A visionary scientist, a supreme painter, a man of eccentricity and ambition: Leonardo da Vinci had many lives. Born from a fleeting affair between a country girl and a young notary, Leonardo was never legitimized by his father and received no formal education. While this freedom from the routine of rigid and codified learning may have served to stimulate his natural creativity, it also caused many years of suffering and an insatiable need to prove his own worth. It was a striving for glory and an obsessive thirst for knowledge that prompted Leonardo to seek the protection and favour of the most powerful figures of his day, from Lorenzo de’ Medici to Ludovico Sforza, from the French governors of Milan to the pope in Rome, where he could vie for renown with Michelangelo and Raphael. In this revelatory account, Antonio Forcellino draws on his expertise – both as historian and as restorer of some of the world’s greatest works of art – to give us a more detailed view of Leonardo than ever before. Through careful analyses of his paintings and compositional technique, down to the very materials used, Forcellino offers fresh insights into Leonardo’s artistic and intellectual development. He spans the great breadth of Leonardo’s genius, discussing his contributions to mechanics, optics, anatomy, geology and metallurgy, as well as providing acute psychological observations about the political dynamics and social contexts in which Leonardo worked. Forcellino sheds new light on a life all too often overshadowed and obscured by myth, providing us with a fresh perspective on the personality and motivations of one of the greatest geniuses of Western culture.
Prologue Part One. ILLEGITIMATE SON 1. The Summer Child 2. In Florence 3. Verrocchio’s Workshop 4. Drawing 5. Early Experiments in the Workshop 6. Epiphany 7. Rebel Without a Cause 8. The Accusation 9. The Kite and the Vulture 10. Other Distractions 11. The New Humanity 12. Leonardo’s Technique Part Two. IN MILAN 1. Virgins and Lovers 2. At Ludovico’s Court 3. The Virgin of the Rocks 4. Portrait of a Legend 5. Anonymous Portraits 6. Theatre and Science 7. The New Science 8. Salai 9. The Phantom Horse 10. The Last Supper 11. Addio Milan Part Three. BACK TO FLORENCE 1. A Fatherless Family 2. The Madonnas of the Yarnwinder 3. The Human Beast 4. Real Wars and Mock Battles 5. Waiting for Glory 6. Body and Soul Part Four. IN EXILE 1. Rome. The Great Illusion 2. A Modest Apartment 3. Leonardo and Rome 4. The Three Paintings shown to Cardinal Luigi d’Aragona 5. A World of Women 6. The Mysterious Woman 7. The End 8. Inheritance Notes Plate Credits Index
‘A captivating account of one of the most enigmatic figures in history. This beautifully written and well-documented biography is creative non-fiction at its very best. Based on the facts as we know them, it reads like an enthralling novel.’Patricia Fortini Brown, Professor Emerita of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University‘As one might expect from Forcellino, this book is written with verve, it brings major and minor individuals back to life, and it presents an original perspective on Leonardo’s art and on his relationships to other artists. While Forcellino's greatest strength is his close analysis of particular paintings, he deals with the whole range of Leonardo's work, from his mechanics, optics and anatomy to his most famous paintings and frescoes. This concise but comprehensive book on a many-sided man deserves to be widely read.’ Peter Burke, Professor Emeritus of Cultural History, University of Cambridge
Antonio Forcellino is a leading European authority on Renaissance art who has restored works of inestimable value, including Michelangelo’s Moses and the Arch of Trajan in Benevento. He is the author of Michelangelo: A Tormented Life (Polity, 2009) and Raphael: A Passionate Life (Polity, 2012).