A tribute to the original Renaissance man, with pop-up models and other special features.
The illustrations mix reproductions of actual works by Leonardo and some of his contemporaries with Geis’ own drab, flat daubs, and the combination is not a happy one. Fitting in sketchy biographical details as she goes and with an eye to demonstrating the artist’s legendary versatility, she devotes each of seven spreads to a particular project or topic. The huge, never-finished horse commissioned by the Duke of Milan, for instance, is represented here by a featureless brown pop-up of the clay model flanked by standing lines of indistinct onlookers that lean back even when the leaves are fully separated. Similarly, on a final spread anachronistically headed “Robots,” a simply rendered armored figure jerks an arm and a leg with the pull of a tab, but the author does not say whether Leonardo’s design was ever built, nor does she show or describe its actual mechanism. Much of the narrative and most of the small, murky reproductions are squeezed into peanut-shaped booklets. For “Portraits,” three reproduced paintings on flimsy loose sheets can be slid from a frame and exchanged, and based on one tiny partial sketch, readers are invited to glue together an “ideal city” like Leonardo’s from a set of larger punch-out sheets in a pocket at the end.
Earnest but insubstantial, marred by mismatched art and subpar paper engineering. (Informational pop-up. 10-12)