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Biography Of Leonardo Da Vinci By Clarence Cook

Biography Of Leonardo Da Vinci By Clarence Cook

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Published by Rohit Tiwari
Biography Of Leonardo Da Vinci By Clarence Cook
for more books visit http://pdflibrary.blogspot.com
Biography Of Leonardo Da Vinci By Clarence Cook
for more books visit http://pdflibrary.blogspot.com

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Published by: Rohit Tiwari on Jun 05, 2008
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LEONARDO DA VINCI
by
Clarence Cook 1878IN the year 1452 there was born at Castello daVinci-an obscure village in the lower Va1 d'Arno, near Empoli-a child whose father was SerPiero da Vinci, and whose mother was a certainCaterina, (whom, beyond the fact that shebrought into the world this immortal love-child,and then later on she married one Accattabriga diPiero del Vacca da Vinci, nothing whatever isknown. The child born to Piero and Caterina wascalled Leonardo, a somewhat uncommon nameat that time, and with the giving of whichastrology may have had something do. Leonardowas an illegitimate child. Was he everlegitimized? It is impossible to speak withcertainty on this point. Vasari says nothing aboutthe circumstances of his birth, and does notappear to have known even that he wasillegitimate. The fact is established bydocuments and legal records; but neither Dei norUzielli, to whom we are indebted for valuableresearches, brings forward any proof tosubstantiate the common belief that he was everlegally entitled to take his place as a child of thehouse in his father's family.1. Leonardo showed,from earliest childhood remarkable quickness of intellect, and aptitude for learning. Vasari sayshe made rapid progress in the short time he gavethe study of arithmetic that he often confoundedthe master who was teaching him by theperpetual doubts he started, and by the difficultyof the questions he asked. It is in the experienceof many a teacher to meet with bright minds likethis, and the experience would be a morecommon one than it is were it not the effect of our ordinary school methods rather to deadenintelligence than to a waken it. But it is theeveryday fate of such quick-sproutingintelligences that they show best at starting, andrarely fulfills the promise of their prime.Leonardo however, was a striking exception; thecuriosity of his boyhood was a fire that neverdimmed; the independent character of his mindshowed in all he did from the beginning of hislife to the end. From boyhood, he had aninclination to music, and learned to play uponthe lute, improvising at once the music and thewords. His modem biographers make bold toendow him with other graces, with skill indancing and in fencing but this, though probableenough, is only conjecture. Although it isprobable that Ser Piero passed most of the yearin his town-house in Florence, yet the tastes of Leonardo must have led him much into the fieldsabout the city, and to his country home at Vinci.The San Spirito Quarter of the city of Florence inwhich the town-house of the Vinci family wassituated, was itself a sort of rural suburb shut off from the outlying country-side by the city walls,but much less thickly settled than the city properon the other side of the Arno. Thus Leonardoenjoyed, what is so valuable to a boy of histemperament, the double advantage of life in thecountry and life in the city. He studied nature,and he studied men; but it is probable that, inthese early days of youth, he was muchmore interested in the knowledge he gained fromhis rambles in the fields and over the low-lyinghills that surround Florence than in that study of the human face in which he afterward took suchdelight. We are not left to conjecture to discoverwhat were his boyish employments. The MSbooks which he left behind him, and which musthave been begun at least in early life to contain,as is well known, an enormous number of notes,memoranda and drawings relating to everydepartment of human study as applied to thematerial world. Of the thirteen volumes of MS.left behind him at his death, the largest, called,from its size the "Codice Atlantico," is in theAmbrosian Library at Milan;2. - and of theremainder those that survive are to be found,some in the library at Paris, others in the Queen'slibrary at Windsor, and others still in the BritishMuseum. Here we see the traces of that alert,questioning mind of Leonardo, which began,even in boyhood, to fly abroad everywhere, andto feed on everything that lay in its path with thehappy industry of the bee. Here we find himnoting down on paper the observations made inhis walks. Brought up in the neighborhood of Florence, -a city so famous for the beauty of herwild c flowers that it has been thought sheowed her name to them,-it was natural that a boyof Leonardo's turn of mind should be drawn tothe study of botany. The sketch- books he hasleft us contain many beautiful drawings of flowers and leaves, accompanied by notes thathint at discoveries of laws of vegetation whichwaited many years before they wererediscovered and published to the world by othermen. It is rare that any dates are attached to thesesketches and jottings of natural phenomena; butit is most natural to suppose that many of themwere made in the season of youth before he wastied down to the labors of professional life, whileas yet he was free to wander where his fancy ledhim, and to meditate for days or hours in thesolitude of his chamber or of the fields. It is to
 
