West German stamp commemorating Leonardo's 500th birthday
Leonardo da Vinci medal
Metal Vitruvian Man
Leonardo da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519) was an Italian Renaissance painter and polymath who achieved legendary fame and iconic status within his own lifetime. His renown primarily rests upon his brilliant achievements as a painter, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, being two of the most famous artworks ever created, but also upon his diverse skills as a scientist and inventor. He became so highly valued during his lifetime that the King of France bore him home like a trophy of war, supported him in his old age and, according to legend, cradled his head as he died.
Leonardo's portrait was used, within his own lifetime, as the iconic image of Plato in Raphael's School of Athens. His biography was written in superlative terms by Vasari. He has been repeatedly acclaimed the greatest genius to have lived. His painting of the Mona Lisa has been the most imitated artwork of all time and his drawing the Vitruvian Man iconically represents the fusion of Art and Science.
Leonardo's biography has appeared in many forms, both scholarly and fictionalized. Every known aspect of his life has been scrutinized and analyzed. His paintings, drawings and notebooks have been studied, reproduced and analyzed for five centuries. The interest in and appreciation of the character of Leonardo and his talents has never waned.
Leonardo has appeared in many fictional works, such as novels, television shows, video games and movies, the first such fiction dating from the 16th century. Various characters have been named after him.
John the Baptist for which there exist at least five versions by other hands including Salai.
Parodies of the Mona Lisa
Le rire (The laugh) by Eugène Bataille, or Sapeck (1883)
No painting has been more imitated and satirised than the Mona Lisa. Beginning possibly with a naked portrait of Diane de Poitiers by Clouet, the pose and expression have been freely adapted to many female portraits.
The avant-garde art world has made note of the undeniable fact of the Mona Lisa's popularity. Because of the painting's overwhelming stature, Dadaists and Surrealists often produce modifications and caricatures. Already in 1883, Le rire, an image of a Mona Lisa smoking a pipe, by Sapeck (Eugène Bataille), was shown at the "Incoherents" show in Paris. In 1919, Marcel Duchamp, one of the most influential modern artists, created L.H.O.O.Q., a Mona Lisa parody made by adorning a cheap reproduction with a moustache and a goatee, as well as adding the rude inscription, when read out loud in French sounds like "Elle a chaud au cul" literally translated: "she has a hot ass". This is a manner of implying the woman in the painting is in a state of sexual excitement and availability. This was intended as a Freudian joke, referring to Leonardo's alleged homosexuality. According to Rhonda R. Shearer, the apparent reproduction is in fact a copy partly modelled on Duchamp's own face.
"Il Gran Cavallo". This monumental bronze horse, 7 metres (24 feet) high, is a conjectural re-creation of a clay horse that was created in Milan by Leonardo da Vinci for the Ludovico Sforza and was intended to be cast in bronze. Leonardo never finished the project because of war with France, and the clay horse was ruined. This representation was based on a number of Leonardo's preparatory drawings. It was created in 1999 in New York and given to the city of Milan.
Presentation of existing works
The Last Supper is to be the subject of an animation by British film-maker Peter Greenaway, who plans to project interpretative images onto its surface to enliven the scene in which the apostles all question Jesus' statement that one of them will betray him.
The story of Leonardo dying in the arms of the French king Francis I, although apocryphal, appealed to the self-image of later French kings and to French history painters of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Apparently on commission from Louis XVI,Ménageot painted The Death of Leonardo da Vinci in the arms of Francis I in 1781, setting it in a background of classical statuary. This painting, which was the triumph of the Salon of 1781, included a portrayal of the Borghese Gladiator (Ménageot probably having seen it at the Villa Borghese during his stay at the French Academy in Rome from 1769 to 1774), although this was an anachronism since Leonardo died in 1519, about ninety years before the statue was discovered.
The treatment of this subject by Ingres is indicative of Leonardo's iconic status and also specifically that he was of particular significance to the school of French Classicism. A number of his paintings had passed into the Royal collection and certain elements of them were much imitated. Leonardo's manner of soft shading known as sfumato was particularly adapted by Ingres, Jacques-Louis David and their followers. An influential painting was Leda and the swan, now regarded as by a pupil of Leonardo but then generally accepted as the master's work.
