“Few mortals have captured the imagination of so many as has Leonardo Da Vinci.
We tend to see him as the ultimate genius of the Renaissance period. Yet, as Toby Lester reminds us here, he was a man of remarkable imagination who was self-educated, unable to retain full-time employment because he failed to meet deadlines and was prone to go off in search of new projects while leaving current ones uncompleted.
That said, it does not diminish the wealth of his accomplishments. It simply makes him more human.
Lester also demonstrates that even the most accomplished of geniuses benefits from the works of those who have gone before. Leonardo's self-education benefited from the invention of the printing press, which made cheap books available to the populace, and the existence of libraries like the one at Pavia.
Even the iconic image known as the Vitruvian Man and associated with Da Vinci had its roots in an obscure tome written by a Roman architect and military engineer. Marcus Vitruvius appears to have first described the human body analogy, which later became a central tenet of Christian thought. Though other artists had attempted a visual depiction of the idea, it was Da Vinci who perfected the image of a human figure in a square enclosed in a circle.
Lester speculates Da Vinci may have drawn the image for his proposed anatomical treatise on the human body--another work apparently never completed. No one knows for certain exactly when or why he drew the image.
But that's beside the point. Da Vinci was a genius who made the world richer by his presence. Lester has done a wonderful job of giving us fresh insights into Da Vinci and his time. ”