Leonardo would be surprised to know he is called Renaissance Man and for a very good reason. He had never heard of the Renaissance. The French word meaning re-birth was not heard until 1855. When Jules Michelet wrote a history of France he talked about the French Renaissance. The rebirth of what? That’s a tricky one. Probably the rebirth of ancient civilisations. Although the movement we now call the Renaissance had no name, Florentines were very aware they were witnessing an extraordinary flowering of the arts. Italian scholars of the time considered their own age equal to that of ancient Greece and Rome. They believed what was happening in Florence and Milan resembled the great civilisations of the past because, like them, it valued artistic achievement.
Leonardo’s ‘Vitruvian Man’ is a perfect example of the influence of writers from ancient Rome. Vitruvius, a Roman architect who lived in the 1st century BC, in De Architectura laid out perfect proportions in architecture and the human body. After reading Vitruvius, Leonardo drew the perfectly proportioned man. As for ‘Renaissance Man’ if this means men who seem be able to do everything, Leonardo is your man. Although the Renaissance produced artistic giants such as Botticelli, Raphael, Titian and of course, Leonardo’s great rival and enemy Michelangelo, how did it come about that, although much admired, they do not have the same cult following? Because Leonardo was more than an artist, he was a visionary who saw no distinction between science and art. He was equally at home dissecting copses then drawing their bits as painting the Mona Lisa. He foresaw what was possible long before they were possible in acoustics, botany, geology, anatomy and mechanics. He designed massive machines to saw marble and lift monoliths and as for canals, in 1500 he designed the San Marco lock in Milan, the first lock with mitred gates to join two canals of differing levels.
Read more about Leonardo da Vinci and his connection with the Loire Valley in Leonardo da Vinci: The Amboise Connection (available from Amazon).
The book was written to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death in 1519 at Clos Lucé, Amboise, where he spent the last three years of his life.
Post by Pamela
Visit St Hubert’s Chapel, Royal Chateau of Amboise and Château Clos Lucé on a Photograph France photography tour or workshop Click here for more information.