Leonardo da Vinci
I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.” – Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo Da Vinci self portrait
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (Italian: [leoˈnardo di ˌsɛr ˈpjɛːro da (v)ˈvintʃi] listen); more commonly known as Leonardo da Vinci or simply Leonardo, was an Italian polymath whose areas if interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of paleontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter and tank, he epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal.
Many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime exemplar of the “Universal Genius” or “Renaissance Man”, an individual of unquenchable curiosity and feverishly inventive imagination. According to art historian Helen Gardner, the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent in recorded history, and “his mind and personality seem to us superhuman, while the man himself mysterious and remote”. Marco Rosci notes that while there is much speculation regarding his life and personality, his view of the world was logical rather than mysterious, and that the empirical methods he employed were unorthodox for his time.
Leonardo is renowned primarily as a painter. Among his works, the Mona Lisa is the most famous and most parodied portrait and The Last Supper the most reproduced religious painting of all time. Leonardo’s drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also regarded as a cultural icon, being reproduced on items as varied as the euro coin, textbooks, and T-shirts. Perhaps fifteen of his paintings have survived. Nevertheless, these few works, together with his notebooks, which contain drawings, scientific diagrams, and his thoughts on the nature of painting, compose a contribution to later generations of artists that is unparalleled.
Leonardo is revered for his technological ingenuity. He conceptualized flying machines, a type of armored fighting vehicle, concentrated solar power, an adding machine, and the double hull. Relatively few of his designs were constructed or even feasible during his lifetime, as the modern scientific approaches to metallurgy and engineering were only in their infancy during the Renaissance. Some of his smaller inventions, however, such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire, entered the world of manufacturing unheralded. A number of Leonardo’s most practical inventions are nowadays displayed as working models at the Museum of Vinci. He made substantial discoveries in anatomy, civil engineering, geology, optics, and hydrodynamics, but he did not publish his findings and they had no direct influence on later science.
Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452 in the Tuscan hill town of Vinci, in the lower valley of the Arno river in the territory of the Medici-ruled Republic of Florence. He was the out-of-wedlock son of the wealthy Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci, a Florentine legal notary, and Caterina, a peasant. Leonardo had no surname in the modern sense – “da Vinci” simply meaning “of Vinci”; his full birth name was “Lionardo di ser Piero da Vinci”, meaning “Leonardo, (son) of (Mes)ser Piero from Vinci”. The inclusion of the title “ser” indicated that Leonardo’s father was a gentleman.
Little is known about Leonardo’s early life. He spent his first five years in the hamlet of Anchiano in the home of his mother, and from 1457 lived in the household of his father, grandparents and uncle in the small town of Vinci. His father had married a sixteen-year-old girl named Albiera Amadori, who loved Leonardo but died young in 1465 without children. When Leonardo was sixteen (1468), his father married again to twenty-year-old Francesca Lanfredini, who also died without children. Piero’s legitimate heirs were born from his third wife Margherita di Guglielmo (who gave birth to six children: Antonio, Giulian, Maddalena, Lorenzo, Violante and Domenico) and his fourth and final wife, Lucrezia Cortigiani (who bore him another six children: Margherita, Benedetto, Pandolfo, Guglielmo, Bartolomeo and Giovanni). In all Leonardo had twelve half-siblings, who were much younger than he (the last was born when Leonardo was forty years old) and with whom he had very few contacts, but they caused him difficulty after his father’s death in the dispute over the inheritance.
Leonardo received an informal education in Latin, geometry and mathematics. In later life, Leonardo recorded only two childhood incidents. One, which he regarded as an omen, was when a kite dropped from the sky and hovered over his cradle, its tail feathers brushing his face. The second occurred while he was exploring in the mountains: he discovered a cave and was both terrified that some great monster might lurk there and driven by curiosity to find out what was inside. Both accounts give a small glimpse into the life and mind of Leonardo. The first account, suggests to us the importance of religion in his life. The second paints a portrait of a person whose hunger for knowledge drives him forward, even beyond fear.
Leonardo’s early life has been the subject of historical conjecture. Vasari, the 16th-century biographer of Renaissance painters, tells a story of Leonardo as a very young man: A local peasant made himself a round shield and requested that Ser Piero have it painted for him. Leonardo responded with a painting of a monster spitting fire that was so terrifying that Ser Piero sold it to a Florentine art dealer, who sold it to the Duke of Milan. Meanwhile, having made a profit, Ser Piero bought a shield decorated with a heart pierced by an arrow, which he gave to the peasant.
