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Leonardo: The Artist And the Man Paperback – 29 Sep 1994
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With the aid of Leonardo da Vinci's note books, as well as a wide variety of sources, this biography covers the full life of the great Renaissance painter and architect. It is an account of Leonardo, both as an artist and as an individual. The book charts the artist's family background, childhood and apprenticeship, successes and failures, patronage, travels, interests and friendships. The book include b&w reproductions of paintings and sketchings by da Vinci. All surviving paintings are listed in the text, and there are family trees of Leonardo's family.
About the Author
Serge Bramly is a novelist, ethnologist, screenwriter, art critic, and historian of photography. He has published more than 20 books, including Macumba, a study of Afro-Brazilian religions; La Danse de Loup, a historical novel; and several works of art history. In 1992 he collaborated with Bettina Rheims on the book Chambre Close. Sian Reynolds was born in Cardiff and taught at both Sussex University and Edinburgh University before serving as Chair of French at Stirling University from 1999-2004. She has translated numerous books from the French, both fiction and nonfiction, including works by crime writer Fred Vargas.
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Leonardo’s vision on art
For Leonardo, art should not be ornamental, but act on people, disturb and influence them. He set thereby an ambitious and formidable goal for himself and also for all true art-ists (not only painters) after him. His paintings are the most vandalized in the entire history of art and have been attacked with stones and knives. One was even burned (Leda).
His vision on art was adopted and adapted by Schopenhauer.
Leonardo was a bastard: ‘As the illegitimate child of a small-time notary, he could have no hope of a traditional career.’ At the age of 17-18 (very late) he found a job as an apprentice in a painting shop (bottega).
There are plenty of indications that Leonardo was gay. He had a weakness for bad boys with pretty faces. He was even accused of sodomy. But in the Renaissance homosexuality was socially acceptable, if discreet.
On the other hand, Leonardo considered the flesh pleasure to be dangerous and absurd, being responsible not only for the absurd multiplication of human beings, but also for various diseases.
After the ‘gay affair’ (and perhaps a few days in prison), he hid his beauty under a long beard. He lived in secrecy, but still in constant fear of malicious gossip which could arouse scandal, a bad reputation and loss of liberty.
His moral philosophy was based on a single maxim: respect all life.
Leonardo was a deist, but a staunch defender of anticlericalism. He despised the priests, ’who trade in simulated miracles duping the foolish multitude’. He protested against the sale of indulgences, obligatory confession and the cult of the saints. In the commercial exploitation of pious objects, he saw ‘Christ once more being sold and crucified and his saints martyred.’
He was hired by the bottega of Andrea Verrochio, an innovator, who taught him not to repeat what had already been done, not to become a vulgar copyist.
Under the influence of Giotto, he returned to nature as a source of inspiration.
Technically, he adopted Masaccio’s solution for creating relief (‘the very soul of painting’).
In his whole life, he completed only 9 paintings.
Based on Giorgio Vasari’s work (‘Life of the Artists’) and Leonardo’s Notebooks, Serge Bramly wrote a sublime biography of one of the first artists with a ‘real’ mission in the history of art.
A must read for all those interested in Western (art) history.
Also the book is very well documented and the author is really passionate about Leonardo's life and he transmit his passion to the reader.
As other reviewers said, you will find out some small but significant details about his life that are not known by most people and I also think I understand his works much better now.
If you want an easy going read I'd recommend this; if you want something a bit more comprehensive, then look elsewhere.
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