Terry Pratchett's character Leonard of Quirm (or da Quirm) is a pastiche of Leonardo. A talented artist and inventor, Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, imprisoned Leonard as it would have been dangerous to fall into the wrong hands given Leonard's naïvety regarding the military applications of some of his inventions (particularly his conceptual siege weapons). Leonard's talent for inventing does not extend to names which are often clunky circumlocutions; for example, his submarine is called a 'Going-Under-the-Water-Safely Device'.
Crowley, the demon in Good Omens by Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, owns the original sketch or cartoon of the Mona Lisa and considers it superior to the finished work.
Three novels by Martin Woodhouse and Robert Ross feature the adventures of Leonardo da Vinci in the guise of a James Bond-type spy of the Italian Renaissance: The Medici Guns (1974); The Medici Emerald and The Medici Hawks.
The Secret Supper (2006) by Javier Sierra explores the symbology of Leonardo's Last Supper, and its threat to the Catholic Church, as he is painting the fresco in 15th century Milan.
In the Children of the Red King series, a Donatella da Vinci married a Bertram Babbington-Bloor. Donatella was the daughter of an Italian magician. No connection between Leonardo and Donatella has been stated since.
In Robert Heinlein's 1957 novel The Door Into Summer, Dr. Twitchell recounts a tale of a student whom he displaced in time by 500 years. While there was no way of knowing whether the student went to the past or the future, Dr. Twitchell hints that he believes it was the past due to the student's name—Leonard Vincent.
In the novel Saturn's Apprentice by M.A. Lang, an alchemical experiment gone wrong causes Leonardo to be lost in the present day, while back in Renaissance Florence his friend Tomasso Masini desperately tries to save him.
Leonardo da Vinci is a significant character in the novels Assassin's Creed: Renaissance (2009) and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (2010), books based on the video game series Assassin's Creed. Leonardo is portrayed as a close friend of the protagonist, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, a Florentine nobleman's son who joined the Assassin Brotherhood after the murder of his father and brothers by the ruling families of Italy, each part of the once thought disbanded Knight's Templar. Leonardo helps the assassin decipher encrypted codex pages left behind by legendary master assassin, Altair (the protagonist of the original Assassin's Creed game). Leonardo's flying machine is successfully built and helps Ezio travel across Venice in order to assassinate one of his targets. Leonardo makes a brief appearance in Assassin's Creed: Revelations novel. Ezio and his close friend and fellow Assassin, Niccolò Machiavelli visit him during the week that he died, present at his side while he passes away. Machiavelli recalls a rumour that King Francis cradled his head in his arms as he died, to which Ezio remarked: "Some people – even Kings – will do anything for publicity".
The Da Vinci Code
This work of fiction has been the centre of controversy over the accuracy of its depictions of Christianity and of Leonardo.
A bestselling 2003 novel by Dan Brown, adapted and released as a major motion picture in 2006, The Da Vinci Code revolves around a conspiracy based on elements of Leonardo's Last Supper and other works. A preface to the novel claims that depictions of artworks, secret societies and rites described within the novel are factual. For this reason much of the content of the novel has been widely accepted by readers as authoritative. Because the theme involves a conspiracy within the Church over the life of Jesus and the suggestion that the Church has hidden the facts of his marriage, there has been a strong reaction against the novel and much material published examining and refuting its claims.
Within the novel it is claimed that from 1510–1519, Leonardo was the Grand Master of a secret society, the Priory of Sion. In reality this society existed only as a 20th-century hoax, but author Dan Brown used as a source the 1982 pseudohistory book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. The writers of this book had based their research on forged medieval documents that had been created as part of the Priory of Sion fraud. The mix of fact and fiction in the documents made it difficult to discount immediately as a forgery. For example, it was claimed that the Grand Master prior to Leonardo was Botticelli, who had indeed had an association with Leonardo, as they were both students at the Florence workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio.
The Priory of Sion story and the veracity of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail was eventually debunked, and many of those involved publicly recanted, although Dan Brown continued to assert that the facts as presented were true.
In portraying the Priory of Sion as "fact" The Da Vinci Code expanded on the claims in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail:
That among the differences in the two versions of the painting of the Virgin of the Rocks which hang in the Louvre and London's National Gallery, is the fact that in the Louvre painting the baby to the left of the picture depicts Jesus, and to the right John the Baptist, rather than the accepted view, which is the other way round.
