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Podcast: Martin Kemp FBA on Leonardo da Vinci

Blog • Art history

For the future of understanding the world and how it operates, we need a sense of unity of things, how they relate to each other, and Leonardo is just wonderful at that.

Professor Martin Kemp FBA 

You can’t have such a legendary picture, which is admired by so many people and attracts so much speculation, and just have an ordinary story about it.

Professor Martin Kemp FBA on the Mona Lisa 

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was an artist, draughtsman, sculptor, engineer, inventor and visionary. He embodies the arts, humanities and sciences as conjoined arenas of exploratory thinking, and is considered to have been far ahead of his time across these fields. From Vitruvian Man and the Mona Lisa, to flying machines and submarines, his work has sparked passion, debate and intrigue. Professor Martin Kemp FBA has spent a lot of time looking at Leonardo da Vinci and in this podcast, he reflects on Leonardo's extraordinary life and legacy, the commercial implications of his worldwide fame, and the endless conspiracy theories that Leonardo inspires. 

The artworks discussed in this podcast include:

Mona Lisac. 1503–19, Musee du Louvre

Uomo Vitruviano, c.1490, Gallerie dell'Accademia

Salvator Mundi, c.1500, location unknown

Il Cenacolo, c. 1490s, Museo del Cenacolo Vinciano


Martin Kemp is Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford. He is the author of several books including Living with Leonardo: Fifty Years of Sanity and Insanity in the Art World and Beyond. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1991. Professor Kemp is currently working five further books on Leonardo, including one on the Salvator Mundi, one on the Codex Leicester and a new addition of Vasari’s Life of Leonardo. 

This podcast was recorded as part of our Thinkers for our Time event series, before a panel discussion on Leonardo da Vinci at the National Gallery. 

Blog • Art history