The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.” – Leonardo da Vinci
Verrocchio’s workshop, 1466–76
In 1466, at the age of fourteen, Leonardo was apprenticed to the artist Andrea di Cione, known as Verrocchio, whose bottega (workshop) was one of the finest in Florence. He apprenticed as a garzone (studio boy) to Andrea del Verrocchio, the leading Florentine painter and sculptor of his day (and would do so for 7 years). Leonardo was exposed to both theoretical training and a vast range of technical skills; including drafting, chemistry, metallurgy, metal working, plaster casting, leather working, mechanics and carpentry as well as the artistic skills of drawing, painting, sculpting and modelling.
By 1472, at the age of twenty, Leonardo qualified as a master in the Guild of Saint Luke, the guild of artists and doctors of medicine, but even after his father set him up in his own workshop, his attachment to Verrocchio was such that he continued to collaborate with him. Leonardo’s earliest known dated work is a drawing in pen and ink of the Arno valley, drawn on 5 August 1473.
Professional life, 1476–1513
Florentine court records of 1476 show that Leonardo and three other young men were charged with sodomy but acquitted; homosexual acts were illegal in Renaissance Florence. From that date until 1478 there is no record of his work or even of his whereabouts. In 1478, he left Verrocchio’s studio and was no longer resident at his father’s house. One writer, the “Anonimo” Gaddiano, claims that in 1480 Leonardo was living with the Medici and working in the Garden of the Piazza San Marco in Florence, a Neo-Platonic academy of artists, poets and philosophers that the Medici had established. In January 1478, he received an independent commission to paint an altarpiece for the Chapel of St. Bernard in the Palazzo Vecchio; in March 1481, he received a second independent commission for The Adoration of the Magi for the monks of San Donato a Scopeto. Neither commission was completed, the second being interrupted when Leonardo went to Milan.
In 1482, Leonardo, who according to Vasari was a talented musician, created a silver lyre in the shape of a horse’s head. Lorenzo de’ Medici sent Leonardo to Milan, bearing the lyre as a gift, to secure peace with Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. At this time Leonardo wrote an often-quoted letter describing the many marvelous and diverse things that he could achieve in the field of engineering and informing Ludovico that he could also paint.
Leonardo worked in Milan from 1482 until 1499. He was commissioned to paint the Virgin of the Rocks for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception and The Last Supper for the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. In the spring of 1485, Leonardo traveled to Hungary on behalf of Ludovico to meet Matthias Corvinus, for whom he is believed to have painted a Holy Family. Between 1493 and 1495, Leonardo listed a woman called Caterina among his dependents in his taxation documents. When she died in 1495, the list of funeral expenditures suggests that she was his mother.
Leonardo was employed on many different projects for Ludovico, including the preparation of floats and pageants for special occasions, designs for a dome for Milan Cathedral and a model for a huge equestrian monument to Francesco Sforza, Ludovico’s predecessor. Seventy tons of bronze were set aside for casting it. The monument remained unfinished for several years, which was not unusual for Leonardo. In 1492, the clay model of the horse was completed. It surpassed in size the only two large equestrian statues of the Renaissance, Donatello’s Gattamelata in Padua and Verrocchio’s Bartolomeo Colleoni in Venice, and became known as the “Gran Cavallo“. Leonardo began making detailed plans for its casting; however, Michelangelo insulted Leonardo by implying that he was unable to cast it. In November 1494, Ludovico gave the bronze to be used for cannon to defend the city from invasion by Charles VIII.
At the start of the Second Italian War in 1499, the invading French troops used the life-size clay model for the Gran Cavallo for target practice. With Ludovico Sforza overthrown, Leonardo, with his assistant Salai and friend, the mathematician Luca Pacioli, fled Milan for Venice, where he was employed as a military architect and engineer, devising methods to defend the city from naval attack. On his return to Florence in 1500, he and his household were guests of the Servite monks at the monastery of Santissima Annunziata and were provided with a workshop where, according to Vasari, Leonardo created the cartoon of The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist, a work that won much admiration.
