The exhibition Leonardo disegnato da Hollar by the Fondazione Rossana & Carlo Pedretti, has opened in its new premises in Villa Baronti-Pezzatini, a recently restored historic building in the heart of Vinci, Leonardo’s hometown.
The exhibition, curated by Annalisa Perissa Torrini, is dedicated to Carlo Pedretti, who more than any other scholar has deepened the knowledge of Leonardo da Vinci and the understanding of his work in Italy and across the world. It is thanks to Pedretti that, around a decade ago, the 31 engravings by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1667), which he acquired in 1950, began to be valorized, rare evidence of the interest in Leonardo’s drawings in the 17th century and an important method of study and spread of Leonardian caricature and grotesque drawings. It is the first exhibition dedicated to Hollar’s sketches in Italy.
In portraiture, Leonardo sought to portray emotions by manifestations of mood, joy and pain, which were amplified by the freshness of youth or the degradation of senility. In drawings however, Leonardo was immediate and spontaneous: on paper, his taste for the grotesque and his desires to highlight physical anomalies are freely expressed. With pen and ink, Leonardo created grotesque heads, deformities that continuously mutated, exaggerating aspects of the human condition. This mirrored the fascination that Leonardo had for the ugly, deformed, decadent, unpleasant as the exact opposites of the infinitely beautiful man, portrayed in his faces full of divine sweetness and supreme beauty. As he himself stated; “beauty and ugliness seem more effective through one another”.
In the exhibition, Hollar’s engravings will be presented in comparison with two of Leonardo’s drawings, donated by the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan. The Bohemian artist extrapolates the profiles of men, exaggerated, bizarre and grotesque heads, from various drawings by Leonardo that can be found individually or in numbers of three, four or even more, here brought together in a single etching. As the studies conducted for the occasion suggest, the pieces will have a 1:1 ratio.
During his life, Hollar possessed Leonardo original drawings, many of which are now in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle, having been acquired by Lord Arundel, diplomat and notable collector. Hollar often associated the young with the old, the ugly with the beautiful, reflecting Leonardo’s way of thinking on beauty and ugliness. For Hollar, explicitly articulated in paragraph 13 of the Treatise on Painting: “If the painter wants to see beauty that will love him, he is the man that creates it, and if he wants to see monstrous things that scare him, or make him laugh, he is the lord and God.”