Leonardo da VinciPosted: January 4, 2018
Leonardo da Vinci
Simon & Schuster, 624 pages (October 17, 2017)
Kindle edition $16.99, Amazon hardcover $20.32
Walter Isaacson is a superb biographer and chronicler of nonfiction, and his latest book, Leonardo da Vinci is no exception. Not only is it well written and engaging, but it is painstakingly researched. Much of the detail in this biography comes from Leonardo’s notebooks, to which Isaacson was given access. He also uses a variety of other sources, both contemporary or near-contemporary, as well as modern. He makes sure that conflicting scholarly perspectives are given fair attention.
There is a lot to learn about Da Vinci in this book. He has the surname he does because he originally came from the town of Vinci. He was illegitimate and his father never chose to legitimize him, which he could have done. That’s probably a good thing, because Da Vinci’s father was a notary and had he been legitimized Da Vinci would probably have been expected to take up that profession. He was gay, and he had a couple of male companions whom he supported throughout much of his life.
Painting was not his first love. He conceived of a variety of different machines, many of which were designed to assist whichever city-state was his current employer to be more effective in the execution of warfare. Most were fanciful; a few were actually built. One of his first jobs for the autocratic Duke of Milan was as an impresario and designer of court pageants. He missed deadlines and often failed to complete works.
Leonardo was a complex man and Isaacson does justice to that complexity. If you find Da Vinci interesting this book will be well worth your time.