Ginevra’s Story: Solving the Mysteries of Leonardo da Vinci’s First Known Portrait 2009
Distributed by Microcinema International/Microcinema DVD, 1636 Bush St., Suite #2, SF, CA 94109; 415-447-9750
Produced by Richard Somerset-Ward
Directed by Christopher Swann
DVD, color, 55 min.
Sr. High - Adult
Art, Art History, Museums
Date Entered: 04/27/2010Reviewed by Louise Greene, Art Library, University of Maryland, College Park
The only painting in the Americas by Leonardo da Vinci was purchased in 1967 by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, amid much secrecy and intrigue, for the then unprecedented sum of five million dollars. Over the years, the painting has been the object of much study by curators looking to piece together its history—not only that of the work itself, which has a fascinating provenance, but of its subject as well.
Ginevra de’ Benci was painted in 1474 when Leonardo was a 22 year old assistant in the studio of Andrea del Verrocchio; it most likely commemorates the betrothal of the sitter, then just 16 years old. The work is believed to be the first of only a few portraits the artist is known to have painted, and is noteworthy as an early psychological study, as well as an experiment in the new medium of oil paint.
Ginevra’s Story: Solving the Mysteries of Leonardo da Vinci’s First Known Portrait, as the title suggests, is as much about skilled detective work as scholarly investigation. While documenting the often painstaking examination of physical and historical evidence, the film celebrates the process by which these efforts create knowledge and, quite simply, bring history to life. It is a fascinating glimpse behind the curtain that most museum-goers would not otherwise be privileged to see.
It is well worth noting that the DVD includes both English and Italian versions of the film, with narrations by Meryl Streep and Isabella Rossellini, respectively. Ginevra’s Story is recommended for libraries and programs with collections in art and art history.