In Cesena in 1502, Leonardo entered the service of Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI, acting as a military architect and engineer and travelling throughout Italy with his patron. Leonardo created a map of Cesare Borgia’s stronghold, a town plan of Imola in order to win his patronage. Maps were extremely rare at the time and it would have seemed like a new concept. Upon seeing it, Cesare hired Leonardo as his chief military engineer and architect. Later in the year, Leonardo produced another map for his patron, one of Chiana Valley, Tuscany, so as to give his patron a better overlay of the land and greater strategic position. He created this map in conjunction with his other project of constructing a dam from the sea to Florence, in order to allow a supply of water to sustain the canal during all seasons.
Leonardo returned to Florence, where he rejoined the Guild of Saint Luke on October 18, 1503. He spent two years designing and painting a mural of The Battle of Anghiari for the Signoria, with Michelangelo designing its companion piece, The Battle of Cascina. In Florence in 1504, he was part of a committee formed to relocate, against the artist’s will, Michelangelo’s statue of David.
In 1506 Leonardo returned to Milan. Leonardo did not stay in Milan for long because his father had died in 1504, and in 1507 he was back in Florence trying to sort out problems with his brothers over his father’s estate. By 1508 Leonardo was back in Milan, living in his own house in Porta Orientale in the parish of Santa Babila.
Old age, 1513–1519
From September 1513 to 1516, under Pope Leo X, Leonardo spent much of his time living in the Belvedere in the Vatican in Rome, where Raphael and Michelangelo were both active at the time. In October 1515, King Francis I of France recaptured Milan. On December 19, Leonardo was present at the meeting of Francis I and Pope Leo X, which took place in Bologna. Leonardo was commissioned to make for Francis a mechanical lion that could walk forward then open its chest to reveal a cluster of lilies. In 1516, he entered Francis’ service, being given the use of the manor house Clos Lucé, now a public museum, near the king’s residence at the royal Château d’Amboise. He spent the last three years of his life here, accompanied by his friend and apprentice, Count Francesco Melzi, and supported by a pension.
Leonardo died at Clos Lucé, on May 2, 1519. Francis I had become a close friend. Vasari states that in his last days, Leonardo sent for a priest to make his confession and to receive the Holy Sacrament. In accordance with his will, sixty beggars followed his casket. Melzi was the principal heir and executor, receiving, as well as money, Leonardo’s paintings, tools, library and personal effects. Leonardo also remembered his other long-time pupil and companion, Salai, and his servant Battista di Vilussis, who each received half of Leonardo’s vineyards. His brothers received land, and his serving woman received a black cloak of high quality. Leonardo da Vinci was buried in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert in Château d’Amboise in France.
Some 20 years after Leonardo’s death, Francis was reported by the goldsmith and sculptor Benvenuto Cellini as saying: “There had never been another man born in the world who knew as much as Leonardo, not so much about painting, sculpture and architecture, as that he was a very great philosopher.”
Within Leonardo’s lifetime, his extraordinary powers of invention, his “outstanding physical beauty”, “infinite grace”, “great strength and generosity”, “regal spirit and tremendous breadth of mind”, as described by Vasari, as well as all other aspects of his life, attracted the curiosity of others. One such aspect was his respect for life, evidenced by his vegetarianism and his habit, according to Vasari, of purchasing caged birds and releasing them. Being a vegetarian in his time was unheard of. But Leonardo wrote about the ethics of eating animals when it was not physically necessary.
Study for a portrait of Isabella d’Este
Leonardo had many friends who are now renowned either in their fields or for their historical significance. They included the mathematician Luca Pacioli, with whom he collaborated on the book De divina proportione in the 1490s. Leonardo appears to have had no close relationships with women except for his friendship with Cecilia Gallerani and the two Este sisters, Beatrice and Isabella. While on a journey that took him through Mantua, he drew a portrait of Isabella that appears to have been used to create a painted portrait, now lost.
Beyond friendship, Leonardo kept his private life secret. His sexuality has been the subject of satire, analysis, and speculation. This trend began in the mid-16th century and was revived in the 19th and 20th centuries, most notably by Sigmund Freud. Leonardo’s most intimate relationships were perhaps with his pupils Salai and Melzi. Melzi, writing to inform Leonardo’s brothers of his death, described Leonardo’s feelings for his pupils as both loving and passionate. It has been claimed since the 16th century that these relationships were of a sexual or erotic nature. Court records of 1476, when he was aged twenty-four, show that Leonardo and three other young men were charged with sodomy in an incident involving a well-known male prostitute. The charges were dismissed for lack of evidence, and there is speculation that since one of the accused, Lionardo de Tornabuoni, was related to Lorenzo de’ Medici, the family exerted its influence to secure the dismissal. Since that date much has been written about his presumed homosexuality and its role in his art, particularly in the androgyny and eroticism manifested in John the Baptist and Bacchus and more explicitly in a number of erotic drawings.
