Pederson Researches Leonardo da Vinci’s Mysterious Academy

By Purnell T. Cropper | May 3, 2012

Dr. Jill Pederson, Assistant Professor of Art History, is writing a book that explores the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci during the more then 20 years (1482-1499 and 1506-1513) the Renaissance artist spent in Milan, Italy. Pederson discovered a unique manuscript, known as the Isolabeata (c. 1513), in a private collection that contains descriptions of the artist’s much-debated academy, known as the Academia Leonardi Vinci.

Although this mysterious academy has been dismissed by modern scholars, Pederson sheds new light on its existence and reveals its members through her publication of the manuscript. By examining the vibrant circle of artists, poets and scientists named in the manuscript, she reconstructs Leonardo’s intellectual circle at the court of Milan and supplies new ideas about the ideas that inspired Leonardo’s bewildering brilliance.

During the winter of 2012, Pederson made two trips to London’s National Gallery in order to attend events associated with the exhibition, “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan.” This exhibition brought together many of Leonardo’s rare surviving paintings (nine of the 20 he is thought to have painted), and drew the largest crowds in the Gallery’s near 200-year history.

The first event was a conference devoted to Leonardo’s technical practice and addressed many controversial aspects of recent scientific analyses of Leonardo’s works, such as the Paris Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and the London Virgin of the Rocks. In the second colloquium, Pederson was honored to serve amongst a small group of invited scholars to discuss current issues in Leonardo scholarship, including the Salvator Mundi—a recently rediscovered painting attributed to Leonardo.