I was really looking forward to this. Renaissance Italy plus Aidan Turner – what more could you ask? However, it’s just … strange. Our hero is handsome, charming, polite, kind, talented, full of integrity, flashes the odd brooding look, has risen above a difficult childhood and always nobly overcomes adversity. He’s a dream, apart from sometimes throwing in a bit of annoying 21st century speak about everyone being on a journey and painting their truth. However, what he *isn’t* is anything like Leonardo da Vinci. Or indeed any other artist in Renaissance Italy, where you looked for a wealthy patron (rather than telling the Duke of Milan that you couldn’t come and work for him because you’d just committed yourself to a job elsewhere and couldn’t possibly go back on your word) and painted whatever they paid you to paint.
Oh, and he’s been wrongly accused of murder and is being pursued by a policeman whose dad used to be in Howards’ Way. Er, yes. I’ve read a million and one books about 15th and 16th century Italy. Funny how none of them ever mentioned Leonardo and the Mystery of the Murdered Muse.
The Murdered Muse is Caterina da Cremona, who may or may not have existed, may or may not have been Leonardo’s muse, and may or may not have been his mistress. However, the marketing for this series has focused on its exploring whether or not Leonardo was gay. And, yes, it did bring in the true story of he and three other young men being charged over their involvement with a male prostitute. However, it turned it into a silly plot in which a jealous rival paid the said prostitute to seduce him, and tipped off the authorities so that they went round and caught them in flagrante, all so that our man Leonardo would get the boot from Verrocchio’s studio. So, instead of the focus being on Leonardo’s sexuality, it was on somebody else having it in for him. Is it me or was that rather insensitive?
Finally, they’ve thrown in a storyline about an old witch telling his mother, when he was in his cradle, that he was cursed to be alone and destroy everything he loved. Because a bird had flown into his bedroom. And him being haunted by this. I’m not sure if this bit’s meant to be Victorian Gothic or the Brothers Grimm, but it’s certainly not Italian Renaissance.
Er, yes. So this isn’t really what I was hoping for. But, hey, it’s got Aidan Turner, and lots of nice shots of Milan and Florence.
So far, things have not gone well for our man. Mainly because he is so obsessed with painting “the truth”. He upset Verrocchio by refusing to paint Caterina as a Roman goddess, because that wasn’t how he saw her. Then he upset Caterina by painting her as he actually did see her, but refusing to leave out a scar on her shoulder, which reminded her that she was unable to have children due to a carriage accident, and feared she would never find a partner. It was a sad story, but how would internal injuries leave a scar on your shoulder? Then he got the sack for being gay. And upset his dad, who’d paid good money for his apprenticeship. Then he upset the father of a wealthy bride-to-be by painting her holding a symbol of the family of the bloke she actually fancied, not the family of her fiance. And then he upset the Church by making a mess of a painting of the Adoration of the Magi, and being obsessed with making St Joseph look like his dad.
But presumably things will get better. Oh, and, just in case you were wondering, no, he didn’t really get accused of murder. Amazon Prime made that up. I have no idea why.
Other than references to the Church, an appearance by Ludovico Sforza and one mention of the Medici, I’m getting very little sense of any historical context here. And I’m not really getting much sense of Leonardo da Vinci. But it’s all very easy on the eye.