Spolvero: presence of an absence

The Spolvero is an artistic technique used to bring back to a surface, such as a frescoed wall, a preparatory drawing made on a sheet of paper, a specular spectrum of the artist's definitive work.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, painters conceived the work directly on the wall. It was the time of the great wall decorations, the churches were completely covered with frescoes. The composition was made in full size: first some composition tests were performed, through the tracing of "plans and leads", which reproduced respectively the horizontal and vertical scans of the work, subsequently executed directly on the curl, the second of the three layers fundamentals of the fresco.

The drawing, called "sinopia", was first realized with a particular red earth, coming from Sinope, a city of the Black Sea, and then reported on the pictorial plaster with a yellow-green color, which in Florence was called "verdaccio".

The traditional technique of creating the fresco included the division of labor into days. The wall was prepared through three basic steps. The first consisted in the creation of a primary layer, which took the name of Rinzaffo, consisting of fat lime and sand, and of a rough and viscous consistency. The second passage was performed on the curl, the finest layer on which the work was conceived. The third was performed on the surface layer, the Tonachino. The latter received the color during the working days.

During the Renaissance, with the Spolvero (and with other image transfer techniques in the following centuries) a revolution began in the realization of the frescoed work. Although the fresco technique did not undergo any variation, the Spolvero represented a new way of conceiving the process of conception and transfer of the work on the wall.

If in the past the drawing was made directly on the curl, in the Renaissance, and with the Spolvero, it was first conceived on small paper in the painter's workshop. The drawing was shown on the sheet through the drilling with a large needle and then transferred to the fresh plaster. The sheet was placed on the plaster and dusted with coal. A cloth bag, containing the coloring substance, was beaten on the drawing. The coal (or another dye) passed through the holes in the paper, leaving a series of black dots on the plaster, used as a reference during the making of the work: they were joined to trace the lines that would have reproduced the final image on the wall .

In addition to Spolvero, there are other methods to bring back a preparatory drawing on the wall. Some will be used after the Renaissance, even in modern times. However, the Spolvero differs from any other carryover technique. When the other processes are fundamental and subordinate to the representation, or rather they are the first phase of preparation for what will be the final image, in the Spolvero the preparatory image is the reproduction of the definitive image that will never be visible, it is the mirror of the conceptual idea of ​​the artist.

A "First" (invisible) image of the finished work is present (but absent).

The preparatory image is the specter of what will be the conclusion of the artistic process. It is a presence that cannot be seen but that can be investigated through a deep investigation. It is the manifesto of the artistic idea. The present invisible to the eyes; presence absence.

Back to Milan

1503. Leonardo returned to Florence where he followed, alongside Niccolò Machiavelli, the despotic ambitions of Cesare Borgia. The artist was fascinated by political power and the intellectual impetus of Borgia. However, he was also repulsed by the horrors that the despot left behind him as he passed.

A note, written by Leonardo before his return to the Florentine city, expressed regret for the atrocities he had witnessed.

"Save me from discord and battle, madness bestialissima" he wrote in one of his sheets.

In Florence the ashes of the bonfires of the Vanities were still warm, and the memory of Savonarola still impressed in the minds of the citizens; an austere repression of freedom seemed to have occurred.

Florence was also a republic, different from the Milanese monarchy. There were no benevolent protectors but supervisory commissions. However, after the war and conspiracies, Il ritorno was accompanied by a period of tranquility, during which Leonardo worked on the construction of the Battle of Anghiari, a wall painting commissioned by the Gonfaloniere of the city.

But a few years later, at the height of the artistic effort for the realization of the painting, the death of his father, Ser Piero da Vinci, completely distracted the artist's attention from the realization of the work.

An annotation, written with a cold and notary hand on one of the notebooks, reports his death. A few lines documenting the date and the children that Ser Piero left to the world: 2 females and 10 males. It is not possible to know what was the feeling that Leonardo felt for Ser Piero, the father who had not legitimized him as a son. And yet, from the words on the notebook, amidst the almost reverential formality of the annotation, the agitation transpires.

The death of his father, the winds of mourning expired, led to an eventful hereditary dispute between Leonardo and his half-brothers, but little time passed before the artist left the city for Milan. He was called to resolve a dispute concerning the second version of the Virgin of the Rocks. The painting was deemed "incomplete" and "imperfect", and paid only in part. He had therefore resolved, with a collaborator who had helped him in the realization, to appeal to the court to resolve the thorny controversy.

