Leonardo da Vinci: The Universal Genius Critical Essays

Iris Noble


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Although Noble always focuses on the personal life of Leonardo, she concentrates on his boyhood and on the development of his various talents rather than on his mature achievements. In a fictionlike manner, Noble details Leonardo’s initial dislike of school, his fascination with nature and machinery, and his clashes with his father and longing for the mother he never knew. Noble shows Leonardo’s excitement at being apprenticed to Verrocchio in Florence; his love for studying mathematics, engineering, and architecture at the prestigious Scuola d’ Abacco in Florence; his shyness with girls; and his popularity among the other apprentices.

Historical figures such as Paola del Pozzo Toscanelli and Lorenzo de’ Medici are characterized in relation to Leonardo. Toscanelli is shown as a wise old man who befriended Leonardo, loaned him books, and warned him of the narrow, superstitious nature of others. Lorenzo appears as rather superficial and insecure, though not unkind, in contrast to the brilliant Leonardo, whose willfulness and determination not to compromise his own integrity are explained by Noble as an essential part of Leonardo’s genius.

During his eighteen years in Milan, Leonardo contrasts strikingly with Ludovico Sforza, who is depicted as greedy for money, status, and power. Leonardo is shown as preferring a life of solitude during which he could observe nature and human anatomy, write about his scientific discoveries in his notebooks, invent new types of machines, and create masterworks such as The Last Supper. In one instance, Leonardo sculpted a magnificent equestrian statue to honor Sforza’s father. Although he supported the...

(The entire section is 687 words.)