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Leonardo is coming to San Diego. No, silly, not Leonardo DiCaprio.

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I’m talking about the other Leonardo. You know: Leonardo da Vinci, the Renaissance genius who was one of the greatest artists.

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Nearly 500 years after his death, Leonardo Live is bringing a virtual tour of a sold-out London exhibition to a global audience. On Thursday, February 16, high-def screenings will begin at what will ultimately total 650 movie theaters from Switzerland and Argentina to the UK and the US.

San Diego multiplexes include UA Horton Plaza 14, AMC Mission Valley 20, Edwards Mira Mesa Stadium 18, and Reading Cinemas Gaslamp 15. (Tickets and information are available through the theaters as well as at LeonardoLiveHD and FathomEvents. ) Costs vary; general admission for an evening presentation is usually around $12.

That’s nothing compared to the $700 per ticket that scalpers were getting in London. Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan has been called the most complete exhibit of his surviving paintings. Focusing on works from the 1480s and 1490s, it was such a hit at the famed National Gallery that it became a must-see sensation before closing earlier this month.

Unlike other blockbuster shows, it didn’t travel. It went digital. Leonardo Live, filmed last fall, is billed as the first-ever tour of a fine art exhibition created for movie theater audiences. That makes the National Gallery the latest arts organization to embrace high-def presentations.

Music, dance, and theater events are already on the big screen, the best-known being productions from New York’s Metropolitan Opera. For the Met, such presentations are a way of increasing audiences and much-needed ticket revenue.

Leonardo Live has its own allure, largely because of the continuing fascination with the multifaceted artist. Who was this man who supposedly stole corpses so he could study anatomy, bought caged birds to set them free, and kept ideas secret by using mirror writing? How could one person conceive of the parachute and machine gun, and also paint the Mona Lisa?

The Mona Lisa, by the way, isn’t part of the exhibit or the virtual tour. Instead, Leonardo Live features a variety of other works by the artist, including the rediscovered Salvator Mundi. Take a good look. It has never before been publicly displayed in an exhibition.

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Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci.

Also included are paintings and drawings by Leonardo’s pupils plus interviews with art experts and celebrities. One of those celebs is actress/theater director Fiona Shaw, who portrayed Harry Potter’s nasty aunt, Petunia Dursley, in the film series. Shaw likes Leonardo much more than her character ever liked Harry.

Speaking of actors, I can’t help but wonder what Leonardo DiCaprio thinks of the exhibit. After all, he was named for Leonardo da Vinci. As the story goes, his pregnant mother got the idea because she first felt him kicking while gazing at one of the artist’s paintings in an Italian museum.

Who knows? If enough expectant mothers see Leonardo Live, the show could spawn a whole new crop of Leonardos, maybe even in San Diego.

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Comments

David Elliott Feb. 10, 2012 @ 2:01 p.m.

The show and its film sound fascinating, and thanks for calling attention to the ongoing cultural competition of the two Leonardos. Alas, Mr. DiCaprio is bound to move ahead again in mass appeal as 'Titanic' comes back to theaters in 3-D. Still, I doubt that his doodles rival Da Vinci's. For refined beauty you just can't beat, even with 3-D, his 'Lady With an Ermine' in Krakow, or the great drawing 'Virgin and Child with St. Anne and John the Baptist' in the National Gallery, London. Viva Da Vinci!

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Valerie Scher Feb. 10, 2012 @ 2:31 p.m.

Thank you, kind sir, for your comment. Let us be grateful that both Leonardos are thriving onscreen -- da Vinci in "Leonardo Live" and DiCaprio in the upcoming "Titanic 3D."

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