The call of the dispute was nothing more than a pretext to seize the opportunity to leave Florence. He wanted to get away from the half brothers and the hereditary battle. Moreover, he wanted to take a certain detachment from the public role of painter to which the city tied him. He was keen to point out, as he wrote in a letter to Luigi XII, that he was not only concerned with painting, but that he could design magnificent engineering works, war machines and structures for controlling water motions.

However, Leonardo had left the works unfinished, and the Florentine authorities disagreed with the unexpected demise. Louis XII, reigning in Milan and a great admirer of the Cenacle, had expressed the desire to take the artist with him to court. The authorities, intimidated by the power of the French king, could not restrain him, but forced him to sign a legalized document, in which he undertook to complete the unfinished work: he would have to return to Florence three months after his departure. Despite the exhortations and the constant references, he never completed neither the Battle of Anghiari, nor the other incomplete works.

It was 1506 and Leonardo, immersed in his second return to Milan, was fifty-five. After his appointment as "Painter and official engineer", he carried out his first assignment: the preparations for the sumptuous entry into the city of the king. A magnificent procession, with three hundred soldiers in tow, accompanied the triumphant return of Louis XII, following the suppression of a rebellion near Genoa. The sovereign crossed the gates of Milan. At his side, among some illustrious figures, was also Isabella d’Este, the lady of Mantua. Isabella held a certain grudge against Leonardo, who had never made a portrait she had repeatedly commissioned, but which the artist, lost in the fleeting creative search, had not realized.

At the end of 1507, the hereditary dispute with the half-brothers, forced Leonardo to return to malice in Florence. Despite the intervention of the king and protector Charles d'Amboise to speed up the process, the controversy, brought to court, continued for a long time. During that period, Leonardo did not dedicate himself to the completion of the Battle of Anghiari, still incomplete, but to the study of sciences and engineering. He dissected the body of a hundred-year-old man, an amazing phenomenon for the time, studied the motions of the waters and designed some military systems that Milan could have used against the Republic of Venice.

Eight months later, the trial came to an end. It was 1508 and the artist returned to Milan. The lapse of time that followed was a rediscovery of the tranquility that he had abandoned during the Florentine events. A new court was waiting for him, that of the new protector, Charles d'Amboise.

Once again Milan became the artistic outlet that Leonardo had indissolubly needed.

The lived Cenacle

The first shades of the "Cenacle" impressed the wall of the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie towards the end of the fifteenth century, at the request of Ludovico il Moro.

The Duke was determined to transform that small and elegant convent into the Sforza funerary chapel; a quiet corner of Milan, adjacent to the walls of the Castle.

The restructuring work began and the works thus assigned: Donato Bramante was entrusted with the reconstruction of the tribune, and with Leonardo the painting on the north wall of the refectory. The object of the representation, at Ludovico's request, was a representation of the Last Supper, a famous scene in the religious art style of the sixteenth century.

When the first touches began to settle on the wall, and the colors revived the gray tone, a crowd of onlookers began to undertake a slow procession that would be repeated until the completion of the work: they came and went from the convent, some stood, while others sat silently on either side of the refectory, reverently observing the artistic vagaries of Leonardo.

For the time, the work of a painter was an event of common interest, but Leonardo's attitudes had something singular and extravagant. Some days he could be found at work from the first light of dawn, intent on painting late into the night, sometimes forgetting even to eat. Other days he remained motionless to contemplate the work, without ever placing any brush on the wall. Other times he went to the refectory to complete only a small detail, a shade, an expression or a slight hue; then he went away, leaving the friars of the convent baffled, who were uneasily murmuring about him.

The strange attitude prompted the Prior to ask Ludovico il Moro to solicit the artist, urging him to complete the work. "I wish he had never stopped the brush, that he did the work that they were digging in the garden," said the prior to the Duke, with a certain distrust of Leonardo.

Ludovico promised the Prior that he would talk to him, and a few days later he summoned Leonardo to the Court, but what must have been a rigid warning turned out to be a rather affable chat. Leonardo explained to the Duke that the time required by creativity cannot be reconciled with the time marked by the hourglass. "Some details are missing," said Leonardo at last, addressing the Duke. Two heads were missing and the work would have been completed: that of Jesus and that of Judas. However, if he had not been allowed to continue the work smoothly, the face of Judas would have taken on the appearance of the prior. The allusion amused the Moro, who, despite being shortly depressed by the death of his beloved, added the artist with a severe exhortation, including the reasons for it.

