cover image Leonardo da Vinci: The Renaissance of the World

Leonardo da Vinci: The Renaissance of the World

Marwan Kahil and Ariel Vittori, trans. from the French by Montana Kane. NBM, $19.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-68112-259-5

The Leonardo da Vinci who emerges from this portrait by Kahil (Albert Einstein: The Poetry of Real) remains an enigma, albeit an impressive one. A “bastard” child pitied by his neighbors, da Vinci starts his career apprenticing in late-15th-century Florence. In his youth, da Vinci is imprisoned for consorting with other young men and, after relocating to Milan to “make a lasting impression on the minds of mortals,” he finds patronage with the Sforzas. Kahil portrays da Vinci in this period as a tempestuous (“We’ll meet again in hell, Michelangelo”) multigenre polymath, crafting works like The Last Supper, a somewhat faulty flying machine, and feats of military engineering, while tossing off the Mona Lisa almost as an afterthought. Kahil skips episodically through da Vinci’s life, only glancing at scenarios including his fraught relationship with the thieving apprentice Salai and assisting the Borgias in their military conquests. Despite the dramatic framing of Vittori’s illustrations (some of which mimic the sweep and precision of da Vinci’s sketches), his subject remains somehow remote, even with the reflective framing device in which an elderly da Vinci laments Rome as a “prison of hypocrisy” while workers classify his voluminous codices for posterity. Though visually dynamic, this take on an indefinable genius still leaves too much to the imagination. (Aug.)