Meaning and crisis in the early sixteenth century: Interpreting Leonardo's Lion

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Abstract

This article examines the reception of early sixteenth century imagery through a case study of a note about a mechanical lion designed by Leonardo da Vinci. Part of the decorations for the triumphal entry of Louis XII into Milan after the French victory at Agnadello in 1509, I examine the conflicting interpretations of this festival. Using a wide range of further texts concerned with the understanding of imagery, I argue that the social and political upheavals caused by the Italian Wars from 1494 generated a preoccupation with ambiguity of meaning and the subjectivity of interpretation. Now that the traditional stylistic characterisations of High Renaissance art have been largely rejected, I suggest that a consideration of the changed expectations of the beholder offers a useful way of rearticulating what is distinctive about the visual arts of the early sixteenth century.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-91
Number of pages15
JournalOxford Art Journal
Volume29
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2006

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