The Cenacle was completed at the beginning of 1498. Leonardo had chosen an innovative technique for the time: the painting was carried out on two layers of plaster, to which he had added white lead. It was finally used for fat tempera, mixed with linseed oil and egg. Despite the artist's calculations, the technique turned out to be unsuccessful, however, and twenty years later the painting was already beginning to peel off.

If you observe the Last Supper today, you will notice the absence of a portion, part in which the feet of Jesus were represented. It is said that in 1652 "the Cenacle" was so badly reduced that the monks had no qualms about opening a door in the wall of the refectory, demolishing the area now missing.

The Cenacle was subjected to other damages over the years. The first documented restorations date back to the mid-700s. In a first attempt, the missing parts were covered with oil paint, and the entire surface was painted over again. A singular testimony, reports an abnormal restoration attempt towards the end of the same century. The new restorer, after eliminating what had been done from the first renovation, reproduced the faces of the apostles at will. The man, now three-faced from the conclusion, was stopped by a movement of public indignation that prevented the completion of the works.

In the 1800s, while the air of the Revolution was swinging the seat of the French sovereign, the anticlerical troops, arrived in Milan, scraped their eyes from the faces of the apostles and used the refectory as a prison room. The war scarcely touched the artistic legacy of Leonardo, and in the following years, during the bombardments of the First World War, a part of the convent was demolished but the wall of the "Cenacolo", and the refectory, remained miraculously intact.

It will be only during the second half of the 900s, from the 70s to the end of the millennium, that an intense restoration will bring the original face of the Last Supper back to life. The movements of the soul, and the original faces of the apostles, hidden for long years under the rough white lead, emerged from the authentic core of the painting. The drama of the Last Supper was brought to the surface and the narrative of a moment was returned to Leonardo's faithful and immortal story.

Communicate art

The Creativi Digitali have supervised the Spolvero communication plan, guaranteeing the meeting between project implementation and social, web and graphic communication.

The creative agency has contributed to the creation of the website, planned and reviewed the contents for the Facebook and Instagram platforms, created the advertising campaign to maximize visibility on social media and worked on SEO optimization of the website and Spolvero blog . The team also proceeded to create the linear graphics for the billboards, the prints and the signage of the project.

The realization of a complete editorial plan tailored to the work allowed the programming of contents created specifically to tell the story of the project and the universe around which the Leonardo spirit of Spolvero revolves: the Cenacle, Leonardo, Milan.


Lucrezia: the seasons of art

"Ja Pishu Kartin; I write with the paintings "

Lucrezia's artistic journey is a cycle, a succession of seasons.

Her research began during the studies at Brera’s Academy of Fine Arts, in which she observed some object of magical thought: talismans, amulets, ex voto. They are artifacts of common use, imbued with spirituality and sacredness, which for Lucrezia, as an artist, are linked to a faith of a secular nature.

The question that arises from the analysis is significant and mysterious: when is an object sacred without being religious?

“Through my work I try to respond to issues; or I try to ask viewers for questions"

This question led the artist along a pilgrimage in search of the duality of presence and absence, which led her to travel far away, through the symbolism of Russian culture, where her encounter with iconography took place. The religiosity and sacredness of artistic style and icons have marked a focal point for the investigation: a connection between religion (abundance and presence) and sacredness (absence and elevation).

The iconography is the writing of the image, performed in the artistic field through the symbol; a painted or drawn sign that manifests itself at the moment of the act. Consequently art, as written, is associated with a definite grammar, which allows its interpretation. According to Lucrezia the study of grammar is the key to understanding art: the works do not speak but it is possible to accustom the senses to grasp their meaning by understanding the syntax.

"Through the grammar of art I like to see how everything comes back: The origins of things and how we relate to them today. It is a historical research that I do between presence and absence, between past and present. "

These elements have accompanied Lucrezia through her journey and towards the second season of her artistic cycle, to explore more deeply the duality and understand the true task of art: the evocation.

Duality is represented by the intangible encounter between presence and absence. An agreement of entities that is expressed in art and also in other disciplines such as photography: the imperceptible point that divides tangible and intangible. However, art finds stability in education, in the perception of labile balance between the two essences. The balance is perceptible in the representation of a flower: a rose will not be painted as the perfect reproduction of the real, but its artistic representation will instead try to evoke its freshness, perfume, and beauty.

