Posted on May 05, 2019

Qatar National Library, in partnership with Società Dante Alighieri, hosted a lecture, “Leonardo da Vinci as Seen by his Contemporaries: Remarks about the Mona Lisa and Other Portraits,” on 2 May.

Held under the patronage of the Italian National Committee for the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci's death, the lecture by Professor Carmelo Occhipinti, art historian and critic, and Associate Professor of Museology and Art Criticism and Restoration at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, discussed the early history of da Vinci’s paintings.  

The event was opened by Patrice Landry, Chief Librarian and Deputy Director at Qatar National Library. The speaker was introduced by His Excellency, Pasquale Salzano, Italian Ambassador to the State of Qatar, who spoke about the relevance of this event taking place at the Library on the occasion of this important anniversary. Professor Occhipinti explored how the artist’s contemporaries interpreted and responded to his masterpieces — including the Lucrezia Crivelli, the Lady with an Ermine, the Saint Anne and the enigmatic smile of Mona Lisa—when the paintings were seen for the first time in Milan, Florence and Paris at the beginning of the 16th century.

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Basing his lecture on the poetry of the Italian humanist circles of the late fifteenth century, who knew Da Vinci personally, Professor Occhipinti introduced the celebratory verses that these poets wrote about the paintings when Da Vinci was working for Ludovico il Moro in Milan, in the Republic of Florence and then at the Paris court, where he died in 1519. “In celebrating the life and work of the great Italian artist, Leonardo da Vinci, we are reminded of the importance of preserving heritage, history and art. At the lecture, we reviewed the rich historical texts going back many centuries and learned more about the artist’s life. This underscores the value of the Library’s contribution to highlighting not only the heritage of Qatar and the wider Gulf, but also of other regions,” said Landry.

Khalid Al Makki, an attendee at the event, said: “I have been a fan of Leonardo da Vinci’s work for a long time, and have read a lot about him in the past. This is the first event that I attend here at the Library, and looking at the beauty of this place, I will come again to borrow books about arts and culture. I thank the Library for organzing such an interesting event.” Marianna Gadaleta, an Italian teacher living in Qatar who attended the event, said: “What is really fascinating about the Library is how it welcomes everyone without any limitation. The books and the space it provides to people for free is another important gift to us. I am happy to see that an Italian artist is celebrated in Qatar at the national library and this is what is also making this place very unique.”

To find out more about the Library’s events and exhibitions, please visit