Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Two previously unknown Leonardo da Vinci sculptures displayed in Tuscany

The angel Gabriel in San Gennaro. Photo
by Paul Spadoni
A few years ago, I “discovered” one of the few remaining sculptures of Leonardo da Vincia four-foot tall statue of the archangel Gabriel. Of course, it wasn’t I who really discovered it, but I was one of the few Americans who knew about it. This fortunate circumstance led to an article I wrote being published in Ambassador magazine this fall. The article is most likely the first announcement about the statue in a major American publication.

I came upon the statue by accident in 2014. I had learned that my great grandfather Torello Seghieri had been director of the Philharmonic Choir at a church in the small hillside town of San Gennaro around 1900. Lucy and I went to see the church, and there in the back was the statue, inside a protective glass case. We picked up a brochure in the church which stated the sculpture had been attributed by art experts to Leonardo.

The church in San Gennaro, Tuscany. Photo by Lucy Spadoni
How could it be that this town, virtually unknown to the outside world, could contain one of the very few sculptures attributed to the famous master? With a little research, I found that since 2008, the statue had been well known to art experts in Italy, but almost nothing had been published about it outside the country. Over the next few years, I interviewed several Italian art experts and then pitched the story idea to the editor of Ambassador, a publication of the National Italian American Foundation. He accepted the story and it was published in the fall edition of this year.

Mary with a laughing Jesus. Photo
by Lucy Spadoni
By coincidence, earlier this year another statue, The Virgin with the Laughing Child, was announced by art experts to be the work of a young Leonardo. Only 20 inches tall, it is made of red clay and depicts the Virgin Mary, with an enigmatic smile reminiscent of Mona Lisa, looking down at a smiling baby Jesus on her lap. Lucy and I saw it last spring in Firenze as part of a special display showing works from the laboratory of Andrea del Verrocchio. We’re not art experts by any stretch, but we could see similarities in style between the two statues.

Below you can read my full story. Well, almost the full story. A few paragraphs had to be cut because of space limitations, including one that I thought important in establishing the credentials of the primary expert who first attributed the angel statue to Leonardo, Dr. Carlo Pedretti—an amazing man in his own right. Here is the dropped paragraph:

Carlo Pedretti
Pedretti himself acquired his own share of fame in Italy. Historian Kenneth Clark—writer, producer and presenter of the BBC Television series Civilisation—described Pedretti as “unquestionably the greatest Leonardo scholar of our time.” By his 13th birthday Pedretti had taught himself to read and write left handed and backwards as Leonardo did. Pedretti’s first articles about Leonardo were published in 1944 at the age of 16. An article about Pedretti in 1952 in the prestigious Italian newspaper Corriere Dell Sera, said, “At the age of twenty-three he knows everything about Leonardo.”

Click on the page below it to read it without the sidebar on the right overlapping it.

For more information about the town of Vinci, read Visit to Vinci, birthplace of Leonardo, one of Tuscany's best day trips.

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