"When I combine the points I like to turn around, and from the finish, look at the start. It is fascinating to see how far the human mind can go. "

The link is visible in every artistic style and Lucrezia investigates its origin beyond the superficial layer. From rock carvings, to the Renaissance, to contemporary art. Therefore a historical research takes place between past and present, a survey on the evolution of interpretation. The displacement and the fear that were once shown through monsters, chimeras and supernatural entities, are today represented through the exploration of the human soul with contemporary art.

"The works of art can never be started and finished. Spolvero is an arrival but also the departure for a new exploration "

Like art in history, the artist's journey is also part of a process beyond the limits of the beginning and the end, a constant investigation into the search for truth.

Spolvero is a lunar phase in the succession of Lucrezia's seasons, a point that arises from the encounter with Andrea, the other protagonist face. In the combination of duality of the elements, the artist's own work represents an arrival but also a departure, to explore art through a new point of view, that originates at the crossroads between art, technology and passion.

The promoter of the "Milano da Vinci" competition

Possibility meets the idea.

Accenture Italian Foundation has accompanied and made possible, with the "Milano da Vinci" contest, the project idea of Spolvero.

The Foundation supported the creative team from the conception to the implementation of the project, providing the tools and channels that allowed the encounter between creativity, innovation and digital.

The initiative, through the celebration of Leonardo's genius, intends to add value to the city of Milan, making it more attractive, inclusive and welcoming.



The iron city

Let's remain suspended for a while in the 15th Century. Leonardo is a young apprentice in Verrocchio's workshop; the road that will lead him from Florence to Milan is still hidden in the artist's desire for initiative.

While in the Republics of Venice, Genoa and Florence, power was jostled behind the scenes by the ubiquitous forces of bankers and merchants, a reigning court was present in the Duchy of Milan, which distinguished it from the mercantile character of other Italian cities.

For over two hundred years the banners of the Visconti's first, and of the Sforza later, had ruled over the peaks of the city walls.

The two dynasties had infused the military tradition into the Milanese duchy. The banner with the Visconti basilisk, which was then crossed in a tortuous dance with the Sforza's crowned eagle, reiterated Milan's martial nature aloud; the rulers proclaimed themselves dukes by hereditary right and sanctioned the authority of the men of arms.

In 1450, at the sunset of the Visconti dynasty, it was time for a new influence for the city, the domain of the Sforza family. Francesco, the first of the lineage to reign over Milan, was one of the seven sons of the mercenary captain and leader Muzio Attendolo. It will be the beginning of a tormented hereditary passage, stained by the blood of the same descendants of the family.

The duchy of Francis lasted until his death, when his son took the place of inheritance; a position that was short-lived: he was assassinated a few years after his appointment. The title therefore passed to the seven-year-old son Gian Galeazzo. Unaware of the unfortunate destiny that was waiting for him, Gian Galeazzo let himself be influenced by the despotic magnetism of his uncle, Ludovico Sforza, known as il Moro, a vigorous and strong man, obscure as the complexion that distinguished him, determined to attract power to himself.

The fearsome uncle had devised a plan to condition his nephew, an intent that would slowly lead him to become the future duke of Milan. Ludovico had tried to discredit the legitimate heir, making him appear effeminate and spoiled in the eyes of his subjects, besides preventing him from giving birth to a successor, who would have frustrated the efforts to win the title. But the plans did not go as hoped and in 1491 Gian Galeazzo had a son, Francesco.

The ways of power, however, sometimes take dark roads, and a few years later Gian Galeazzo died in the throes of malaise, pain, fever and atony; the symptoms of poisoning. Ludovico Sforza, hidden in the shadows, emerged as the new Duke of Milan, bypassing his due successor, obtaining the appointment of dux and reaching the pinnacle of political supremacy.

Ludovico, aware of the illegitimacy of his position, tried to legalize his power with art and culture, filling the court with scholars, artists and great personalities. The strong temperament and the warlike character of the Moro did nothing but attract the ambitious Leonardo, in search of a protector who would consider his military engineering projects.

Road to Milan, 1482.

The fifteenth century was about to set in, the Pazzi Conspiracy had ended and Lorenzo de Medici, lord of Florence, had sent some Florentine artists to the three corners of Italy to reconstruct the broken relationships with other cities: Botticelli, Perugino, Rossini and others to Rome, Verrocchio and some students to Venice and Leonardo to Milan.