 
his boyhood still that we may perhaps bepermitted to refer his efforts to discover the lawsthat control the placing of the leaves about thestem (Phyllotaxis), or those other laws that relateto the formation of the wood and bark. He wasnot content with his own drawings, exquisite asmany of them are, but sought a way of making amore scientific record of his observations, anddevised an herbarium in which impressions of the petals of flowers and of their leaves shouldbe taken by a process identical with what iscalled, in our day, nature-printing. His fancy,playing with the subject, invented a number of apologues in which flowers and trees are theactors; and one of his earliest performances,according to Vasari, was a picture of the Virgin,in which, among other accessories, was a bottlefilled with water, and containing some flowerspainted with the most lively truth to nature, andhaving the dew-drops admirably executed ontheir petals. But it was not on one side only thatnature incited him to study. The river that ranthrough Florence, with its restless rise and fall;now swollen with the autumn rains to such aheight as to threaten the safety of its banks;invading the houses and inundating he churches,and then again falling, perhaps in a single day, solow as to be fordable; the Arno, and indeed allthe watercourses of the wide region neighboringFlorence would suggest to the mind of Leonardo,in which the practical and the ideal were sosubtly mingled, thoughts connected with thewhole subject of hydraulics, a subject that seemsto have had more solid attractions for him thanany other outside the domain of art.Figs 1 and 2.His sketch-book shows how much he wasinterested canals, whether for navigation orirrigation both of the highest importance to thewealth of Italy; in machines worked by water,in contrivances for raising water from a lowerlevel to a higher and, in general, in everythingthat related to that element considered as anagent in human affairs.3. Fig. 3.Everything in the conformation of the region inwhich he found himself living quickened hisperception of obstacles, and prompted hisingenuity in devising ways of overcoming them.There was the river, as has been said, to controland guide; and, while still young he devised acanal by which, the course of the Arno beingchanged between Pisa and Florence, the rivermight be made navigable. This plan, rejected inhis own day as chimerical, was carried out twohundred years later. Then there were themountains that girdled the city with a wall that, if it in some degree protected her from her foes,isolated her from her neighbors as well. Theyoung Leonardo proposes boldly to pierce thiswall, to tunnel it, that valley may be married tovalley, and plain to plain. And, as if the rivercould not bear him fast enough to regionsbeyond this narrow valley, or the tunneledmountains make rapid enough thecommunication of man with man, his mind mustbusy itself with devising wings by means of which he could at length be wholly free, and soarwhithersoever he would.Fig. 4.He fills his note-books for a time with thesedevices, and taking, as it was natural for a boy todo, the wing of the bird for his model, -howmany painted angels, “birds of God,” he hadseen in the churches ! –he studies the anatomy of their wings, their bones, the tendons, theattachments of the muscles; and perhaps it waswhile he was meditating on this mystery that, asVasari tells us, he used to buy birds from thosewho sold them in the markets and, havingpurchased them, would give them theirliberty. And when he turned from his way-sidestudies and his life in the country, there was thecity with its bustling activity, its swarming life,where he found play for all his faculties, andwhere his keen curiosity and appetite forknowledge had ample incitement andsatisfaction. In Leonardo's boyhood, the labor of Florence was almost all hand-labor, the workmanlittle relieved in his toil by machinery orlaborsaving appliances. And just at the timewhen he appeared upon the scene, eventswere taking place which were to givean immense stimulus to the materialdevelopment of Italy and set in motion all thearts and trades that could minister to the luxuryand comfort of her people. New roads were to bebuilt for better and more rapid communication of city with city, and state with state. Old harborswere to be cleared out and new ones formed.Public buildings were to be erected for theaccommodation of municipalities growingrich by the deposit of the swelling stream of trade, and new houses for the wealthy noblesand the merchant princes, with marble andmosaic and pictures for the churches, and jewels
 
