My readings #1 : Biography of Leonard de Vinci

The Book (in french) : “Léonard de Vinci” from Sophie Chauveau.

Leonard De Vinci (1452–1519) is one of the most famous and probably one of the best painters in the world. In fact, before reading his biography I personnaly didn’t know lots of things about his life, the man he was and what he really achieved. I knew he was an italian genius that studied many different fields and, of course, that he painted “Mona Lisa”. Few things more but nothing really deep and relevant. I wanted to go further and learn more about his life, so I decided to read his biography.

There is a big mystery around Leonard De Vinci’s life. it is said that he has made countless paintings, sculptures, drawings etc. but the truth is, we are 100% sure of the origin of only a few of these creations.. Is the “Mona Lisa” we can see at The Louvre in Paris, the one that has actually been painted by Leonard De Vinci ? Were there several “Mona Lisa” ? Experts even struggle to answear these questions. What we have from The Vinci is the famous “Codex” which is a mix of everything he wrote and drew during his 63 years life.

Leonard was a painter, drawer, architect, musician, engineer, town-planner, doctor, scientist, sculptor, party-organiser … He was an amazing observator of everything in life and the least we can say is that he made lots of things. He wanted to build the perfect city, he designed a huge Horse sculpture (4 meters high) for Ludovic Sforza in Milan, he purified a marsh that caused deases in Rome, he planned a water-defence system in Venice, He worked on restorating buildings in several cities, he studied nature, he studied human body, he made major discoveries in hydrodynamics. And, of course, he painted several major pieces of art “Mona Lisa”, “The Last Supper”, “Lady with an Hermine” or else “Virgin of the Rocks”.

But Leonard had one major problem : he only finished few things that he undertook. Unfinishing projects was Leonard’s true issue. He was interested in so many things, so many fields that he was always distracted and when he was really focused, political events (especially wars) prevented him from finishing his work. Even his famous “Last Supper” that we can see in Milan is unfinished : a rainstorm damaged the stand and then the war against french happened. This is probably why Leonard was never recognized as his true value by his peers. His contemporaries saw him like an insane man, charlatan or even a spy who worked for the enemy. Other artists (Michel-Ange, Raphael …) that used to live at the same time were jaelous and made everything possible to prevent him from working. His father didn’t really love him since he was a bastard. Despite eveything he fulfilled, Leonard was never really blooming because of the lack of recognition for his talent and works. And it is only at the end of his life, after the age 60, when he met the King of France, Francois 1er that he found what he was looking for during his entire life : a protector who would be able to support him financially, to trust him and to see in him the true genius he is. It was Leonard’s only aspiration in life.

Leonard didn’t dream about power or politics. His only concern was to be in a situation where he does not have to worry about money, in order to be able to focus only on what really makes sens : his work.