Meaning and Crisis in the Early Sixteenth Century: Interpreting Leonardo's Lion

Burke, Jill
March 2006
Oxford Art Journal;2006, Vol. 29 Issue 1, p77
Academic Journal
This article examines the reception of early sixteenth century imagery through a case study of a note about a mechanical lion designed by Leonardo da Vinci. Part of the decorations for the triumphal entry of Louis XII into Milan after the French victory at Agnadello in 1509, I examine the conflicting interpretations of this festival. Using a wide range of further texts concerned with the understanding of imagery, I argue that the social and political upheavals caused by the Italian Wars from 1494 generated a preoccupation with ambiguity of meaning and the subjectivity of interpretation. Now that the traditional stylistic characterisations of High Renaissance art have been largely rejected, I suggest that a consideration of the changed expectations of the beholder offers a useful way of rearticulating what is distinctive about the visual arts of the early sixteenth century.


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