Leonardo, By Martin Kemp

When a picture is worth a thousand words
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The Independent Culture

How to make concise a life that was as full as Da Vinci's?

It's difficult, but Kemp does an excellent job, disabusing us of a few myths in the process (such as the reputation he has of being a "dissecting artist, probing the forbidden inner secrets of decaying corpses" in his attempts to find out more about the human brain), and in turn emphasising the hard-working Leonardo, not the divinely inspired man who rarely finished a commission. The "need to earn a living" comes first, with workshops full of technicians, as he socialises at court, draws plans for flying machines, and depicts the foetus in the womb. He was fascinated by everything – the human body, nature, especially water, and the power of the image, which he regarded as superior to the word.