The Romance of Leonardo Da Vinci by Dimitri Merejkowski
Leonardo da Vinci lived from 1452 to 1519 during the height of the Italian Renaissance. Merejkowski wrote a timeless classic, though a fictional account of Leonardo’s life. The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci not only tells Leonardo’s life story but shares many factual details about what was happening during that era in politics, within the Catholic church, and among the lives of the ruling class players of the time.
It may not be a well known fact that Leonardo Da Vinci was a brilliant man; above all- a scientist and engineer involved in physics, astronomy, chemistry and mechanics. Art was merely one of his many creative passions.
Leonardo was not interested in politics, never passed judgement on others discretions or the atrocities committed by those in power, though there certainly were many.
I just finished reading Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy– the life story of Michelangelo -which also takes place during this era. In fact, Leonardo and Michelangelo were bitter rivals.
The most outstanding observation in comparing the two artists is that Michelangelo was a devout Catholic, a perfectionist, a passionate artist, humble, meek, and family oriented… though he lived a very lonely life, sacrificing everything for his profession. Leonardo, however, was quite the opposite. According to Merejkowski’s interpretation, Leonardo appeared to be dedicated to developing new concepts in science, spending a good part of his life trying to invent the airplane. And this was during a time when science was considered to be sacrilegious… witchcraft… superstition. Leonardo was not religious and may have been an atheist. His religious paintings were done more from the historical aspect than the religious perspective. But Leonardo too sacrificed everything for his profession and lived a very lonely life.
The fascinating thing about both books is the authentic cultural detail of life in Italy over 500 years ago… the struggle between the royal families and the power they had over the Catholic church. For instance, the Duke Cesare Borgia- a cruel, ruthless dictator who led the Papal armies to war against France- was the illegitimate son of Pope Alexander IV. It was quite common for Priests to have affairs and illegitimate children. Blackmail was an everyday occurrence, and it was also common for Cardinals to murder the competition for a chance to become Pope. So have no fear… there is plenty of drama to enjoy in this book.
Both The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci and The Agony and the Ecstasy are rated 5 Stars, each offering a different view of the same era. Merejkowski’s writing is a bit dry at times but perhaps that is a result of translating the book from Russian to English.
Rated 5 Stars, March 25, 2017
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