Note: I am not going to discuss his paintings here because they are not particularly relevant to his role in medical history.
Leonardo was not a prolific painter, but he was a most prolific draftsman, keeping journals full of small sketches and detailed drawings recording all manner of things that took his attention. As well as the journals there exist many studies for paintings, some of which can be identified as preparatory to particular works such as The Adoration of the Magi, The Virgin of the Rocks and The Last Supper. His earliest dated drawing is a Landscape of the Arno Valley, 1473, which shows the river, the mountains, Montelupo Castle and the farmlands beyond it in great detail.
Among his famous drawings are the Vitruvian Man, a study of the proportions of the human body; the Head of an Angel, for The Virgin of the Rocks in the Louvre; a botanical study of Star of Bethlehem; and a large drawing (160×100 cm) in black chalk on colored paper of The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist. This drawing employs the subtle sfumato technique of shading, in the manner of the Mona Lisa.
The Vitruvian Man (Italian: Le proporzioni del corpo umano secondo Vitruvio, which is translated to “The proportions of the human body according to Vitruvius”), is a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci from around 1490. It is accompanied by notes based on the work of the architect Vitruvius. The drawing, which is in pen and ink on paper, depicts a man in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart and inscribed in a circle and square. The drawing and text are sometimes called the Canon of Proportions or, less often, Proportions of Man. The drawing is based on the correlations of ideal human proportions with geometry described by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius in Book III of his treatise De architectura. Vitruvius described the human figure as being the principal source of proportion among the classical orders of architecture. Vitruvius determined that the ideal body should be eight heads high. Leonardo’s drawing is traditionally named in honor of the architect. So, the proportional ideas did not come from Leonardo himself, but the manner in which he drew it made the concepts much more easily understood, especially by other artists.
This image demonstrates the blend of mathematics and art during the Renaissance and demonstrates Leonardo’s deep understanding of proportion. In addition, this picture represents a cornerstone of Leonardo’s attempts to relate man to nature. Encyclopædia Britannica online states, “Leonardo envisaged the great picture chart of the human body he had produced through his anatomical drawings and Vitruvian Man as a cosmografia del minor mondo (cosmography of the microcosm). He believed the workings of the human body to be an analogy for the workings of the universe.” The drawing it self is often used as an implied symbol of the essential symmetry of the human body, and by extension, the symmetry of the universe as a whole. Leonardo always loved nature and believed that humans were beautiful primarily because they are part of nature. One of the reasons was because of his childhood environment. Near his childhood house were mountains, trees, and rivers. There were also many animals. This environment gave him the perfect chance to study the surrounding area; it also may have encouraged him to have interest in painting.
Journals and notes
Renaissance humanism recognized no mutually exclusive polarities between the sciences and the arts, and Leonardo’s studies in science and engineering are sometimes considered as impressive and innovative as his artistic work. These studies were recorded in 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, which fuse art and natural philosophy (the forerunner of modern science). They were made and maintained daily throughout Leonardo’s life and travels, as he made continual observations of the world around him.
Most of Leonardo’s writings are in mirror-image cursive. While secrecy is often suggested as the reason for this style of writing, it may have been more of a practical expediency. Since Leonardo wrote with his left hand, it was probably easier for him to write from right to left.
Leonardo’s notes and drawings display an enormous range of interests and preoccupations, some as mundane as lists of groceries and people who owed him money. Some as intriguing as designs for wings and shoes for walking on water. There are compositions for paintings, studies of details and drapery, studies of faces and emotions, of animals, babies, dissections, plant studies, rock formations, whirlpools, war machines, flying machines and architecture.
Leonardo’s notes appear to have been intended for publication because many of the sheets have a form and order that would facilitate this. In many cases a single topic, for example, the heart or the human fetus, is covered in detail in both words and pictures on a single sheet. Why they were not published during Leonardo’s lifetime is unknown.
Leonardo’s approach to science was observational: he tried to understand a phenomenon by describing and depicting it in utmost detail and did not emphasis experiments or theoretical explanation. Since he lacked formal education in Latin and mathematics, contemporary scholars mostly ignored Leonardo the scientist, although he did teach himself Latin. In the 1490s he studied mathematics under Luca Pacioli and prepared a series of drawings of regular solids in a skeletal form to be engraved as plates for Pacioli’s book De divina proportione, published in 1509.
