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Leonardo: A Restless Genius

Leonardo: A Restless Genius

Antonio Forcellino, Lucinda Byatt (Translator)

ISBN: 978-1-509-51855-5

Apr 2018

344 pages


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A visionary scientist, a supreme painter, a man of eccentricity and ambition: Leonardo da Vinci had many lives. The child of 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 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 eventually the Papacy in Rome, where he could vie for renown with Michelangelo and Raphael.

In this revelatory account, Antonio Forcellino draws on his expertise as both an historian and a 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 new insight 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 and sketches about the political dynamics and social contexts in which Leonardo worked. 

Forcellino throws brilliant light on a life all too often overshadowed and obscured by myth, providing us with a new perspective on the personality and motivations of one of the greatest geniuses of Western culture.
  • Prologue
  • 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
""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 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 frescos. This concise but comprehensive book on a many-sided man deserves to be widely read.""
Peter Burke, University of Cambridge