Leonardo da Vinci Book Cover

Leonardo da Vinci

Publishing Year: 2017
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In his 2017 biography of the famous painter, Leonardo da Vinci, Walter Isaacson brings familiarises us with the life and genius of the artist and engineer like never before. Very little is known about his personal life, even though the world is still awed by his works of art. He painted the two most famous paintings in history, The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. Isaacson weaves his narrative with the help of Leonardo’s notebooks where he took copious notes and which he maintained throughout his life.

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Lesson 1. Introduction.

We know very little about Leonardo da Vinci’s personal life. He maintained notebooks where he took copious notes, but they were sketchy and did not reveal much about the polymath. Our knowledge of his life is based largely on tax records, legal documents and second-hand sources. 

He was born on the 14th of April, 1452, in Vinci, in the territory of the Medici ruled Republic of Florence. He was the illegitimate son of Ser Piero da Vinci, a wealthy notary and Caterina, a peasant woman. Da Vinci’s uncle, Francesco, raised the boy. He may have had much more to do with his upbringing than either of his parents. He was not only illegitimate but also homosexual. Both illegitimacy and homosexuality had a considerable amount of stigma associated with it in Renaissance Italy. He was charged with sodomy twice and imprisoned for it, once. Despite having lived a life characterised by social isolation, Leonardo was no ordinary man and his is a story of inspiration. It is the story of a man whose talents could not be overshadowed by no amount of distractions or difficulties.

Lesson 2. Childhood: 1452-1467.

We get to know about Leonardo’s earliest memories from his own notebooks. He was obsessed with devising a machine for flying. He explains this obsession in his notebook by narrating an incident from his childhood. As a baby, he had a traumatic experience when the tail of a bird somehow got stuck into his mouth, and started hitting his lips with its feathers desperately. Historians believe that it is this traumatic experience from his early days that instilled in him a desire to devise a machine for flying. 

However, historians have failed to determine whose cradle Leonardo was lying in, when the bird landed on him. What historians have been able to determine is that his father, Ser Piero, had taken the baby to live with him when the child was three years old. Before that, in all probability, the child must have been staying with the mother, Caterina, so that she can breast-feed the baby. In any case, Leonardo spent most of his time with neither parent, but with his paternal uncle, Francesco. Francesco was a farmer and so, it is likely that as a child, Leonardo spent most of his time outdoors, observing and learning from nature. It is also possible that he used to make sketches of nature, as he observed it. As a bastard, it was unlikely that he would be allowed to receive formal education. He had to learn many things by himself, leading to his autodidacticism. Later, he would teach himself Latin, Physics and Human

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About the author

Walter Isaacson Image

Walter Isaacson, a celebrated biographer and journalist, crafts insightful narratives delving into the lives of brilliant minds. Renowned for capturing the essence of innovation and intellect, his books such as “Steve Jobs” and “Leonardo d...

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Chapter List
  • Lesson 1. Introduction.
  • Lesson 2. Childhood: 1452-1467.
  • Lesson 3. Apprenticeship: 1467-1476.
  • Lesson 4. A Troubled Beginning: 1476-1482.
  • Lesson 5. The Master Moves to Milan: 1482-1489.
  • Lesson 6. New Housemates and The Last Supper: 1490-1499.
  • Lesson 7. The Military Engineer: 1500-1503.
  • Lesson 8. Return to Florence and The Mona Lisa: 1503-1505.
  • Lesson 9. Return to Milan: 1506-1513.
  • Lesson 10. Rome and France: 1513-1519.
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FAQs

In the summary of Leonardo da Vinci book, there are 10 key lessons. These lessons include:

  1. Lesson 1. Introduction.
  2. Lesson 2. Childhood: 1452-1467.
  3. Lesson 3. Apprenticeship: 1467-1476.
  4. Lesson 4. A Troubled Beginning: 1476-1482.
  5. Lesson 5. The Master Moves to Milan: 1482-1489.
  6. Lesson 6. New Housemates and The Last Supper: 1490-1499.
  7. Lesson 7. The Military Engineer: 1500-1503.
  8. Lesson 8. Return to Florence and The Mona Lisa: 1503-1505.
  9. Lesson 9. Return to Milan: 1506-1513.
  10. Lesson 10. Rome and France: 1513-1519.

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson was published in 2017.

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