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206 Walter Isaacson: Leonardo Da Vinci

Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo da Vinci examines the man behind the art, revealing his genius and his endless curiosity

Walter Isaacson: Leonardo Da Vinci


"Leonardo da Vinci" by Walter Isaacson is a biography of the Renaissance polymath that offers a detailed look into his life, work, and enduring legacy. Isaacson portrays Leonardo as a complex and multifaceted figure, who was not only a masterful artist but also a scientist, engineer, inventor, and philosopher. The book explores Leonardo's early life, his artistic career, and his later years in France, as well as his unquenchable curiosity and his fascination with the natural world. Throughout the book, Isaacson emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary thinking and the ways in which Leonardo's approach to art and science continue to inspire creativity and innovation today.


Title: Leonardo da Vinci

Author: Walter Isaacson

Publishing year: 2017

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Length in hours: 17 hours and 1 minute

5 main ideas

  1. Leonardo da Vinci was a true Renaissance man, whose genius extended beyond the realm of art to encompass science, engineering, and invention.
  2. Leonardo's art and inventions were shaped by his insatiable curiosity and his passion for understanding the natural world.
  3. Leonardo's work continues to inspire interdisciplinary thinking and creativity, serving as a model for artists and scientists alike.
  4. The cultural and historical context in which Leonardo lived and worked had a significant impact on his art and his scientific pursuits.
  5. Leonardo's legacy and influence are seen in the enduring fascination with his life and work, as well as in the continued relevance of his ideas and approach.
Walter Isaacson: Leonardo Da Vinci

5 funny quotes

  1. "Leonardo was left-handed and wrote from right to left, which is why his handwriting, when you can read it, is often mirror writing."
  2. "He was known to be easily distracted by beautiful music, by the sight of a bird in flight, or by the sparkle of water dancing in the sun."
  3. "Despite his status as a renowned artist, Leonardo was known to be a man of disheveled appearance."
  4. "It's unclear whether Leonardo ever saw a kangaroo, but he did do some sketches of what he believed one would look like based on descriptions from travelers."
  5. "His experimental methods sometimes bordered on the bizarre: he dissected oxen in order to study the workings of their stomachs, and tested the viscosity of human blood by draining it from a patient and measuring its flow."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "Art is never finished, only abandoned." - Leonardo da Vinci
  2. "The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions." - Leonardo da Vinci
  3. "Learning never exhausts the mind." - Leonardo da Vinci
  4. "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." - Leonardo da Vinci
  5. "As you cannot do what you want, you do what you can." - Leonardo da Vinci

5 dilemmas

  1. The tension between art and science, and the ways in which these disciplines can inform and inspire each other.
  2. The challenges of balancing commercial and artistic considerations, and the role of patronage in supporting artistic endeavors.
  3. The impact of historical and cultural contexts on artistic production, and the ways in which artists respond to the world around them.
  4. The question of originality and creativity, and the degree to which artists can build on the work of their predecessors.
  5. The role of interdisciplinary thinking and the ways in which artists and scientists can collaborate to solve complex problems and drive innovation.

5 examples

  1. Leonardo da Vinci, who painted the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, and also made groundbreaking scientific and engineering discoveries.
  2. Isabella d'Este, a patron of the arts who commissioned several works from Leonardo and other Renaissance artists.
  3. Niccolò Machiavelli, a political philosopher and diplomat who was a contemporary of Leonardo's in Florence.
  4. Francesco Melzi, a young artist who became Leonardo's apprentice and assistant in his later years in France.
  5. Galileo Galilei, a scientist who followed in Leonardo's footsteps and made significant contributions to the fields of astronomy and physics.

Referenced books

  1. "The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci" edited by Irma A. Richter
  2. "The Lives of the Artists" by Giorgio Vasari
  3. "The Last Supper" by Ross King
  4. "Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered" by Dianne Hales
  5. "Leonardo's Brain: Understanding da Vinci's Creative Genius" by Leonard Shlain

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"It's unclear whether Leonardo ever saw a kangaroo, but he did do some sketches of what he believed one would look like based on descriptions from travelers."

Walter Isaacson: Leonardo Da Vinci
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