We feel that we know him. We’ve known him for five hundred years. The artist who is probably the most famous painter in the world. Mona Lisa. The Last Supper. Annunciation. The Vitruvian Man. The artist: Leonardo Da Vinci. He was the polymath of the 15th Century. A true genius. Now he is a bingeable TV series.
Entitled Leonardo, Sony Pictures and rtve have produced a riveting eight episode murder mystery about the life of Da Vinci. If you did not realize that the artist had been accused of murder, don’t despair – and don’t stay away because of this re-imaginging of history. It serves as a wonderful framing device for the series, even if it’s difficult to find factual information for said murder.
We begin the first episode with Da Vinci in prison and being interrogated about the death of the beautiful Caterina da Cremona. She was his friend and a muse for many of his sketches. As the questioning goes on, we enter into Leonardo’s mind as he looks back over his entire life, remembering the events that have led him to this point.
But, even without this extra intrigue, the series is compelling viewing. The casting is superb. Aidan Turner is completely believable as the main character and brings a brooding sensitivity to this lead role. Leonardo is sure of his own genius as an artist, but still questions his place in the world. His upbringing as a bastard child, unwanted, and under a mysterious soothsayers curse, has turned him into a wary adult. Because of this, he sees with a true eye to detail and is able to discern both the pain or happiness in each model’s face.
Some paint to please a patron, creating exactly what is wanted. Leonardo paints what he truthfully sees, a practice that often gets him fired.
Other cast members are equally believable. They have “Renaissance” faces”, truly looking like they have stepped out of 15th century Italy. They would all have made worthy models for Da Vinci’s brush. The gorgeous costumes and splendid sets add to the enjoyment and believability of the series. Kudos too to the cinematographer – the series is a feast for the eyes. The indoor scenes, so often lit by multitudes of candles, are truly lovely, and worthy of a series about a great artist.
It was fascinating to see how paintings began and progressed. The heaps of vibrant colours used to make the paints were worthy of a still life picture.
I think my greatest joy, however, was to be giving a backstory to so many of Da Vinci’s works. We watch as an unhappy Genevra Benci sits for her engagement portrait. We find out who Jesus is modelled on in the Last Supper. Perhaps the most fun is getting to meet the Mona Lisa. Haven’t we all wanted that? I know I have.
Please check out this series. You won’t be disappointed.
To hear our conversation with star Aiden Turner, click here.
Leonardo is now available on TELUS Presents.