ON May 2nd, we honor Leonardo da Vinci, who died on this day in 1519, who was one of the greatest painters and most versatile geniuses in history.
He was one of the key figures of the Renaissance, a great cultural movement that had begun in Italy in the 1300s.
Leonardo, as he is almost always called, was trained to be a painter. But his interests and achievements spread into an astonishing variety of fields that are now considered scientific specialties. Leonardo studied anatomy, astronomy, botany, geology, geometry, and optics, and he designed machines and drew plans for hundreds of inventions.
Because Leonardo excelled in such an amazing number of areas of human knowledge, he is often called a universal genius. However, he had little interest in literature, history, or religion.
He formulated a few scientific laws, but he never developed his ideas systematically. Leonardo was most of all an excellent observer. He concerned himself with what the eye could see, rather than with purely abstract concepts.
When he was 24 years old, Leonardo was arrested, along with several young companions, on the charge of sodomy.
No witnesses appeared against them and eventually the charges were dropped, probably due to pressure brought to bear by Leonardo's wealthy supporters.
Leonardo had no relationships with women, never married, had no children, but raised many young protégés, including one nicknamed "Salai" which means "offspring of Satan."
Salai stole things, broke things, lied, and was generally a, well, devil; if he were a mere student or servant he would have been fired. It's not hard to see how this imp would be attractive to Leonardo. He stayed with Leonardo for over 20 years, and appears many times in Leonardo's works ... including the painting of Bacchus above.
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