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Leonardo, heart-throb of the small screen

9 April 2021

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

Whatever he might have made of Dan Brown, one can’t help but think that Leonardo da Vinci would have loved modern film and telly. So perhaps it is no surprise that there is a glut of Leonardo films and shows in the pipeline. A new series, starring Poldark pin-up Aidan Turner, sees the artist pitted against a Milanese police officer who suspects him of murder – it premieres on Amazon Prime next Friday. Also in the works is a film that tells the more recent, but perhaps equally insalubrious tale of the Salvator Mundi. Meanwhile, Leonardo DiCaprio will, quite literally, be taking on the role he was born to play (his mother named him after the great artist), now that Paramount are producing a biopic based on the artist’s life.

But Leonardo has never been a stranger to screens small and large. Rakewell has fond childhood memories of Jonathan Bailey, now of Bridgerton fame, taking a turn as young Leo in his days as a student in Andrea Verrocchio’s workshop in a CBBC series some ten years ago. And readers with rather longer memories may remember Giulia Cassini-Rizzotto’s pioneering silent film of 1919; reviews at the time hailed its impressive scenography and meticulously constructed sets, but one contemporary critic did not shy away from pointing out its hopelessly hammy acting. Latterday Leonardos on screen, you have been warned.

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.