lombard school

Bach: Komm suesser Tod, BWV 478
  • Bach: Komm suesser Tod, BWV 478
  • BBC Philharmonic
  • In Memory of...
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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750),  Komm, süßer Tod, komm selge Ruh (Come, sweet death, come, blessed rest), BWV 478. Performed by BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

Image: The Angel of the Annunciation, from the Lombard School, 17th Century.

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Top: Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi

Bottom: 16th century Lombard school copy

I thought it would be interesting to contrast a work by Leonardo and a later copy to highlight the quality of his technique. 

The faces: Leonardo’s face shows remarkable subtlety, with soft modelling and lots of smoky sfumato. This effect would be achieved with thin layers of oil paint, taking great time and skill. In contrast, the copy is crude and painted in a much less time consuming, much more black and white style. It lacks delicacy and any sort of close attention to a model. For example, the eyes are particularly dull and characterless. 

The orbs: Leonardo’s depiction of the glass orb shows close attention to and study of an actual example. At the bottom and side, Leonardo has included the tiny bubbles and imperfections within the orb. There are tiny highlights and the artist has studied the refraction of the hand. Also, there is a highlight observed at the bottom. In contrast, the copyist’s orb is bland and poorly observed- he has entirely avoided the challenge of depicting glass altogether! 

The hands: Leonardo’s hand is carefully observed, with shadows, highlights and, perhaps most importantly, actual joints! Unlike the copyist, who has made rubbery tubes for fingers. Also the fingernails are bizarre. 

The fabric: Leonardo’s treatment of the fabric shows subtlety, delicacy and close observation. He successfully gives the impression of mass. In the copy, you can clearly see that the double fold, meeting directly at the elbow, is copied but altered sightly from the original. However, the copyist shows little subtlety- the folds are schematic and clearly not observed from life.