The mysteries of Leonardo on TV

Infinite Leonardo. Far beyond the countless celebrations held in 2019 (the 500th anniversary of his death), the multifaceted work of the genius continues to be a source of inspiration, especially for the audiovisual world. The new television series is an ambitious and international project Leonardo, shot in the months of the pandemic, which from March 23 debuts in prime time on Rai1. This is a new chapter in the well-established collaboration between RaiFiction and LuxVide, which in recent years has given a decisive change of pace to Italian Rai fiction, with an ever greater attention to historical period films and with the aim of arriving in many international markets. The worldwide success of de The doctors, of which Leonardo can be considered almost one spin-off, which in television and film language indicates a series whose protagonist previously appeared as a secondary character in another series. In fact, in the third and final season of The doctors, the character of Leonardo appears in some scenes of the first and second episode, attracting the curiosity of Lorenzo the Magnificent.

Leonardo’s four episodes (one a week), each made up of two episodes of about fifty minutes, are structured in such a way as to narrate his research and his works in the various disciplines of human knowledge. The series has a strong biographical film imprint, in fact it begins in Tuscany, in Vinci, the birthplace of the future genius, who was born as the illegitimate son of a notary. Leonardo lives a solitary childhood, driven by a deep need for research and discovery. He was in his early twenties when he entered the Verrocchio workshop in Florence as an apprentice. there he meets Caterina da Cremona, the woman who changes his life. Leonardo then went through a period of disappointment and left for Milan, to convince Ludovico Sforza to welcome him into his court. The regent’s charisma initially blinds the artist, but Leonardo soon finds himself coming to terms with the true nature of Ludovico, who becomes an antagonist for him. There are many questions to which fiction aims to find an answer: what is the starting point that moves your imagination without limits? What is the cause of his suffering? Who the woman wrapped in the mystery that inspires her lost masterpiece, Leda and the Swan? Almost no trace remains in history, but the TV series intends to discover the background. To do this, another narrative track has been inserted into the structure of the biopic, that of yellow: the series probes the most mysterious sides of Leonardo following the investigations of a fictional character, Stefano Giraldi, an ambitious detective who wants to reveal the complex personality of the genius. The attempt to solve the case involving Leonardo himself (implicated in a murder) and which risks endangering the artist’s life. This overlap between historical film, biopic and mystery should not be surprising, because it is the mix between these three different genres that has guaranteed the international success of many TV series in recent years.

To play Leonardo the Irish actor Aidan Turner, Freddie Highmore instead the detective Giraldi, Robin Renucci Pietro da Vinci, Carlos Cuevas Sala (Leonardo’s trusted friend), James D’Arcy Ludovico Sforza. There are two main Italian performers: to play the part of Caterina da Cremona Matilda De Angelis, a young actress on the rise (both in Italy and abroad) that the local public got to know better during the last Sanremo Festival; Giancarlo Giannini, now specialized in the role of great old man, plays the role of Verrocchio instead. The TV series was shot in over 50 indoor and outdoor locations mainly in Lazio and Lombardy; the Renaissance cities of Florence and Milan were rebuilt in the area adjacent to the Lux Vide studios in Formello (Rome). 3,000 extras were involved and 2,500 costumes were used, some of which were made at the Manifatture Digitali Cinema in Prato. There are about 60 costumes and as many accessories, for a total of almost 270 pieces, including bodices and petticoats.

Thanks to the workshops made on the de I Medici we could count on a repertoire from which to start the work on Leonardo – Alessandro Lai, costume designer in Prato tells us – Our costumes are visible when Michelangelo appears in the film with his Florentine entourage. These are mainly doublets, such as those worn, at other times, by Cesare Borgia or Ludovico Sforza. These costumes are also the result of careful research which over the years has drawn from multiple sources. The archaeological ones, with the opening of the tombs that allowed us to analyze the cut, shape, weight and materials of the clothes used in that period. And the iconographic ones, of course, in particular some paintings by Leonardo, such as The Gioconda, the Lady with an Ermine, the Portrait of Ginevra de ‘Benci.

March 10, 2021 | 10:26

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