care that Zollner takes in discussing women's fashions, society, and culture makes it even more interesting.


Leonardo da Vinci is certainly a man whose legacy…

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