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Ginevra de Benci

From Leonardo to Guffogg

Marco di Mauro
Art historian
Naples, Italy, 2012

The connection established by Leonardo between science and painting, disciplines that are complementary in the cognitive process, has induced some researchers to interpret his painting as a mere scientific investigation of nature, disregarding the interior spirituality that permeates it. The intensity of the Portrait of Ginevra Benci, exhibited at the National Gallery of Washington, does justice to the great sensibility of the artist, who captures the vital flow animating the body beyond the fixed gaze of the subject, and who gives it physical substance with the virtuous chromatic rendition, which bears witness to a Flemish influence. The fingerprints found on the surface of the painting reveal a great passion for painting that is far removed from the scientific calculations which some scholars insist on observing in every aspect of his work, revealing a feverish, almost obsessive feeling of inadequacy before the challenge of depicting the “impulses of the spirit”. And it is probably this sentiment that made Leonardo apply the paint with his fingers, to better blend the colour and give the skin those pearly reflections that have made the Portrait of Ginevra Benci so famous.

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