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Leonardo da Vinci

I have taken a dive into the world of nonfiction this year. I have always adored reading true tales, but I am incredibly drawn to real accounts of people and events throughout both ancient and modern history.

I don’t go for just one type of historical or nonfiction work – I love them all! From biographies to memoirs to heavy research regarding world events, I’m happy to undertake any type.

Lifelong learning was preached to my family and I by my grandfather during our time with him. I consider myself akin to him; a lover of books and learning as much as I can cram into my cranium.

What I Expected

  • An illustrious book of art history
  • A bird’s eye view into da Vinci’s personal exploits
  • For my hunger to absorb this work to finally be satiated

What I Got

  • Beautifully written insight into the mind of a true genius
  • A non-salacious view of da Vinci’s personal life
  • An incredible history lesson

What I Thought

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson has been on my bookish radar since my discovery of it in the stacks of my local online library over a year ago. Well, I finally got around to reading this work of genius and closed the final page in awe of one of the forerunners of the Renaissance movement in Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Prior to my reading of Isaacson’s biography, I had learned tidbits about da Vinci sprinkled across pop culture. For instance, in an episode of Futurama, da Vinci is portrayed as uneducated on a planet full of smart people. I also learned of a few conspiracy theories surrounding the artist and his works on Ancient Aliens.

Of course I knew da Vinci had painted the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper; however, I formerly didn’t know that da Vinci was left-handed and created such painting styles as sfumata, a form of shading/shadowing with paint and in turn leading the the creation of very lifelike artwork.

I also did not know that among da Vinci’s contemporaries were the Borgia and Medici families, Raphael and Michelangelo. I find it fascinating that as opposed to admiring the elder da Vinci, Michelangelo viewed him as an adversary.

Leonardo da Vinci was incredibly curious and his interests waned from painting, to astronomy, to architecture, to the designing of cities, to dissecting human cadavers in order to understand and draw the internal man.

The artist’s intense study of such seeming nuances as which particular facial muscle(s) cause each movement of the mouth. This study no doubt highly influenced Leonardo’s portraiture and undoubtedly lent itself to the creation of the Mona Lisa, on which Leonardo worked for 16 years, only stopping his work due to his own death.

I also find it fascinating just how human da Vinci was, as portrayed by Isaacson. Leonardo often jumped from interest to interest, many times leaving work, including promising commissions, unfinished. Isaacson states that da Vinci could have published some of the premier science and anatomy volumes – if only he hadn’t moved onto other subjects.

Leonardo was fascinated by warfare and creating designs for possible military machines. Many of the machines he designed, which some scholars deem were to test the idea of human flight, many of them may have in fact been designs for pageants and parties held by the rulers whose courts included da Vinci.

Despite its being about 500 pages, my reading of Leonardo da Vinci never felt tedious or forced. I thirsted for more knowledge about the great master – this thirst grew even greater the more that I read. I certainly look forward to perhaps taking on another Leonardo da Vinci biography one day.

5 fine stars*

Dumbfounded, Maggie


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