That Leonardo invented a cryptex for carrying secret messages.
The book also used a variation of Leonardo's backwards handwriting to hide a secret message on the American bookjacket.
Among the many criticisms of Brown's writing is that he uses the name da Vinci (meaning "from Vinci") in the manner that surnames are commonly used nowadays. Leonardo would never have been referred to simply as "da Vinci" in his lifetime. Such designations were appended to common baptismal names in order to identify individuals.
Films which are about the life of Leonardo or in which he appears as a character:
Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry (2000) starring Mattia Sbragia as Leonardo da Vinci
The Virgins of Sherwood Forest (2000) and The Exotic Time Machine II (2000) - two softcore films by Surrender Cinema filmed in close succession. Both feature da Vinci encountered via a time-travel plot; he is played by a different actor in each film.
Leonardo (2003), TV movie starring Mark Rylance as Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo (2009), animated short film directed by Jim Capobianco
Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014), da Vinci and Peabody work together to build a machine to recharge the wabac. However, Peabody first helps da Vinci make Mona Lisa smile. At the end of the film, da Vinci and Mona Lisa are doing graffiti.
Leo Da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa (2018), an animated movie that focuses on a teenage da Vinci who meets and falls in love with a teenage Mona Lisa as they work together to fight pirates.
Leonardo: The Works (2019), an EXHIBITION ON SCREEN documentary film showing all the attributed painting of Leonardo da Vinci
The Inventor (Pre-Production) a stylized, stop motion puppet and 2-D hand drawn animated film about Leonardo da Vinci. Written and directed by Pixar story veteran Jim Capobianco
Films which refer to Leonardo's works or inventions:
Author Charles Anthony Silvestri and composer Eric Whitacre collaborated to create an "opera bréve" based on text from da Vinci's journals and original text by Silvestri. This piece, Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine, was modeled after da Vinci's conceptual flying machine. This piece was written on commission by the American Choral Directors Association as the second piece in Whitacre's series of Element Works, the first being Cloudburst, written in 1992.
1966: In the SF sitcom My Favorite Martian episode "Martin Meets His Match", Martin uses his time machine to bring Da Vinci to the present day to help him repair his spaceship. Instead, da Vinci decides to steal his painting, the Mona Lisa, and take it back with him.
1967: In the Bewitched episode "Samantha's Da Vinci Dilemma", Aunt Clara tries to conjure up a house painter, but she goofs and summons Leonardo da Vinci from the past instead.
1969: In the Star Trek episode "Requiem for Methuselah", Leonardo da Vinci is revealed to be one of many aliases to "Flint", an immortal man born in the year 3834 BC. Leonardo's abilities and knowledge are thus attributed to centuries of scientific and artistic study. Leonardo appears again in the Star Trek universe, in the series Star Trek: Voyager, where he and his workshop are created as a holographic simulation. In the Starfleet Corps of Engineers novellas the main starship is the USS da Vinci (NCC-81623), named for the artist.
1969: In the Ironside Season 2 episode "The Prophecy," a fictional Leonardo painting called The Seraglio is stolen from a museum. A psychic friend of Ironside's tells Mark Sanger he will catch "a lovely black girl all in silver and emeralds with golden rings around her ankles," and it is Mark who saves the painting—which features a bejeweled black woman dancing in a seraglio—from rolling into the sea toward the end of the episode.
1970: In the British comedy series Monty Python's Flying Circus in the "Art Gallery Strike" sketch in the episode "Spam", the Mona Lisa was used in two animated links by Terry Gilliam, the first as one of many paintings going on strike (she dons a cap and declares in a low-pitched voice, "I'm off") and as a temptress who reveals large breasts under her garment; here she tells the viewer (in a seductive, smoky American accent), "Come over here to my window, big boy."
1979: The Doctor Who episode "City of Death" features a theft of the Mona Lisa. The Doctor goes back in time to visit Leonardo's workshop and claims to be an old acquaintance of the artist. Though Leonardo himself does not appear, he plays an important role in the plot, creating several copies of the Mono Lisa. Leonardo also appears as a character in several Doctor Who novels, while "Mona Lisa's Revenge", a 2009 episode of the spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures, is built around the concept that an alien criminal took on the form of the woman depicted in the Mona Lisa and was trapped within the painting for centuries.
