‘Leonardo’ reviews round-up: Aidan Turner’s da Vinci drama is ‘no masterpiece’

Aidan Turner’s new period drama Leonardo launched in the UK last week!

The Poldark actor plays Italian inventor and Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci in the new historical series from Sherlock writer Steve Thompson and The X-Files writer Frank Spotnitz.

Originally set to debut in 2020, marking the 500th anniversary of da Vinci’s death, Leonardo finally premiered in Italy last month following filming delays due to the coronavirus pandemic.

All eight episodes are now available to watch on Amazon Prime Video in the UK.

Watch the trailer:


The official synopsis reads: “Born in Vinci, in Tuscany, Leonardo displayed mastery in arts, science and technology. The show attempts to unlock his enigmatic personality through an untold story.”

Alongside Aidan Turner, the cast also includes Giancarlo Giannini (Casino Royale) as da Vinci’s master Andrea del Verrocchio, Matilda De Angelis (The Undoing) as his muse Caterina da Cremona, Carlos Cuevas (Merlì) as Leonardo’s apprentice and trusted friend Salaì, James D’Arcy (Homeland) as Ludovico Sforza Duke of Milan, and Freddie Highmore (The Good Doctor) as a young detective, Stefano Giraldi.

We’ve rounded up a selection of reviews to help you decide if you’d like to watch the series:


“Like its polymath subject, Amazon’s eight-part drama based (loosely) on the life and career of Leonardo da Vinci wants to be many things at once. A biopic-style study of genius, a period potboiler, even a murder mystery – the show tries out all of these guises and more, but never quite convinces as any of them.” ★★★ – Evening Standard

“Turner gets to leave the beefcake image behind and in doing so he delivers a thoughtful and enjoyable portrait of the famous artist – a performance that is engrossing enough that all that extra fictional stuff really wasn’t needed.” – Digital Spy


“Even an intense, smock-wearing Aidan Turner can’t salvage Amazon Prime’s cringe-inducing, broad-brush portrait of the Renaissance icon … All in all, it’s awful. The script is woeful. Half of the actors look absolutely stricken with horror and those who are giving it a good try – including the stalwart Turner – make you want to cry with compassion. The whole thing is paint by numbers and there are moments when all you can do is shake your head in disbelief that this kind of thing is still being made…” ★★ – The Guardian


“You can see why Stephen Thompson was attracted to Leonardo. There are definite parallels to be drawn between the two … Add in some trauma from his childhood and ambiguous sexuality and there’s more to Leonardo da Vinci than The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa, which makes him such a fascinating character. You could say that Leonardo is a coming-of-age tale, but it’s also a murder mystery, a love story, and a study of genius all in one. Like the man itself, it perhaps doesn’t quite know what it wants to be.” ★★★ – Radio Times


“This bashfully brilliant portrayal has a Dustin Hoffman vibe.” – The Times


“According to the laws of TV, proud chest-bearer Aidan Turner playing Leonardo da Vinci gracing a sumptuous Renaissance-set series should be an easy win. Sadly, Amazon’s Leonardo is no masterpiece … Leonardo takes itself incredibly seriously. There’s none of the raucous edginess of The Great, nor the epic storytelling of Outlander, nor even the campy fun of The Tudors or Bridgerton. Maybe things will improve but the opening episode felt as flat as the CGI Florence backdrop looked.” ★ – iNews


“A stonkingly chaste Aidan Turner in Horrible Histories minus the laughs … the Poldark star keeps buttoned up in this quick sketch of the life and times of artist Leonardo da Vinci … There is an attempt to psychoanalyse Leonardo, whose father abandoned him. But this feels like a quick sketch rather than the fuller portrait one of history’s greatest minds surely merits.” ★★★ – The Telegraph


New drama starring Aidan Turner is strangely limited in scope: a straight tale of a brilliant young artist who has a few setbacks along the way, mostly to do with jealous rivals … You can imagine art history A-Level students being shown this while their teacher googles antiques.” ★★ – Independent


Leonardo will premiere in the US later this year.

Poldark is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.