At that time the Italian city states lived in a whirlwind of highly fleeting alliances and rivalries. Lorenzo had therefore decided to send Leonardo to Ludovico Sforza’s court, known as "il Moro", Duke of Milan, as a cultural sign of diplomatic alliance; a silent agreement sealed with the genius of Da Vinci.

So Leonardo and one of his disciples, the seventeen year old Atalante Migliorotti, walked along the dusty road that led from Florence to Milan. Atalante was part of the gift sent to Ludovico, a young and promising music apprentice with a singular instrument, which that was the only he could play. Lorenzo had had Leonardo forge a silver lyre in the shape of a horse skull and with a mighty timbre.

The journey lasted a week. Leonardo had patented an odometer to calculate the distance between the two cities. The instrument counted the turns of a wagon wheel with an ingenious system: each complete rotation activated a mechanism that pushed a small stone into a container, that emptied to measure the distance.

The wagon carried much of Leonardo's heritage: books, notes, various paintings including depictions of St. Jerome, a portrait of Atalante, several anatomical reproductions, technical tools and engineering tools.

Leonardo saw Florence move away, until it disappeared. His gaze turned away, he thought of the possibilities of Milan and the projects that he continued to trace in his mind: engineering works and military machines for the Moro army. He didn't think about painting; the idea of ​​painting bored him and in the same letter, which he would later send to ask Ludovico for a job, he would not mention this virtue in any way.

The walls of Milan were getting closer and so was the court of the duke. The Sforzesco Castle was frequented by artists, actors, painters, mathematicians, astrologers, animal handlers and musicians. Leonardo was entranced by the atmosphere, the new life in Milan looked sparkling. He could finally actually work on the military machines built in his imagination, as well as realize the great engineering works that until now had only taken shape in his notebooks.

Leonardo would eventually make his debut at the palace while doing other things. He will first organize large parties, fireworks and lights for the celebrations of the Duke, and then rejoin the dowry he was trying to escape: Painting.

The Cenacle revealed

Lucrezia Zaffarano, Andrea Sartori, Matteo Carbonara are the three protagonists of Spolvero, the winning project of the "Milano da Vinci" Competition, organized by the Italian Accenture Foundation in collaboration with the Municipality of Milan, in partnership with the Civic School of Cinema Luchino Visconti.

Art, filmmaking, motion graphic.

Three different styles, three modern arts that converge, come together and experiment to celebrate the immortal inspiration of Leonardo.

Lucrezia: the artist. Today, Massimo Kaufmann's assistant, she studied and graduated in painting at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts. After his university studies, in addition to several exhibitions and competitions in which he received some important awards, he also devoted himself to exploring the human need for the object; the search for the symbol and the part of the soul that remains open to dialogue between cultures. Lucrezia's goal is reflection on Art, understood as magic and inserted into the hands of man. Explore the human and instinctive territory of creative genius, to discover what often remains hidden from a superficial approach. The elements of his art have distant origins, in Russia and in a precise artistic style born in that country: the iconography. Art is a collection of images, and therefore of icons: iconography is the writing of images, it responds to a code and rules, visual grammar. Therefore a meeting takes place between art and writing that represents the duality of the elements that complement each other, with a balance of abundance and subtraction. The two elements, abstractly intangible, come into contact with a link, the third element of Lucrezia's art, which connects the two worlds: Light Sculptures.

Andrea: the photographer and filmmaker. He lived two divergent, complementary lives. In his previous life he worked for fifteen years in marketing and business development of some of the world's largest Information Technology companies. Today he decided to follow his passions, to tell stories through video, audio and photography, the same passions that led him to explore his artistic talents, first as a freelancer and later founding Keymotions, a multimedia production company he owns. Andrea can be defined as a visual storyteller of human matter.

Matteo: the motion designer. Matteo is the youngest protagonist in Spolvero. After completing his studies he tackles a series of experiences in the field of video editing, advertising graphics and live streaming. Matteo is the spokesperson for the cultural bridge between his generation, called Z, and Art. He uses digital as a tool to bring images to life. The movements, once impossible to capture if not in an instant, are now harnessed with the artistic technique of motion graphics. Art, with technology, is seen by another unexplored dimension: forgotten corners and hidden details are revealed. The knowledge of the future to probe the mysteries of the past.

These are the protagonists of a multi sensory installation project, to be enjoyed and lived in person, from September 13th to October 13th 2019 at the Stelline Foundation, in Milan.