Leonardo Da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson
In his new book, Leonardo Da Vinci, Water Isaacson undertakes an ambitious task. It's one he has tackled before in his biographies of Einstein and Jobs; following the life and work of genius. The heft of the book alone may be off-putting to some readers, but once started, it is almost impossible to put down. The text is richly annotated and the scores of photographs of sketches, paintings, and sculptures are so expertly explained that it feels as if you are attending a fascinating lecture series. Da Vinci’s insatiable curiosity in all things pertaining to nature, mechanics, optics, anatomy, engineering…well, about everything really, is surpassed only by his genius as an artist. The sheer volume of his work is staggering and the fact that there remains so many examples of his handiwork five centuries after it was created is mind-boggling. It is hard to remember in this current age where it is so easy to mindlessly photograph everything with the press of a button on an iPhone, that not so long ago, it required time and talent to record an image or idea. The role call of his contemporaries (both colleagues and patrons) alone reads like a who's who; Machiavelli, Borgia, Medici, Michaelangelo, popes and kings all interwoven in the fabric of the period in which Da Vinci flourished. It’s easy to understand why the hyperbole and superlatives abound when discussing a man who countless times would envision what inventors would innovate centuries later. This is an inspiring and thought-provoking book that adroitly describes what can happen when imagination is applied to intellect.
Review by Sarah Ehrenson