INVENTING LEONARDO by A. Richard Turner

INVENTING LEONARDO

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A clever conceit--how each century creates its own version of Leonardo, revealing truths about both the painter and the evolution of culture--artfully constructed. Turner (Fine Arts/NYU) begins with the familiar facts of Leonardo's life--illegitimate birth in 1452; apprenticeship to Verrocchio; years of wandering, etc.--making the important point that Leonardo's skills focused almost obsessively on engineering, painting, and human anatomy. Nonetheless, when Giorgio Vasari whipped up the Leonardo legend in the 16th century, his subject became known as the Renaissance man par excellence, a universal genius who brought order and measure to all human knowledge. In the 17th century, Leonardo was celebrated as a master technician and the greatest theoretician in the history of painting. Two hundred years later, he was acclaimed as an early scientific genius. The Victorians, especially Walter Pater, cited his freshness of vision. Paul ValÇry and Sigmund Freud tried to fathom his mind (Turner calls Freud's psychobiography of Leonardo ``Romantic fiction''). And what of our age? For Turner, Leonardo expresses a belief in the ``autonomous I'' and the ``observant eye'' that we no longer hold, but he finds the painter to be impressively modern in his trust in the body. The future will discover its own Leonardos, for he was ``the consummate private man''--a receptive medium for the concerns of any age. Kinetic intellectual history, colorfully daubed, of a painter every bit as evocative as...say,...the Mona Lisa. (Sixty-nine illustrations--not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-41551-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1993




SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionLIVING WITH LEONARDO by Martin Kemp
by Martin Kemp