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Leonardo Da Vinci: The Flights of the Mind [Paperback]

Charles Nicholl
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
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Book Description

7 April 2005
Leonardo is the greatest, most multi-faceted and most mysterious of all Renaissance artists, but extraordinarily, considering his enormous reputation, this is the first full-length biography in English for several decades. Prize-winning author Charles Nicholl has immersed himself for five years in all the manuscripts, paintings and artefacts to produce an intimate portrait' of Leonardo. He uses these contemporary materials - his notebooks and sketchbooks, eye witnesses and early biographies, etc - as a way into the mental tone and physical texture of his life and has made myriad small discoveries about him and his work and his circle of associates. Among much else, the book identifies what Nicholl argues is an unknown portrait of the artist hanging in a church near Lodi in northern Italy. It also contains new material on his eccentric assistant Tomasso Masini, on his homosexual affairs in Florence, and on his curious relationship with a female model and/or prostitute from Cremona. A masterpiece of modern biography.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 623 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Re-issue edition (7 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140296816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140296815
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 55,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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‘A masterpiece of imaginative reconstruction’ -- Richard Holmes, Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year

‘A splendid and encompassing biography’ -- Peter Ackroyd, The Times

‘Charles Nicholl, in this bright, cunning, intrepidly intelligent biographical study, has startlingly demystified his enigmatic subject’ -- Peter Conrad, Observer

‘Gripping, beguiling … brings a genius down from his lonely pedestal and into the world’ -- Daily Telegraph

‘Leonardo da Vinci isn’t merely a lovely book, it’s Leonardesque … At its best, it glows’ -- David Gelernter, The New York Times

From the Inside Flap

Leonardo da Vinci is the most mysterious of all the great artists, continuing to inspire and intrigue centuries after his death. Who lies beneath the legend of the ‘Renaissance genius’? What is the real story behind his elusive masterpieces and tantalizing notebooks?

Charles Nicholl’s compelling, lyrical biography explores Leonardo’s life – from his beginnings as an illegitimate child in Tuscany to the creation of his great works and his final days – as never before. Delving into hidden corners of his manuscripts and unravelling years of myth and mystery, he brilliantly illuminates the man behind the enigma.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A most readable biography 24 Dec 2011
I've given the book 5 stars because it offered me everthing I wish for in a biography, and more. It was informative, full of information (as much as is known, anyway) about the artist's private as well as professional life and it was totally absorbing. Purchased before a visit to the Leonardo exhibition currently running at the National Gallery, I thought I had better 'mug up' on the artist as I all I knew about him was that he painted the Mona Lisa and designed some flying machines. What I actually got was the most absorbing read I have had in a long time. I totally disagree with those reviewers who said that the book does not show Leonardo as the multi-talented man he was. What were they reading? Charles Nicholl takes great pains to describe the engineering works, designs for instruments of warfare and anatomical studies which Leonardo undertook, along with his paintings. The fragments and notebooks which are left to us are overflowing with theories, hypotheses and scientific experiments to which the artist dedicated much of his time.