1989: In The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! live-action segment "The Painting", the Mario Bros. find a painting they believe to da Vinci's second version of The Last Supper. However, upon further examination, they discover that the painting is actually worthless because it was painted by an impostor. Much of the information dealing with da Vinci in this episode is incorrect.
1989-1990: The anime Time Quest features Professor Leonardo as inventor of the kettle-shaped time machine, who is revealed to be Leonardo da Vinci in the final episodes.
1995: The cartoon The Tick features Leonardo in "Leonardo DaVinci and his Fightin' Genius Time Commandos!" (Season 2, Episode 17) in which a number of famous inventors are brought to the present by an inventor seeking to take credit for their work. Leonardo is portrayed as being able to create fantastic flying devices out of rudimentary objects.
1999: In the animated series Dilbert (TV series) episode "Art" shows Leonardo as the secret ruler of the art world. He reveals that he discovered immortality centuries ago through the invention of the fountain of youth.
2010: The Futurama episode "The Duh-Vinci Code" reveals Leonardo to be an alien from Planet Vinci, which is inhabited by brilliant intellectuals of human appearance. However, he is considered to be the least intelligent of the planet's inhabitants and is bullied by everyone else for it. He came to Earth as a means of escape, but eventually returned to Vinci after being disillusioned by how much more unintelligent the people of Earth were compared to him.
2013: In the feature-length documentary Inside the Mind of Leonardo, Da Vinci is played by Peter Capaldi.
2015: In the anime Lupin the 3rd Part IV: The Italian Adventure, the MI6 creates a clone of Leonardo, who becomes the series main villain, by using his genius intellect to create a machine that will replicate his consciousness in the mind of every inhabitant of Italy, thus trapping them in what he calls "It Sogno Italiano" (The Italian Dream).
Leonardo da Vinci appears in the current Marvel S.H.I.E.L.D. series (which is now a series of mini series) by Jonathan Hickman. Leonardo is depicted as a leader of a sacred order called the Brotherhood of the Shield, and has been shown to time travel to the story's "present", set in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Computer and video games
In Mario's Time Machine, the MS-DOS and SNES releases of the game feature Leonardo as a non-player character. His notes are stolen by Bowser after the latter travels back in time, and Mario travels back in time himself to Florence to return the notes. In the area, Mario meets several of Leonardo's contemporaries, including Michelangelo and an apprentice of Andrea del Verrocchio, who talk about Leonardo's past, innovations, and status as a "Renaissance man." Some of Leonardo's work is also seen, including his concept of a helicopter (referred to in-game as a "drawing of air screw"), his Vitruvian Man (referred to in-game as a "drawing of Ideal Man"), and the Mona Lisa, which he can only complete once Mario returns his notes to him.
In LittleBigPlanet 2, a tutorial and supporting character is also named Da Vinci with some few difference: he wears 3D glasses, his head is made of craft, and his first name is "Larry".
In the mobile game Fate/Grand Order, Leonardo is portrayed as a woman with visual characteristics of Mona Lisa, and manifested as a Caster-class Servant. She willingly changed her gender and form upon being summoned, and is a genius in magecraft, mathematics, engineering, natural history, music, architecture, sculpture, painting, inventing, and weapons development.
^Jones, Jonathan (May 26, 2001). "L.H.O.O.Q., Marcel Duchamp (1919)". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved June 12, 2009.
^Marting, Marco De (2003). "Mona Lisa: Who is Hidden Behind the Woman with the Mustache?". Art Science Research Laboratory. Archived from the original on March 20, 2008. Retrieved April 27, 2008.
^Dalí, Salvador. "Self Portrait as Mona Lisa". Mona Lisa Images for a Modern World by Robert A. Baron (from the catalog of an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973, p. 195). Archived from the original on October 28, 2009. Retrieved October 24, 2009.
^Sassoon, Donald (2003). Becoming Mona Lisa. Harvest Books via Amazon Search Inside. p. 251. ISBN 0-15-602711-9.
^Robert Booth (February 15, 2008). "Greenaway prepares to create Da Vinci coda". The Guardian. Retrieved July 24, 2013.
^King Francis cannot have been present because the day after Leonardo's death, a royal edict was issued by the King at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a two-day journey distant from Clos Luce.