 
for the ladies, with statues of victorious generalsin the public squares, and chalice andmonstrance for the altars, and reliquaries for thebones of the patron saints to whom this risingtide of prosperity must justly be ascribed. Thesewere the arts of peace, but the time of peace wasnot yet come, and there were long fights to befought of faction with faction, and state withstate, and city with city, and nation with nation,before, in Italy or elsewhere, men could eat theirmeals in peace under the shadow of their ownvines. Leonardo was full of interest in the arts of peace, but he had a keen eye likewise for the artsof war, and a little later when he enters theservice of the Duke of Milan, we shall find thathis ability to serve his new employer in his warsis thought by him of far more importance thanthat he might do for him in time of peace.Figs. 5 and 6.But this passion for war would probably be alater development in Leonardo's life, and inregard to many of these suggestions andinventions of his, we must believe that they werethe fruit of actual needs and experience in thevaried labors that he undertook. He would findhimself hindered in every direction, losing time,losing the fruit of his own labor, in consequenceof the want of tools in the workmen's hands, andof the slow and unintelligent methods of work that were the fashion of the time. Inventors anddiscoverers, like other workers, are stimulated bywhat to-day with its duties brings them, andLeonardo, no more that Franklin, set himself towork in cold blood and out of pure humanity tolighten the task of the laborer. He had to use thelabor of these men-of the most of them, at least-in his own tasks, and it would be while he waswatching the slow workmen, who were carryingout his plans with the rude tools inherited fromtheir Roman ancestors, that he would bestimulated to find out ways for helping bothhimself and them.Fig. 7.Fig. 8.On this entirely practical side, to which belongan effort to invent a method of making files bymachinery, a way of sawing marble blocksinstead of separating them by means of naturalcleavage and the slow process of rubbing downby hand in his efforts to devise machines forplanning iron, for making vises, saws, andplanes, for spinning, for shearing the nap of cloth, for all the operations connected withcivilized labor; in the invention of thewheelbarrow, of the artist's sketching-stool, of acolor-grinder, a spring to keep doors shut, aroasting-jack, a hood for chimneys, movablederricks, similar to those in use among us to-day,with contrivances for setting up marble columnson their bases besides a hundred , other devicesfor the easing of daily toil, Leonardo belongs tothe class of useful inventors with Franklin andothers of less note.Fig. 9.Fig. 10.Rising a step higher we find him experimentingin all the sciences, in optics, in hydraulics, inmechanics, acoustics, magnetism, heat and light,and in all these fields making observations andsuggestions that relate him to minds of a subtlerand more imaginative cast,-to the rarer Edisonsand Daguerres of our own time. But inconsidering him as an inventor, or as an explorer,in the domain of physical science, we mustremember that he belonged to a country whichhas produced more minds of this class than anyother, our own hardly excepted, and that profuseas his talent was, it might appear less so if itwere once brought into minute comparison withthe whole series of discoveries andimprovements that belong to his age. Leonardowould have been a miracle in Germany, as wasAlbert Durer, but surely he was less a miracle inhis own Italy. In passing, I may mention hisattempt to better the lamps of h1s country-men,to which he was no doubt driven by the difficultyhe found in working at night. Fig. II shows alamp for burning oil in which the flame isenclosed in a globe filled with water, the resultbeing, as Leonardo says in the uppermost legendthat, “this globe, being of thin glass and filledwith water, will give a great light.” The lowerlegend gives directions for making the globe.Leonardo's device was introduced into this city afew years ago, and put into practice in a numberof our shops, gas jets being placed above glassbowls filled with water, and the light thusstrongly diffused was thrown upon the goodsplaced in the windows. The talent for drawingand the taste for; study that Leonardo showedwhile yet a child made such an impression uponhis, father that he showed some of the boy'sdrawings to his friend Andrea del Verrocchio,the sculptor, begging him to tell him whether he

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