The content of his journals suggest that he was planning a series of treatises to be published on a variety of subjects. A coherent treatise on anatomy was said to have been observed during a visit by Cardinal Louis ‘D’ Aragon’s secretary in 1517. Aspects of his work on the studies of anatomy, light and the landscape were assembled for publication by his pupil Francesco Melzi and eventually published as Treatise on Painting by Leonardo da Vinci in France and Italy in 1651 and Germany in 1724, with engravings based upon drawings by the Classical painter Nicolas Poussin. According to Arasse, the treatise, which in France went into 62 editions in fifty years, caused Leonardo to be seen as “the precursor of French academic thought on art”.
While Leonardo’s experimentation followed clear scientific methods, a recent and exhaustive analysis of Leonardo as a scientist by Fritjof Capra argues that Leonardo was a fundamentally different kind of scientist from Galileo, Newton and other scientists who followed him in that, as a Renaissance Man, his theorizing and hypothesizing integrated the arts and particularly painting.
Anatomy and physiology
Leonardo started his study in the anatomy of the human body under the apprenticeship of Andrea del Verrocchio, who demanded that his students develop a deep knowledge of the subject. As an artist, he quickly became master of topographic anatomy, drawing many studies of muscles, tendons and other visible anatomical features.
As a successful artist, Leonardo was given permission to dissect human corpses at the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence and later at hospitals in Milan and Rome. From 1510 to 1511 he collaborated in his studies with the doctor Marcantonio della Torre. Leonardo made over 240 detailed drawings and wrote about 13,000 words towards a treatise on anatomy. These papers were left to his heir, Francesco Melzi, for publication, a task of overwhelming difficulty because of its scope and Leonardo’s idiosyncratic writing. The project was left incomplete at the time of Melzi’s death more than 50 years later, with only a small amount of the material on anatomy included in Leonardo’s Treatise on painting, published in France in 1632. During the time that Melzi was ordering the material into chapters for publication, they were examined by a number of anatomists and artists, including Vasari, Cellini and Albrecht Dürer, who made a number of drawings from them.
Leonardo’s anatomical drawings include many studies of the human skeleton and its parts, and of muscles and sinews. He studied the mechanical functions of the skeleton and the muscular forces that are applied to it in a manner that prefigured the modern science of bio-mechanics. He drew the heart and vascular system, the sex organs and other internal organs, making one of the first scientific drawings of a fetus in utero. The drawings and notation are far ahead of their time, and if published would undoubtedly have made a major contribution to medical science.
Leonardo also closely observed and recorded the effects of age and of human emotion on the physiology, studying in particular the effects of rage. Today there is a whole field of study on this concept (the mind body effect). He drew many figures who had significant facial deformities or signs of illness. Leonardo also studied and drew the anatomy of many animals, dissecting cows, birds, monkeys, bears, and frogs, and comparing in his drawings their anatomical structure with that of humans. He also made a number of studies of horses.
Leonardo’s dissections and documentation of muscles, nerves, and vessels helped to describe the physiology and mechanics of movement. He attempted to identify the source of emotions and their expression. He found it difficult to incorporate the prevailing system and theories of bodily humours, but eventually he abandoned these physiological explanations of bodily functions. He made the observations that humours were not located in cerebral spaces or ventricles. He documented that the humours were not contained in the heart or the liver, and that it was the heart that defined the circulatory system. He was the first to define atherosclerosis and liver cirrhosis. He created models of the cerebral ventricles with the use of melted wax and constructed a glass aorta to observe the circulation of blood through the aortic valve by using water and grass seed to watch flow patterns.
Vesalius published his work on anatomy and physiology in De humani corporis fabrica in 1543, which was long after Leonardo had done much of the same work. Even much of Harvey’s work proved to be a replication of the work that Leonardo had already compiled. The difference was that Leondardo was not published and thus is work was not known to the world. This made it so Vesalius and Harvey get credit for these discoveries.
Engineering and inventions
During his lifetime, Leonardo was valued as an engineer. In a letter to Ludovico il Moro, he claimed to be able to create all sorts of machines both for the protection of a city and for siege. When he fled to Venice in 1499, he found employment as an engineer and devised a system of movable barricades to protect the city from attack. He also had a scheme for diverting the flow of the Arno river, a project on which Niccolò Machiavelli also worked. Leonardo’s journals include a vast number of inventions, both practical and impractical. They include musical instruments, a mechanical knight, hydraulic pumps, reversible crank mechanisms, finned mortar shells, and a steam cannon.
