Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
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Leonardo da Vinci personified the Renaissance, the extraordinary age in which he lived. Best known as one of the world's greatest painters, he sketched the foundations for inventions that would not come to fruition for centuries.
Born a bastard in a hillside village in northern Italy, Leonardo became the protégé of princes, popes, and kings. He mastered so many branches of science that scholars still debate whether he was greater as an anatomist, botanist, cartographer, engineer, geographer, or naturalist.
Nevertheless, he died unhappy, believing he had failed to work the miracles of which he had dreamed. Here, from New York Times bestselling author Anna Abraham, is his extraordinary story.
protégé of princes, popes, and kings. Though many of his projects went unfinished, he set new benchmarks in painting and created stunning works of architecture, sculpture, and the written word. He mastered so many branches of science that scholars still debate whether he was more accomplished as an anatomist, botanist, cartographer, engineer, geographer, or naturalist. By the time he died in 1519, Leonardo seemed to have accomplished his boyhood ambition: “I wish to work miracles.” Nevertheless,
paintings: “You should not make all the muscles of the body too conspicuous . . . If you do otherwise you will produce a sack of walnuts rather than a human figure.” With “David” completed, the Signoria was inspired to ratchet up the rivalry between the two artists: In October 1504, Michelangelo was commissioned to paint a separate mural on the Council Chamber wall opposite Leonardo’s. He was to depict another martial scene, the Battle of Cascina, dating from an earlier war with Pisa. It wasn’t
truth that his name, though already famous for his painting, has not received sufficient praise for the many other gifts he possesses, which are of an extraordinary power.” To mark Leonardo’s fifty-fifth birthday, the count gave him back his vineyard, which the French had confiscated soon after they took over Milan in 1500. As Leonardo’s deadline for returning to Florence approached, d’Amboise wrote the Signoria asking for permission for Leonardo to extend his stay until the end of September to
father, Ludovico’s brother, was assassinated in 1476. But Ludovico kept the heir isolated and powerless. Burly, ruthless, and unscrupulous, he was called “Il Moro,” the Moor, because of his dark complexion and as a pun on one of his names, Mauro. (Quattrocento Italians were obsessed by puns, and Leonardo was no exception; several times he paired his name with leone, lion.) Ludovico liked his nickname and used a moor’s head as part of his coat of arms. Ludovico wanted to reinforce the fortress of
his notes, he records, “Giacomo came to live with me on St. Mary Magdalen’s day [July 22] 1490.” Ten-year-old Giacomo’s father, an obscure villager named Pietro Caprotti, was willing to pay for his upkeep while the boy served as Leonardo’s servant, errand-boy, and studio model - and eventually one of his apprentices. How soon Giacomo slept with Leonardo is a matter of conjecture, but there’s not much room for doubt that he did. As Vasari describes him, he “was extraordinarily graceful and