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Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing

1 February – 6 May 2019
Head of Leda by Leonardo da Vinci

Explore the Walker Art Gallery 

These paintings in the Walker were created by artists who are linked to Leonardo da Vinci’s life and career. You can find these paintings in Rooms 1 and 2 towards the back of the Gallery. 

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A Legend of St Andrew by Bartolomeo di Giovanni, painted between 1496 and 1500 

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Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian by Bartolomeo di Giovanni 

Bartolomeo di Giovanni worked for a busy Florentine workshop, that of Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449–1494), where Michelangelo also trained. Bartolomeo specialised in painting small religious images and domestic furniture. In 1492 he was accused of homosexuality, like Leonardo in 1476. However, he lacked Leonardo’s Medici protection. During friar Savonarola’s intolerant rule in Florence (1494–1498) he often worked outside Florence. He died poor and in debt in 1501. Roscoe bought these paintings sometime between 1807 and 1815. 

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Birth of the Virgin by Pietro Perugino

The Birth of the Virgin is an early work by Perugino. It was painted in about 1470-72 when he worked in the studio of Andrea del Verrochio in Florence. Leonardo also received his early training there as an apprentice. The two artists trained and worked together, drawing drapery studies and painting parts of altarpieces in Verrochio’s busy workshop. William Roscoe acquired this painting for his collection in Liverpool in 1804. He bought it from the sale of Colonel Matthew Smith (about 1739-1812), the governor of the Tower of London. 

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Copy after Leonardo’s Mona Lisa possibly painted 1600–1700

The Walker’s copy after Leonardo’s now famous portrait of the Mona Lisa could have been painted in the 17th century, when a number of copies were made. It was originally painted on canvas, but was later transferred to an old poplar wood panel. This was probably done to give the impression that it was painted in the early 16th century. Compared to the original, in the Louvre Museum in Paris, it shows more of the chair on which Lisa Gherardini sits.

Harold Rathbone (1858–1929) presented the copy to the Walker in 1915. He was a Liverpool artist and businessman, who believed the copy could be Leonardo’s original. He admired the artistic skills of the Italian Renaissance so much, that he set up the Della Robbia Pottery factory in Birkenhead, which he ran from 1894 to 1906. 

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Christ and the Woman of Samaria attributed to Michelangelo

When Leonardo left Florence for Milan in 1482 Michelangelo Buonarroti was only 7. When he returned in 1500 Michelangelo had become the favoured artist and sculptor of the Medici. He later became the leading artist in Rome, as sculptor, painter and architect. He was Leonardo’s great rival. As a sculptor Michelangelo especially resented Leonardo’s commission to create the Sforza equestrian statue. He once sneeringly criticised Leonardo in public: “You are the one who modelled a horse, was unable to do it, and was forced to give up the attempt in shame.” He later added “...so those idiot Milanese actually believed in you”.

Leonardo and Michelangelo were known for having very different lifestyles. Leonardo was stylish, charming and handsome. Michelangelo was noted as being a scruffy, withdrawn hunchback. William Roscoe bought this drawing on wood around 1811. 

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St Bernardino Preaching by the studio of Lorenzo di Pietro, called Vecchietta

The Walker’s painting was made sometime between 1458 and 1463 by an assistant from Vecchietta’s studio in Siena. The artist may have been a young Francesco di Giorgio Martini (1439–1501). In 1490 Francesco competed with Leonardo to design a tower for the roof of Milan Cathedral. Both artists worked as painters, sculptors and architects.

They became good friends, and acted together as engineering consultants on a new cathedral in the nearby town of Pavia. The stylish pink capes, caps and stockings worn by the men in this painting would have been similar to those favoured by Leonardo.

William Roscoe bought the painting in 1811. He believed that the men and boys shown at the front right were portraits of the Medici rulers of Florence. 

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Votive Picture attributed to Raphael

The Walker’s Votive Picture may be a very damaged and early painting by a teenage Raphael. He painted it, possibly around 1495–96, when he was an apprentice in Perugino’s workshop. In 1503 Raphael visited Florence specially to study Leonardo’s cartoon drawing for the Battle of Anghiari. By the time Leonardo moved to Rome in 1513, aged 61, the 30-year old Raphael had become one of the leading artists in Italy.

In Rome, Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo, all shared lodgings in the grounds of the Pope’s Vatican Palace. They worked as friends and rivals. While Raphael decorated rooms in the Palace, Michelangelo painted the Palace’s Sistine Chapel, and Leonardo studied the rare plants in the Palace gardens. 

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Margaret of Navarre attributed to Jean Clouet, or his brother Polet Clouet

The Walker’s portrait shows Margaret of Angoulême, the sister of the French King Francis I, Leonardo’s last patron. It was probably painted around 1527 to celebrate her engagement to the King of Navarre (on the French-Spanish border). Her slight smile shows the influence on the French court artist Clouet of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, which Leonardo had brought with him to the French court. Roscoe bought the portrait in about 1813 believing it to be by Leonardo. 

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Madonna Suckling the Christ Child by the studio of Lorenzo di Credi

In the early 1470s Lorenzo di Credi (about 1456–1536) was a pupil of the leading artist in Florence, Andrea del Verrochio, along with Leonardo and Perugino. They all trained and worked together, painting large altarpieces, and smaller images for religious devotion.

Around 1482–3 Lorenzo di Credi took over Verrocchio’s workshop. He created his own studio with new pupils, such as the painter of the Madonna Suckling the Christ Child.