THE DA VINCI CODE : The Man, The Myth, The Mystery.

THIS is an unprecedented event in the history of the art. When the Louvre Museum decided to hold an exhibition to mark the 500th anniversary of Lenardo da Vinci's death, more than 220,000 tickets were instantly sold.

Visitors were requested to make reservations in advance, the waiting time estimated a month or so.

The artist is considered in this country as much a French citizen as an Italian. Born in 1452, in Tuscany, a mountain region of Italy, the painter, sculptor, architect, as well as musician, began his career while still a teenager and -

Led a hectic professional life in Florence, Milan, Venice and Rome before moving to France at the invitation of King Francois I, for whom he designed and built a palace.

As a recompense, he was given a chateau at Amboise, where he spent the final years of his life until 1519.

Today, da Vinci is recognised the over the as the greatest artist that ever lived and it is fitting that event should be held at the greatest museum of the worlds, showing no less than 160 of his paintings, sketches, sculptures, pen-and-paper drawings as well as letters.

Speaking of  da Vinci's sketches, a number of them were never finished. But experts today believe these works are extremely important of one is interested in learning about the creative initiatives in the imagination of a genius.

These detailed black-and-white configurations of men, women, and animals, or of their anatomies, with handwritten remarks in the background, are so intense that they can literally be considered parts of a diary recounting da Vinci's  own life.

''They represent his physical as well as spiritual inner tribulations,'' says one of the organisers. Another Louvre official describes these illustrations as ''practically inventions of the art of our own times and of the trends that have constantly influenced artistic advances for the five centuries and will continue doing so.''

As critic Jean Leauvergeat adds, ''A great number of these super masterpieces have come from different collections of the world, largely from Italy and Russia as well as from England, but looking at them opens new horizons in the imaginations of art enthusiasts as they begin to better understand even the permanent pieces in the Louvre, such as :

'Mona Lisa' or 'Lady At The Court of Milan' [often mistakenly called  'The Iron Worker'], that have already seen dozen of times before, but without fully being able to grasp their significance.''

In fact, the most generous of the foreign contributors to the exhibition remains Queen Elizabeth. She possesses more than 600 of da Vinci sketches. When requested by the Louvre officials, she invited them to visit her palace and choose the works they wanted.

Unlike other private collectors, she refused to be paid for the 24 borrowed pieces, including 'Deluge'.

'Deluge' proved to be da Vinci's final sketch, It is a drawing of a catastrophic explosion in which the clouds above wooded hills swing into a huge circle, with water-

Shooting up and falling back, followed by splintered pieces of blown-up  rocks coming downwards from the sky. As in most of his drawings, the artist has put down handwritten notes to explain the end of the universe.

''He was very sensitive to the concept that the world will come to an end one day. The work shows his vision of the elements on which our existence depends. all turning into chaos,'' said Louis Frank, one of the exhibition's organisers. 

The World Students Society thanks author Mr. Zafar Masud, an art critic,based in Paris.


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