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Leonardo da Vinci

A Penguin Life


Sherwin B. Nuland (View Bio)
Hardcover: Penguin, 2000; Paperback: Penguin, 2004.

Leonardo da Vinci

’The enigma of the Mona Lisa's smile is not less than the enigma of her creator's life force.’ In LEONARDO DA VINCI, Sherwin Nuland (whose own work Time has called 'awe inspiring') completes his twenty-year quest to understand an unlettered man who was a painter, architect, engineer, philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. What was it that propelled Leonardo's insatiable curiosity? How could he be, in the same moment, as naïve as a child and as profound as a sage? Nuland finds clues in his subject's art, relationships, and scientific studies — as well as in the manuscripts spotlighted by their sale at auction to Bill Gates. Nuland detects the siren voice that lured the great artist so often into the arms of science — his fascination with anatomy, first as the basis for his paintings and then as the crucial component in his aim to systematize all knowledge of nature. Scholarly and passionate, this book thake us deep into the first truly modern, empirical mind, one that was ahead of its time." — from the publisher of the distinguished Penguin Lives series

"The editors at Penguin Lives have a knack for matching up free-thinking meditators with their subjects. A surgeon and a writer about medicine, Nuland uses much of his brief book — limited in size and scope to the series's quick-take, authorial format — to explain the prodigal da Vinci as a pioneering anatomist." — Publishers Weekly

"Sherwin Nuland begins his fine little life of Leonardo da Vinci with a kind of quest parallel: He explores how his own fruitless search for Leonardo's birthplace is mirrored in our inability to know the man.... [Nuland] does a remarkable job. Those bringing only the faintest knowledge — Mona Lisa, some of the anatomical drawings — will be staggered by the magnitude and range of Leonardo's...well, genius is almost too mild a term for it.... What emerges is an awed and fascinating sketch of a man who lived his life, in modern parlance, pretty much 'outside the box,' a man in whom science and art achieved an almost perfect unity. We shall not look upon his like again." — Toronto Globe & Mail

"Nuland's enthusiasm and knowledge make his story interesting and easy to read." — Seattle Times

"Nuland's ability to distill one of the greatest minds ever into its pure essence is truly awe-inspiring." — Time

"In this brief life, Nuland summarizes Leonardo's achievements skillfully." — Scientific American

"[Nuland's] own professional expertise enables him to write with particular insight and authority." — The New York Review of Books

"This biography is short in length, dramatic in content, erudite in interpretation, and profoundly personal in style. Surgeon and medical historian Sherwin Nuland writes gracefully and compellingly about Leonardo da Vinci from the time of his birth in 1452 through his remarkable and varied career in the Florence and Milan of Renaissance Italy until the time of his death.... Nuland has immersed himself in Leonardo's own text and has carefully studied his manuscripts and anatomical drawings. This prolonged exploration results in a brief but moving chronicle of Leonardo's achievements as artist and witness to the mysteries of the human body.... Provocative and carefully reasoned.... [Nuland's] effort to engage Leonardo is both intensely visual and highly sensate in character. The reader of this book is left with a more finely attuned appreciation of the common threads informing the creative process in both art and science. Sherwin Nuland has shown us the way to comprehending this reality and we are the better for it." — Curtis W. Hart, Journal of Religion and Health

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