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Living with Leonardo

Fifty Years of Sanity and Insanity in the Art World and Beyond

Martin Kemp

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Martin Kemp, described by The Times as ‘the world’s leading authority on Leonardo’, relates his fifty-year relationship with the most famous artist of all time

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In Living with Leonardo, world-renowned Leonardo da Vinci expert Martin Kemp relates his fifty-year relationship with the work of the most famous artist of all time.

Through an engaging personal narrative inter-woven with historical research, we learn of Kemp’s encounters with the vast population that surrounds Leonardo: great and lesser academics, collectors and curators, devious dealers and unctuous auctioneers, major scholars and authors, pseudo-historians and fantasists. He shares how he has grappled with swelling legions of ‘Leonardo loonies’, walked on the eggshells of vested interests in academia and museums, and fended off fusillades of non-Leonardos, sometimes more than one a week. Examining the greatest masterpieces, from the Last Supper to Salvator Mundi, through the expert’s eye, we learn first-hand of the thorny questions that surround attribution, the scientific analyses that support the experts’ interpretations, and the continuing importance of connoisseurship.

Throughout, from the most scholarly interpretations to the popularity of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, we are reminded of Leonardo’s unique genius and wonder at how an artist from 500 years ago continues to make such compelling posthumous demands on all those who engage with him.

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Sunday Times

'Kemp is a natural storyteller … This book leads you on a journey through the life, work and legacy of one of history’s most intriguing figures. Kemp emerges as a guide whom you feel you can trust – and, perhaps just as importantly, who will prove entertaining company when you pitch camp'
The Times

The Lady

'Kemp is a natural storyteller. His account of a career at the coalface of the Leonardo industry is as amusing as it is insightful, as informative as it is frank'
The Times, Art Books of the Year

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Further Details


Format: Hardback

Size: 22.9 x 15.2 cm

Extent: 320 pp

Publication date: 29 March 2018

ISBN: 9780500239568

Contents List

Preface and Acknowledgements Introduction: Art History in Action Prologue: a Sketch of Leonardo 1. The Last Supper and the First Steps 2. The “Original” Last Supper 3. Looking at Lisa 4. The Stolen Madonna 5. The Beautiful Princess 6. Ugly Arguments 7. The Saviour 8. Science and Seeing 9. Codices and Computers 10. Exhibitions 11. Codes and Codswallop

About the Author

Martin Kemp is professor emeritus of the history of art at Oxford University