Creating Leonardo

2019 Leonardo 500 Celebrations in San Francisco

The Leonardo da Vinci Society would like to invite you to
a two days program in collaboration with Humanities West on February 22nd and 23rd.

Creating Leonardo

The events will be host at:

Marines’ Memorial Theatre, San Francisco
609 Sutter Street, San Francisco
Tickets at City Box Office 415.392.4400

Friday, February 22, 2019

7:30 – 9:30 pm 

Introduction / Paula Findlen (History, Stanford)

Leonardo and the “Beloved Ladies”: Science and Poetry / Martin Kemp (History of Art, Oxford). Leonardo’s fervent and sometimes spurious arguments against poetry in his “comparison of the arts” indicate how seriously he took poets as direct rivals, not least in a court context. His library was well stocked with poetry. Leonardo’s innovations in the portrayal of women in his paintings of Ginevra de’ Benci, Cecilia Galleranti, Lucrezia Crivelli and Lisa del Giocondo are in profound dialogue with the poetic conventions of the “beloved ladies” —who were the stock subject of Italian poetry from Dante onwards. Leonardo’s accumulative aim was to surpass the poets. The theme will be illustrated by dramatic readings from Italian poetry (in translation), ranging from the giants to lesser known court poets who wrote specifically about Leonardo. Featuring Bay Area actor James Carpenter in a dramatic reading.

Performance: Leonardo-Inspired Music Clerestory, Introduced by Clifford (Kip) Cranna (Dramaturg, San Francisco Opera). The men’s classical vocal ensemble Clerestory performs a program of a cappella music inspired by Leonardo. From masterworks by the great Italian cathedral composers of his time, to meditations on the Last Supper, to inventive tributes like Eric Whitacre’s Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine, we’ll hear how Da Vinci inspired—and perhaps was inspired by—the resonant sound of echoing choirs.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Introduction / Paula Findlen (History, Stanford)

Leonardo’s Library:  The World of a Renaissance Reader Paula Findlen (History, Stanford). Leonardo was a lifelong learner, inveterate note-taker, and writer with an uneven and highly self-directed education. He lived in a world in which Gutenberg’s printing press, created shortly before his birth, had begun to transform the nature of the book but manuscripts still mattered a great deal. Early in life, Leonardo owned very few books, but over time his collection grew until he had his own library, in addition to books he borrowed from others. Throughout his life, Leonardo encountered many different kinds of learning; the diversity of his interests led him to read and think broadly. His library is a key to how he interacted with and learned from his world.

Leonardo and Water Monica Azzolini (History of Science, University of Bologna)Leonardo’s notebooks are replete with reflections about the nature of water. Indeed, he seemingly planned to write a whole treatise on this very subject. In part related to practical problems of engineering and possible commissions from patrons, Leonardo’s fascination with water went much further than that to encompass the movement of waves, water erosion, reflection and refraction, the healing or insalubrious properties of water, and, more dramatically, the Deluge. This lecture will explore both the historical context of Leonardo’s studies, and his methods of inquiry to highlight the way in which Leonardo skillfully waved together observation, reasoning and learning to understand water, one of the most fascinating elements of nature.

Leonardo and the Lure of Machines Pamela O. Long (Independent Scholar and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow [2015-2020]). Leonardo was fascinated by machines and mechanical contrivances. This lecture explores his fascination first by considering the ways in which it was one shared by his culture. The lecture will discuss Leonardo’s machine drawings as part of a growing machine culture in which some of his contemporaries, such as Mariano Taccola and Francesco di Giorgio, also drew and wrote about machines. Others avidly studied and copied their works. It will explore the ways in which Leonardo applied innovative drawing techniques to machines. It will discuss his machines on paper and the extent to which they were his own inventions. Finally, it will discuss his notebook, the Madrid Codex I, with its many wonderful drawings of machines surrounded by extensive texts. Central to the talk is this question: What was central to Leonardo’s interest in machines and what was his investigative approach to the many mechanical devices and machines that he drew?

Leonardo’s Legacy: Homage and Irony / Deborah Loft (Art HistoryProfessor Emerita, College of Marin). Taking the long view, what is the significance of Leonardo as an artist, over time? What inspired other artists, from his era to ours, and how did their selections reflect their own times? Echoes of his innovative ideas appear in the work of such Renaissance artists as Titian, and the woman artist Sofonisba Anguissola.  His subjects and techniques also informed the work of 17th century artists, including Rubens. In more contemporary work, Leonardo’s art has become a touchstone for the European tradition, as referenced ironically in the work of Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, Yasumasa Morimura, , and others. “Leonardo” is even the name of a newly designed software system at SAP (the German rival of Oracle.) What are the current meanings of his iconic status in the artistic and digital worlds?

Panel Discussion with the presenters


“The Friday only tickets can be purchased online by entering the coupon code in the shopping cart or following the link below which will automatically unlock that code:

Please note that he 2-Day Combo tickets would need to be purchased by phone to get the special discount.

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