NEW YORK - Leonardo is rightfully celebrated as one of the great geniuses of the Italian Renaissance for his contributions to the fields of visual arts, both in terms of sublime achievements and technical advancements, as well as to civil engineering and architecture, and to the study of anatomy and science in general. In this January’s Master Paintings Evening Sale, Sotheby’s is delighted to present no fewer than three works by artists active in Florence or Lombardy who were all influenced by the Master. The three paintings are very well conserved and are being offered at auction by European private collectors.


The rarest artist at auction of the three is the Spanish Fernando Llanos, a Valencian who travelled to Florence with his compatriot Fernando Yañez and came under the sphere of Leonardo. A “Fernando Spagnolo” is recorded in 1505 as working on Leonardo’s lost cartoon of the Battle of Anghiari, and it is reasonable to think that Llanos was that very artist. The previous year Leonardo had received the commission from Piero Soderini to decorate the Salone dei Cinquecento in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, though he never completed the project. The great Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the opposite wall, though his intended subject was the Battle of Cascina. It is believed this was the only occasion in which the two great masters were to work alongside each other, though unfortunately Michelangelo did not complete the project either, for he was called to Rome to work on the tomb of Pope Julius II.

Llanos’ intimate Madonna and Child was painted during the very first few years of the 16th century. The artist is known to have been back in Valencia by 1507, when, still heavily dependent on Leonardo’s ideas and style, he painted his masterpiece alongside Yañez, the central altarpiece for the cathedral in Valencia. The present work is Llanos’ only known painting executed while still in Italy and documents the spell which Leonardo’s work cast over the Spaniard: the tight geometric disposition of the figures is very much rooted in Leonardo’s idiom; the physiognomies, particularly the high, rounded bridge of the Madonna’s nose, is borrowed from Leonardo; the portrayal of the blue mountains in the landscape in the distance records Leonardo’s technical developments in the field of aerial perspective, as they do in Marco d’Oggiono’s Madonna and Child (lot 20, see infra). The bravura display of the intricately portrayed hands and feet at the center of the design is a tour-de-force of skill and refinement.


Magni’s tender depiction of Mother and Child is a recent rediscovery and comes from a distinguished private collection. The artist did not work directly under Leonardo but belonged to the generation after the Master’s immediate followers. His overwhelmingly Leonardesque style, however, shows to what extent and for how long art in Lombardy was dependent on the Master after his two sojourns in Milan from circa 1482-99 and 1508-13.


Marco d’Oggiono first came under Leonardo’s influence around 1490 and was never to abandon the Master’s style. He was one of the most successful of Leonardo’s Milanese followers and was employed throughout Lombardy. The present work, from circa 1515, is unusual for being on a large, single walnut panel, and is in remarkably fresh condition. In a scene of total serenity, the Mother nurses her Child, surrounded by a rich, verdant landscape. The pyramidal shape of the figures looks back at Leonardo, as do the slightly metallic tones of the drapery, the use of shadows to create volume in the figures, and the overall sfumato effect.