The provocative new book about the biggest Leonardo discovery in years
YOUNG LEONARDO is the new book by art experts Jean-Pierre Isbouts and Christopher Brown about the biggest da Vinci discovery in years: the revelation that a copy of the Last Supper in a remote convent in Belgium was actually painted by Leonardo and his associates for the French King, Louis XII.
Drawing from an array of previously unpublished sources, they show that this canvas is the closest impression of what the original Last Supper looked like -- particularly because only 20% of the original fresco in Milan is still visible.
The book also overturns many old and cherished assumptions about Leonardo's early career, showing that Leonardo was not a "celebrity court artist" in Milan, but rather an outlier, which forcefully motivated him to create something revolutionary with the Last Supper.
Click on the video at right to hear co-author Prof. Jean-Pierre Isbouts talk about the book.
In Young Leonardo, authors Jean-Pierre Isbouts and Christopher Brown present evidence that:
• Leonardo and his workshop painted a second, life-size version of the Last Supper on canvas, just seven years after the original fresco was completed – making this the most exciting da Vinci discovery in a decade;
• this canvas was commissioned by the French King, Louis XII, explaining why Leonardo was personally involved in this huge project;
• the canvas still shows all of its brilliant hues and tones, which have long disappeared from the original fresco in Milan;
• the absence of under drawings under Jesus and John in this painting clearly indicates that Leonardo painted these figures by himself;
• they uncovered a strong link between the Last Supper in Milan and the fresco painted on the opposite wall, a Crucifixion by Giovanni di Montorfano, which up to now has been completely ignored by scholarship;
• they are the first to argue that Leonardo was not the “celebrated court artist” of the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, as virtually all books have maintained up to now;
• Leonardo’s status as an outlier at the court made him determined to make his mark, and create something revolutionary with his fresco.
• With the Last Supper, Leonardo launched the most important phase in Western art: the High Renaissance
At right, top: the highly damaged fragment of Judas, Peter and John in the Milan fresco. Bottom: the same passage in the version on canvas, found in Belgium