If you haven’t taken a close(r) look at Leonardo’s Last Supper — as it contextualizes events leading to the Fall of Imperial Renaissance Italy  — you might want to take a closer look the The French Chateau.

If you’ve been there and done that, you are ready for the next crib.

Again, do not attempt this quiz while driving.

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The John Files

This from Robert Payne’s wonderful biography of Leonardo [p. 13]. “Artists tend to paint portraits of themselves, even when they are portraying other people [because] they know their own faces best.”

All Leonardo’s early biographers agree that he conformed to the late Quattrocento’s standards of beauty. Thus, when we are looking to see what Leonardo looked like, we can look at Verrocchio’s David, certainly, but also the angel Leonardo painted in Verrocchio’s Baptism and all of Leonardo’s paintings of women, his Virgins and St. Annes. What you’ll see is a reflection of Leonardo’s own features, almost too refined and delicate for a man.

That’s why Dan Brown thought it made sense to weave a boondoggle to the effect that John the Apostle, seated on the right hand of Jesus, is actually Mary Magdalene.

Granted, because Leonardo’s looks perfectly matched the era’s ideals of beauty, it’s hard to accept the argument at face value. But if we look at the paintings of Perugino, who was a fellow up-and-coming artist in Verrocchio’s studio with Leonardo, we can get a much clearer sense of the algebra in question.

In fact, it’s quite a bit more pronounced and amusing in Perugino than Leonardo.

It is not fair to assume that all our readers will be familiar with late Quattrocento’s standards of beauty. So. Let’s first run through a gallery of what has been suggested are self-portraits of Leonardo – including the two works by Verrocchio. Click on any image to launch a slideshow.

Ready for Perugino?

How much more meaningful is this finding if we begin to wrap our minds around suggestions that Leonardo was embedded in the Court of Ludovico Sforza as a Medici spy? How many “unknown knowns” might we be talking about here?

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