Monday, October 3, 2016

On the Coffee Table: Leonardo da Vinci


Title: The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci
via Amazon
I've always had a strong affinity for Leonardo da Vinci.  When I was in elementary school, an actor came for an assembly, dressed up as the Italian Renaissance master.  He told the story of the artist/scientist/philosopher's life, my first exposure to the full breadth of the man.  I was dazzled by the tales of flying machines centuries ahead of their time and heretical studies of human anatomy.  I gained a new appreciation for his art, too, especially The Last Supper with its use of converging lines.

I was given a copy of Leonardo's notebooks a few years ago, the Oxford World's Classics edition.  The range of topics covered is astonishing.  His curiosity is boundless.  He analyzes the flow of water, the growth of trees, the folds of various fabrics when draped over the human body.  Often, more realistic art is his ultimate objective but not always.  Over the course of his life, Leonardo was engaged for civil engineering projects in addition to the art commissions.  His approach was scientific, or at least as close as anyone was managing in the 16th century.  He was watching the celestial bodies before Galileo, observing motion before Newton.  His conclusions weren't accurate but he was certainly asking the right questions.  The book reaffirmed all of my long-held admiration.

That said, it wasn't as much fun as I was hoping.  For starters, there are precious few illustrations, not even all of the ones referenced in the text.  The text is dry, too.  Of course, da Vinci's musings were for his own use, not necessarily for publication.  Engaging the reader was not his primary consideration.  I'm glad to have read it finally but can't say I'd be up for more of the same.

8 comments:

  1. Yeah, he was probably one of the most brilliant men who has ever lived.

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    1. Certainly ahead of his time. Would have been better suited to the Industrial Age.

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  2. Leonardo was certainly an amazing person! It's fascinating to learn about him, and I can see how you were captivated by his story as a child. This sounds like an interesting book, but probably a lot to take in (and I can believe it is dry reading). :) Thanks for sharing!
    ~Jess

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  3. It's hard to come up with contenders like him for most singularly-accomplished individual in history.

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    1. I guess. I thought about that a lot as I was reading. He gets a lot of credit for ideas that weren't actually viable. Top notch brain, no doubt. But accomplished? I don't know. Even in art, most critics would give Michelangelo the edge among his contemporaries.

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  4. Too bad this wasn't better, but still glad you tried it.

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    1. I am glad I did, too. Perhaps I was expecting too much.

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