The book is almost like a novel, interspersed with fragments of personal information and little insights into the artist's personal life, his (possible) loves and his friends and students. Alongside the historical facts and little anecdotes are Nicholl's own comments and snatches of information, such as his own examination of the 'Adoration of the Magi' and the Uffizi's attempts at restoration.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I loved it, but... 2 Nov 2009
I loved the book and I eventually looked forward to my evening reading of it. The book in itself is well written and highly readable. I like the way Nicholl puts together the pieces and tries to fill the gaps with plausible contestualised hypothesis and stresses the fact that he is actually doing it. There are some parts that are also pure entertainment like when he describes the relationship between Leonardo and Isabella d'Este or his feud with Michelangelo and his being happier in Milan than Florence because they were more party like. The reason I don't give it 5 stars is because the whole psychoanalytic part got me irritated especially in the initial chapters. Freud theories are surpassed and I thought it was weird to apply them to Leonardo. I can think the only reason is because Freud himself worte a book about it. The second reason I give it only four is because it is true, as others have commented, that Leonardo amazing multitalent doesn't come through. We have glimpses but all his other activities are not as well described as his painting. However the book was good enough to make me want to go ahead with further reading.
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83 of 96 people found the following review helpful
By Visa
Nicoll manages to give a good view of the personality of Leonardo da Vinci, by describing what is known about da Vinci's childhood and then proceeding to describe his career as a *painter* in chronological order. Although in describing character Nicoll occasionally falls in depth into Freudian mumbojumbo, he has to be complemented that he does recognize that it is only fantastical speculation. The style of Nicoll is enjoyable and easy to read.
If you want to a good description of da Vinci the painter and his career, then this is the book for you. Nicoll goes in detail to the creation of many paintings of da Vinci, both those well known to general public and those less well known.
However, if you want a biography of da Vinci the multitalented man, then this book is definitely not for you. More space is given for description of a single art project that never came to be than is given to all the inventions and scientific contributions of da Vinci. As an example, Nicoll mentions that in the field of anatomy da Vinci's original contribution was greatest, and then proceeds to give six pages and two illustrations on the topic. And, unfortunately, most of these six pages is on the usefulness of the study of anatomy to a painter. More room is given to speculations about the possible identity of a female model in a painting lost hundreds of years ago than is given to the actual contribution of da Vinci to the field of anatomy. There is no description of the state of anatomical knowledge at the time and no description of how Leonardo added to this knowledge.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book but please...... 16 April 2009
By Elaine
....please, please can publishers make books a bit more eye-friendly? I bought this book for an art history course, consulted it as a reference book first, using the truly excellent index. Then I read the first page, was introduced to the town of Leonardo's birth, to his neighbours, his charismatic family in a way that made me want to get to know them all better so I began to read it almost as I would a novel: in that sense it was a page-turner. But I soon realised I couldn't turn many pages because the print is far too small for comfort. I'm afraid it's gone back on the 'Reference' shelf, and it will certainly be referred to because it's knowledgeable and detailed. I feel almost cheated - I want to find out what happens to Leonardo and his family but I'll have to wait for another edition with clearer print.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and thorough
Whether you enjoy this book will depend on the level of detail you are looking for in a biography. This one is extremely detailed. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Gordon Eldridge
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully engrossing account of a fascinating life.
A wonderfully engrossing account of a fascinating life, following the artist from his obscure childhood to his later years of triumphant fame. Nicholls at his best.
Published 9 months ago by Ms A. C. Koning
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and comprehensive.
All you ever wanted to know about Leonardo Da Vinci and more in this well written, comprehensive insight into master Da Vinci. Read more
Published 14 months ago by surimono
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
Working my way through the book, it is immensely absorbing, setting the man and his achievements against the social backdrop of the time.
Published 16 months ago by Mrs. I. E. Lintern
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Man
Having very little knowledge of Da Vinci and Renaissance Italy in general, I found this book easy to understand and entertaining to read. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Claire
4.0 out of 5 stars History makes the Future
Leonardo Da Vinci is a very iconic artist. I have not yet completed this book but have found it highly interesting and think that any Da Vinci fan out there will enjoy this book.
Published 17 months ago by GTime
3.0 out of 5 stars Leonardo Da Vinci: The Flights of the Mind
Be warned this book is printed in very small type making accessing the contents a great chore - rather than a pleasure.
Published on 2 Jan 2012 by Tea Gardener
4.0 out of 5 stars Flights of the MInd
Although I tend to agree with one of the reviews who comments on the size of the print (10pt?), I assume it was to keep this already 600+ pages biography "in bounds". Read more
Published on 13 Sep 2011 by RR Waller
4.0 out of 5 stars Leonardo's Life
I havent finsihed reading it yet, but so far its a great book, smoothly written and easy to read for a biography, great choice
Published on 18 Jan 2011 by angelv
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book, great read but the print is so small, why?
Own many paperbacks, this has by far the smallest print.

As for the book the other reviewers cover it well.

Just a warning about the print.
Published on 16 May 2010 by Al Zadeh
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