Leonardo Da Vinci
[Viking , $5.00]
CRITICAL lovers of biography, wearied by the tragic Leonardo da Vinci, will welcome the clearly written account of his life by Antonina A alien!in. Arranging chronologically many significant passages from Leonardo’s books, this writer pictures the man as a growing individual. She shows that Leonardo’s experiments in the military art ended when he reached maturity after his fiftieth year. Her careful description and the accompanying illustrations of Leonardo’s art illuminate both his character and his environment. The analysis of Leonardo’s relationship to his fellow craftsmen, scientists, and patrons further reveals the Renaissance scene. Like other youthful spirits, Leonardo, with his plethora of talents, sought a single goal which should unite all. Eventually he designated this as the ‘promotion of knowledge.’ Then, guided by his star, da Vinci adventured bravely in unexplored territory. Escaping most of the physical perils of Renaissance life in Italy, he eventually found refuge in a Gothic northern land, where he prepared to publish his discoveries.
With this book, the ‘ Legend of Leonardo enters upon a new phase, psychologically more sound than those preceding. Madame Vallentin’s subject, less theatrical than Merejkowski’s brooding Slav and less ‘purple’ than the ‘nympholept" Victorian of Annand Taylor, seems infinitely more plausible than the tortured neurotic of Dr. Frend. Had the author accepted less from Vasari’s baroque novelle she might have brought her figure into still sharper focus.
Madame Vallentin believes that Leonardo’s mediæval philosophy hampered his scientific research by forcing him to examine all natural phenomena as part of some related whole. Here she disagrees with Edward McCurdy, who holds that Leonardo’s genius is ‘not synthetic.’ Careful study of the two books, and an examination of the facsimile illustrations of the Codex Atlanticus now in many of the large city libraries, will reveal the synthetic genius of the artist assisting that of the inventive, analytic scientist.
RAYMOND S. STITES