MARBLEHEAD — Jonathan Sherman says Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci, who died in 1519, changed his life.
“He was a big influence for me. I moved to Florence, Italy, and studied his drawings and paintings,” said artist Sherman, relaxing in his large, sunlit studio on the second floor of the historic Mugford Building at 112 Washington St.
Sherman’s most recent work, a life-size (25.5 inches by 16 inches by 12 inches) bronze bust of da Vinci, will be unveiled Thursday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at his studio. The public is invited.
The bust is an open edition, a work of art that can be reproduced an unlimited number of times. Sherman created a life-size clay model of da Vinci and, through the lost wax process for creating works in bronze, Amesbury-based foundry Sincere Metal Works produced the bust that will be unveiled Thursday. The bust is hollow, but still weighs 110 pounds.
The likeness is from a self-portrait drawn by da Vinci toward the end of his life and a drawing of the master in profile by his pupil Francesco Melzi. “What an inspiration to be able to look into the eyes of the man who sought to understand everything,” said Sherman.
The first casting of the sculpture has been purchased by Maddox & Partners of Naples, Fla., and will be exhibited in an outdoor wine and sculpture garden there. There will be five more bronze busts in Sherman’s “Great Thinkers” series. Chinese philosopher Confucious and ancient Egypt philosopher/mathematician/astronomer Hypatia are next, with the final three to be determined. All will be open editions and the first castings have been commissioned by Maddox to be installed in the wine park.
Fortuitously, this is the 500-year anniversary of da Vinci’s death. His legacy is being celebrated worldwide, including major exhibitions at The Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace and the Louvre museum in Paris.
Sherman lived in Florence from 2003 to 2009, studying art of the Italian Renaissance.
Three da Vinci quotes that are meaningful to Sherman are included on the bronze bust: “The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding,” “Learning never exhausts the mind,” and “Where Spirit does not work with the hand, there is no Art.”
“One never knows when a creative idea is going to happen,” said Sherman. “One day, I thought, ‘You’re going to be making a sculpture of Leonardo da Vinci.'” And he did. Sherman and his wife, Elizabeth, studio director and his partner in life and business, traveled to Paris to experience da Vinci’s works firsthand in the Louvre. “‘Mona Lisa’ was not the piece of Leonardo’s that spoke to me,” said Jonathan, lamenting that it was impossible to appreciate the painting while surrounded by hundreds of phone-wielding tourists elbowing one another to get a photo of the iconic work.
It was another da Vinci painting, “Virgin of the Rocks,” that captured his attention. “I stood in front of it for two days. It changed my life,” he said.
“Leonardo has been a guiding light for me for many years. I have studied thoroughly with the mind of an artist all of his drawings and paintings, which have awoken within me a richer appreciation for the subtleties of the world in which I live,” said Sherman. “Leonardo da Vinci, throughout his life, was one of the greatest embodiments of this joy and appreciation for knowledge. When one is engrossed in the process of learning to increase understanding of the world, knowledge of self expands, and the ability to navigate in the world with greater richness, appreciation and harmony ensues.”
Sherman has said that his works of art are created from a deep love for human beings and the human experience. “Depth of beauty, harmony, spiritual richness and energetic radiance are common elements throughout all of my work. By utilizing the language of nature: light, shadow, depth, form, shape, proportion, color and texture, which allow us all to perceive the physical world, I am able to fix on canvas, paper, in stone or bronze timeless truths and wisdom pertaining to the ever present loving relationship between human and spirit.”
Sherman grew up in Marblehead, in the shadow of Abbot Hall. His paintings, drawings and sculptures are housed in private collections in Europe and throughout the United States. Since returning to town, he has also taught drawing in his studio and conducted classes at the Marblehead Arts Association. It was there in 2011 that New York native Elizabeth, then working at Marblehead Arts Association, met Jonathan. Today they and their 2-year-old son, Apollo, live “in the epicenter of Old Town, just down the road from the studio. We are so fortunate. Elizabeth and I do all this together, and Apollo spends a lot of time with us here. We are blessed,” he said.
The Shermans will also open their intimate gallery for a performance by the Handel and Haydn Society Orchestra on Nov. 9, at 5 and 8 p.m. The orchestra will perform music of the Baroque era, including works by Antonio Vivaldi, J.S. Bach and George Frideric Handel. The shows sold out immediately.