In 1502, Leonardo produced a drawing of a single span 720-foot (220 m) bridge as part of a civil engineering project for Ottoman SultanBeyazid II of Constantinople. The bridge was intended to span an inlet at the mouth of the Bosporus known as the Golden Horn. Beyazid did not pursue the project because he believed that such a construction was impossible. Leonardo’s vision was resurrected in 2001 when a smaller bridge based on his design was constructed in Norway.
Leonardo was fascinated by the phenomenon of flight for much of his life, producing many studies, including Codex on the Flight of Birds, as well as plans for several flying machines such as a flapping ornithopter and a machine with a helical rotor. The British television station Channel Four commissioned a 2003 documentary, Leonardo’s Dream Machines, in which various designs by Leonardo, such as a parachute and a giant crossbow, were interpreted, constructed and tested. Some of those designs proved successful, whilst others fared less well when practically tested.
Fame and reputation
Leonardo’s fame within his own lifetime was such that the King of France carried him away like a trophy, and was claimed to have supported him in his old age and held him in his arms as he died.
Interest in Leonardo and his work has never diminished. Crowds still queue to see his best-known artworks, T-shirts still bear his most famous drawing, and writers continue to hail him as a genius while speculating about his private life, as well as about what one so intelligent actually believed in.
The continued admiration that Leonardo commanded from painters, critics and historians is reflected in many written tributes. Baldassare Castiglione, author of Il Cortegiano (“The Courtier”), wrote in 1528: “… Another of the greatest painters in this world looks down on this art in which he is unequaled …” while the biographer known as “Anonimo Gaddiano” wrote, c. 1540: “His genius was so rare and universal that it can be said that nature worked a miracle on his behalf …”.
The 19th century brought a particular admiration for Leonardo’s genius, causing Henry Fuseli to write in 1801: “Such was the dawn of modern art, when Leonardo da Vinci broke forth with a splendour that distanced former excellence: made up of all the elements that constitute the essence of genius …” This is echoed by A. E. Rio who wrote in 1861: “He towered above all other artists through the strength and the nobility of his talents.”
By the 19th century, the scope of Leonardo’s notebooks was known, as well as his paintings. Hippolyte Taine wrote in 1866: “There may not be in the world an example of another genius so universal, so incapable of fulfillment, so full of yearning for the infinite, so naturally refined, so far ahead of his own century and the following centuries.” Art historian Bernard Berenson wrote in 1896: “Leonardo is the one artist of whom it may be said with perfect literalness: Nothing that he touched but turned into a thing of eternal beauty. Whether it be the cross section of a skull, the structure of a weed, or a study of muscles, he, with his feeling for line and for light and shade, forever transmuted it into life-communicating values.”
The interest in Leonardo’s genius has continued unabated; experts study and translate his writings, analyse his paintings using scientific techniques, argue over attributions and search for works which have been recorded but never found. Liana Bortolon, writing in 1967, said: “Because of the multiplicity of interests that spurred him to pursue every field of knowledge … Leonardo can be considered, quite rightly, to have been the universal genius par excellence, and with all the disquieting overtones inherent in that term. Man is as uncomfortable today, faced with a genius, as he was in the 16th century. Five centuries have passed, yet we still view Leonardo with awe.”
References and Further Reading
- List of Works by Leonardo
- Personal life of Leondardo
- Vitruvian Man
- Leonardo Da Vinci
- Leonardo Da Vinci Biography
- Leonardo Da Vinci Documentary
- Live Science
- Thoughts on Art of Life by Leonardo De Vinci
- Nicolo, Mario Lucertini, Ana Millan Gasca, Fernando (2004). Technological Concepts and Mathematical Models in the Evolution of Modern Engineering Systems. Birkhauser.
- Masters, Roger (1996). Machiavelli, Leonardo and the Science of Power. University of Notre Dame Press.
- Müntz, Eugène (1898). Leonardo da Vinci. Artist, Thinker, and Man of Science. Volume 1. London: William Heinemann.
- The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci Complete by Leonardo Da Vinci
- Leonardo Da Vinci Anatomical Drawings
- Leonardo Da Vinci’s Foot
- Science and Inventions