It was a huge privilege to have Martin Kemp talk to us as he told us all about both how he got interested in Leonardo in the first place and his role in verifying that the Salvator Mundi was by Leonardo. He’s a very entertaining speaker.
Both the book we read, Leonardo by Martin Kemp, and his talk made clear just how much of a scientist Leonardo was. He wanted to know how everything worked and understand the ultimate essence of things. I suppose I had always thought of Leonardo as an artist who also made some interesting contraptions (like flying machines). After reading Martin’s book and hearing him talk, I see him more as a forerunner of Galileo, and the achievements of the Scientific Revolution in the 17th century. All that scientific knowledge and interest imbues Leonardo’s paintings and may be part of the reason they’re so admired.
Heads up: Martin is publishing a new book, all about his own experience as a Leonardo expert, Living with Leonardo: Fifty years of sanity and insanity in the art world and beyond. There’s all the Leonardo loonies (as he refers to them) who write to him with conspiracy theories. He was even stalked once. And yet he had the privilege of being part of that once every 100 year occurrence: the discovery of a new Leonardo (which then sold at auction for $450 million).
I asked Martin how Leonardo himself would have felt about the circus that surrounds him today. Apparently, he would have loved it. He wanted to be famous. Well. He succeeded.