Leonardo in Abu Dhabi: Louvre Talking Art Series on La Belle Ferronière

On Oct. 15, Manarat Al Saadiyat hosted the first event of the 2014-2015 season of the Louvre Abu Dhabi: Talking Art Series, a program of lectures and ...

On Oct. 15, Manarat Al Saadiyat hosted the first event of the 2014-2015 season of the Louvre Abu Dhabi: Talking Art Series, a program of lectures and public platforms that bring together intellectuals from different fields to discuss key elements of the museum’s status and engagement with the community.
The talk on Oct. 15 was titled “Leonardo Da Vinci in Abu Dhabi” and it featured guest speaker Vincent Pomarède, Director of Mediation and Cultural Programming at the Louvre Museum Paris, who spoke about Leonardo Da Vinci’s elusive masterpiece “La Belle Ferronière”and its role in the museum’s universal vision.
As Da Vinci’s first work to be exhibited in the Middle East, “La Belle Ferronièrewill be in Abu Dhabi on loan from the Louvre Museum Paris for a year, most likely placed next to Giovanni Bellini’s “Madonna”. The panelists attributed this curatorial decision to the emphasis on visual comparisons the Louvre Abu Dhabi is undertaking upon its inauguration.
“This is something new that the Louvre Abu Dhabi will be doing in its museography,” said Khalid Abdulkhaliq Abdulla,one of the other panelists from the Tourism and Cultural Authority, “If you go to other universal museums such as the Louvre Paris you’d have to go to two separate galleries to be able to see these two pieces together.” Abdulla described this approach as“a fresh way of looking at the universal narrative.”
Following the brief introduction by Abdulla, Pomarède proceeded to talk about Da Vinci’s life and artistic trajectory. From his early days as a student of Verrochio, to the creation of several of his most renowned works, amongst themLa Belle Ferronière,”Pomarède accentuated Da Vinci’s mastery of multiple disciplines and his skill to realistically depict the subtle beauty of the human face.
Pomerède talked about the context of creation of “La Belle Ferronière,” which he described as being the “crowning of a whole period of personal reflection” for the Tuscan artist. Pomarède said of Da Vinci’s technique in “La Belle Ferronière” that it incorporates an accurate portrayal of reality, though an idealized one, and remarked that, for him, “that is the core of his universality.”
On the mysterious identity of “La Belle Ferronière,” he summarized speculations of the possibility of it being a portrait of the then Marchesa of Mantua, Isabelle d’Este — who, he said, was close to Leonardo at the time — but concluded that the identity of “La Belle Ferronière” is still unknown.
To finalize the event, Pomarède comprehensively outlined the museum’s plan for the restoration of the painting, assuring the audience that it will be minimal and will inflict no damage on the piece. There was a brief Q&A session at the end with Mr Pomaréde and the two panelists from TCA, in which some audience members were able to extend inquiries to the Director.
"There was a buzz in the air at the event,” said senior Jamie Sutherland, who attended the talk. “Not only did the talk itself make the Louvre Abu Dhabi seem a little more concrete but it also revealed the power of the institution and the symbolism of this precedent — this will be, after all, the first time a painting by Leonardo da Vinci will appear in the Gulf.” Sutherland shared his hope of the meaning of the Louvre Museum Paris’ loan to its Middle Eastern branch “In 1962, the Mona Lisa travelled to Washington, D.C., and then to New York; how long before it comes to Abu Dhabi?”
There are four events left in this final edition of the Talking Art Series. The next one, on Nov. 5, will focus on the evolution of museums as spaces for experiences and social interactions. A full calendar of the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s program for the upcoming months is available at their website.
Jime Reyes Gonzalez is a staff writer. Email her at
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