Leonardo starring Aidan Turner showcases the famed figure’s rise to prominence through a deep dive into his early years–from being born a cursed babe, to a budding artist, to a man accused of murder.
The series opens in Milan, Italy, where Leonardo Da Vinci (Turner) has been accused of murder by poison and thrown in jail. Through his investigation, Stefano Giraldi (Freddie Highmore), a man eager to convict Da Vinci for the crime, learns of the artist’s past and just how obsessed he is with perfection.
16 years earlier, Leonardo is working as an apprentice for Verrocchio (Giancarlo Giannini), a renowned artist and architect in Florence. Whilst under his employment, Leonardo meets the alluring Caterina De Cremona (Matilda De Angelis), a woman who makes a living posing for artists. He is immediately enchanted with her for her beauty and her imperfections. Leonardo proves to be different from the other apprentices–he draws what he sees, not some “hollow imitation” that the world prefers. As a result, he stands out amongst those in his field which in turn arouses feelings of envy in his companions and narrow-mindedness in his patrons. Both are not afraid to take lengths to discredit his work and ruin him as a man. Through it all, Caterina is there to praise and challenge him, and the bond they form is arguably the most beautiful of all the things that Leonardo creates.
The plot flashes between multiple timelines, alternating from the near present, when Leonardo is incarcerated, to the past, 16 years earlier, to the far past when he was a boy. Throughout we see religious pressure, artistic ambition, betrayal and personal longing combine to paint a vivid portrait of a man who redefined what it means to dream, to design and to live. Aidan Turner’s performance adds a lay of quirkiness and an endearing romanticism to the unparalleled creator and his contributions to mankind.
Illustrated in the first episode alone, the series pays special attention to the artistic process and how difficult yet glorious that process can be. Any artist, great or not, doubts themselves, and Leonardo is no exception. He sways from feeling empowered to crippling dejection and though that universal struggle grounds the show and the legacy of the man it portrays in relatability and sympathy. What’s also refreshing is the show explores Da Vinci’s queerness, and how that impacts his relationships with those around him but also how he regards himself and his quest to achieve pure perfection.
With that said, De Angelis’ portrayal of Caterina is as a complicated woman and De she matches Turner’s performance with exquisite poise. Simply put, she is lovely and most certainly a scene-stealer.
The series is built on beauty, compassion, and intrigue which is reflected in the look and feel of the show. The sets are plain but beautiful, reminiscent of the Renaissance but draped in glamour as opposed to portraying the dirtier reality of 13th century Italy. The music itself is another form of artistry that shapes the series’ narrative, establishing a passionate, tender atmosphere.
While the series taps into the grandeur of one man’s greatness, tragic loss and unexplainable love, Leonardo is ultimately a character study that asks that timeless question we all ask ourselves: “How would you like to be remembered?”
Leonardo is available on TELUS Presents and Amazon Prime now
by Kacy Hogg
Kacy is an English Lit student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately), Canada. Her favorite films include the Harry Potter series, Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hangover, and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95