Leonardo’s Famous Paintings


Bruce Gulland and Liz Waid look at two very famous paintings - the Mona Lisa, and the Last Supper. They investigate the mysteries and controversies surrounding these works.

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Transcript


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Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Bruce Gulland.

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And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

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It is beautiful day in Paris. Thousands of people are in the famous art museum, the Louvre. They can see statues from ancient Greece. They can see burial boxes from ancient Egypt. They can see paintings from many European master artists. But there is one painting that everybody wants to see. Many people crowd around it. They are trying to take a picture of it with their cameras. It is a small painting. A glass cover protects it. This is one of the most famous paintings in the world. It is called the Mona Lisa.

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In today’s Spotlight we tell of the mystery surrounding the Mona Lisa. And we also tell of another painting - the Last Supper. But first we talk about the artist who painted both the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper - Leonardo da Vinci.

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Leonardo da Vinci was born in the mid-1400s. This was a period of great artistic renewal in Europe. It is called the Renaissance. For many years, art in Europe did not look lifelike. Then, Italian artists became interested in ancient Greek and Roman statues and artwork. They were very excited by these natural-looking works. And they decided to study nature closely. They wanted to create artwork that looked lifelike. Art around that time began to change. Leonardo da Vinci became one of the greatest Renaissance artists. In fact, he became one of the greatest western artists of all time.

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Leonardo explored different ways of painting. He tried using different kinds of paints. And he studied people and objects carefully. He drew pictures of them with pencil or pen on paper. He wrote notes about them. All of this helped him with his painting. He treated painting as a science. In particular, Leonardo understood the effects of light and darkness in painting. He understood this could add great depth and lifelike qualities to his work.

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The Mona Lisa is one of Leonardo’s later paintings. It is a portrait of a woman. Often portraits only show a person’s head and shoulders. But the Mona Lisa shows the woman’s face and upper body. She sits with her arms resting in front of her. Behind her, there is a river and some mountains. These images behind the woman are not clear. You cannot see all of the details. But you can see all of the fine details on the woman’s clothes. Leonardo used this method to give his paintings depth. The Mona Lisa influenced many artists. It changed the way that portraits were painted for hundreds of years.

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The woman in the portrait looks peaceful. She has a mysterious smile on her face. It is almost as if she is hiding a secret. Her smile has created a lot of interest. And her eyes have created interest too. They seem to follow the people who walk past her. For years, experts have tried to discover who the woman was. Some people have even suggested that Leonardo painted his own face on the Mona Lisa. But most experts have said that she was Lisa del Giacondo - the wife of a famous silk cloth seller in Florence. However, for many years the experts could not prove it was her.

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But in 2005, German experts at the University of Heidelberg announced they could prove who Mona Lisa was. One of the experts was examining a very old book. He found important notes in the book from a city official who knew Leonardo da Vinci. The notes say that Leonardo was working on a painting of Lisa del Giocondo. There was also a date - 1503! This was the time art experts had agreed the portrait was painted. So after hundreds of years, the mystery was finally solved. Lisa del Giocondo is the Mona Lisa.

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Five years before starting the Mona Lisa, Leonardo painted his other most famous work - The Last Supper. This painting shows an important event from the Christian Bible. It shows Jesus’ last meal with his close followers - his disciples. In the story the painting shows, Jesus knows that he will soon die a horrible death. And he tells his disciples that one of them will betray him. Leonardo paints what happens directly after Jesus says these words. In the painting, the disciples look shocked. Jesus sits alone in the centre of the painting. His face is calm. He knows his purpose - he will die for the sins of all people. He is willing to be the innocent sacrifice, because of his great love for people.

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Experts are amazed by the painting. It appears so simple. But a person can almost experience the painting. Leonardo creates this effect by separating the disciples and Jesus. He carefully paints the expressions on their faces and the positions of their bodies. Leonardo tells the story of that night without any words. The Last Supper has also influenced many master painters that came after Leonardo.

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Leonardo painted The Last Supper on a stone wall. Usually artists painted on wet plaster walls - frescos. They had to paint very quickly. But Leonardo wanted to take his time on this painting. So he did not use the traditional method for painting on a wall. Instead he developed a new method - he painted on a dry wall. However, this did not work very well. After only 20 years, the base started to separate from the wall. Then, the painting started to look decayed. Over the years, experts tried to fix the painting. But often they made it worse.

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After World War II, art experts discovered more modern ways to protect the painting. But even these new methods could not repair the painting to its original form. The most recent work to repair the painting took over 20 years. It was completed in 1999. However, some people say the painting has changed too much. Other people say that the work was necessary. They say that future generations can continue to enjoy the painting.

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People still visit these famous paintings today. They continue to ask why the Mona Lisa is smiling. And they will continue to ask if The Last Supper should have been repaired. But Leonardo da Vinci’s work will continue to excite and inspire people in the future.

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Have you ever seen either of these paintings? Should people repair old paintings? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

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The writer of this program was Rachel Hobson. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Leonardo’s Famous Paintings’.

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Visit our website to download our free official app for Android or Apple devices. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Do you like to look at art? Have you ever seen the Mona Lisa or other art by Leonardo da Vinci?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
HuuHai
said on November 09, 2018

Da Vinci is one of the famous artists I love

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on November 16, 2018

I like to look at art but I cant understand all, especially what called (The modern art).
Unfortunatly, I didnt have see the Mona Lisa or other art by Leonardo da Vinci directly but by media only.
God bless you