Reviews for Leonardo Da Vinci

by Walter Isaacson

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Praising the subject of this illuminating biography as "history's most creative genius," Isaacson (The Innovators) uses observations and insights in the 7,200 extant pages of notes Leonardo da Vinci left behind as interpretive touchstones for assessing the artist's life and work. The key to da Vinci's genius as an innovator, as Isaacson presents it, was his "ability to make connections across disciplines-arts and sciences, humanities, and technology" coupled with "an imagination so excitable that it flirted with the edges of fantasy." Proceeding chronologically through the artist's life-from his apprenticeship at age 14 in Florence under Andrea del Verrochio to his later years in the court of Ludovico Sforza in Milan and his death in France in 1519-Isaacson shows how da Vinci's inquisitiveness set him apart from his contemporaries but frequently distracted him from completing commissions or projects. The author portrays da Vinci's minor works and major works such as Vitruvian Man and The Last Supper as steps toward his execution of Mona Lisa, "a quest to portray the complexities of human emotion" that represents "the culmination of a life spent perfecting an ability to stand at the intersection of art and nature." Isaacson's scholarship is impressive-he cites not only primary sources but secondary materials by art critics, essayists, and da Vinci's other biographers. This is a monumental tribute to a titanic figure. Color illus. (Oct.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* Isaacson's writings of late have been concerned with genius: biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs. Now he takes on perhaps the ultimate genius, a man whose interest in art and science intertwined in spectacular ways. Putting together the life of Leonardo da Vinci (despite his own numerous entries in his famous notebooks) seems to have been a more complicated task for Isaacson than was presenting his previous subjects (and, of course, he had the advantage of numerous personal interviews with Jobs). On the surface, the book doesn't seem to reveal much more about the man personally illegitimate, gay, sometimes unfocused than does a solid encyclopedia entry. Ah, but when Isaacson discusses da Vinci's artistic and scientific endeavors, all manner of fascinating connections begin to emerge. With the strong advantage of having four-color images of Leonardo's work placed throughout his text, Isaacson can both show and tell, writing with assurance about the different influences on the artist's works, where his passions lay and overlapped. Leonardo's fascination with anatomical structure informed his paintings; his profound interest in math and the transformation of shapes influenced his inventions. His delight in staging theatricals led to dramas that offered interpretations of his allegorical art and drawings. Encompassing in its coverage, robust in its artistic explanations, yet written in a smart, conversational tone, this is both a solid introduction to the man and a sweeping saga of his genius.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2017 Booklist

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Acclaimed biographer Isaacson (Steve Jobs; The Innovators) delves into the 15th and 16th centuries to examine the insatiable energy of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). Primarily relying on da Vinci's notebooks (more than 7,200 pages) for his research, as they help to understand da Vinci as a person, the author argues early and often that his subject was not the most brilliant man who ever lived, simply the most curious one. For example, in his journals, da Vinci reminds himself to "describe the tongue of the woodpecker." The illegitimate son of a wealthy notary in Vinci, a town outside Florence, Italy, da Vinci had a fascination with science and art from a young age. This melding of subjects was a main component of Renaissance life. This book examines da Vinci's birth, young adulthood, sexuality, works (e.g., The Last Supper, The Mona Lisa), and contemporaries such as Michelangelo and Cesare Borgia (on whom Machiavelli's The Prince was based). Lastly, Isaacson explores the polymath's enduring impact. The time line, illustrations, notes, and index help to make this work a great reference tool. VERDICT Fans of Isaacson's previous epic works, the Renaissance, and da Vinci will find this a must-read biography.-Jason L. Steagall, Gateway Technical Coll. Lib., Elkhorn, WI Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.