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Neighbors Growing Together | Jun 22, 2018

Book review: ‘Leonardo da Vinci’

By Curt Swarm | Feb 28, 2018

Ginnie gave me the book, “Leonardo da Vinci,” by Walter Isaacson for Christmas. It’s a large, heavy, pretty book, but don’t let the size fool you. Its pages are of high-quality, thick, satin paper because of all the artwork.

Of the 600 pages, the last 100 or so are index and notes, etc. My arms soon became tired from holding the book. It’s probably not a book you would take on an airplane.

Then Ginnie started reading it also, and there was a conflict as to who was going to get to read it and when. I solved the problem by ordering the book on Kindle.

Ginnie sharked that the artwork wouldn’t be near the quality on Kindle. I demonstrated to her how on Kindle I could “blow up” or “spread apart” a picture, say, for example, “Mona Lisa’s” eyeball, and study da Vinci’s brush strokes. She was soon asking to see such-and-such a picture on Kindle. Thus, the 21st Century debate as to which is superior, Kindle or “real” books, ended in a draw, for us anyway.

While waiting to have our car lubed, I was able to whip out my smartphone and continue to read da Vinci, the smartphone having tracked the last page read on Kindle. Ginnie was quite jealous. Shows-to-go-you.

What can I say about da Vinci except read the book and become enlightened. He was a self-educated, illegitimate child whose genius rivals that of Einstein, Michelangelo and Steve Jobs all rolled into one.

As a child, a bird flew into his crib and flapped its tail, perhaps signifying the touch of a muse. To say he was a Renaissance man, combining art, science, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, you-name-it, doesn’t do him justice. Not only did he paint the most famous pieces of art in the world — the “Mona Lisa” and the “Last Supper” — but he swam underwater to compare the fin movement of fish to the wing movement of birds.

He invented the first helicopter and made water-powered clocks and musical instruments. He studied the tongue of a woodpecker. He dissected facial muscles to know how to make the most famous smile in the world, that of “Mona Lisa.” He studied light and shadows and perspective.

Upon meeting a centenarian who died, Leonardo promptly dissected the corpse and discovered atherosclerosis. He wondered why the sky was blue and how fossils came to be on mountain tops. He studied the flow of blood through the heart and discovered what made heart valves open and close. (I always figured heart valves operated like sluice gates. Nope. Heart valves open and close due to eddies in the blood.)

He was not in a hurry. His paintings took years. “Mona Lisa,” who originally had eyebrows, took 16 years to paint, and then he still wasn’t finished. By the way, the reason Mona Lisa’s eyes seem to follow the viewer around the room are because Leonardo painted her right pupil larger than the left.

He discovered that sound and light travel in waves, as do emotions. He craved education for the sake of education and, being left handed, he wrote from the right hand of the page to the left in mirror script. He used drawing to help him think.

Leonardo had a sense of humor. When he was painting “The Last Supper,” the Duke of Milan was on his case to hurry up and finish it. Leonardo politely told the Duke to back off or his face might wind up as the face of Judas.

In the words of the author, Walter Isaacson, “What made Leonardo a genius, what set him apart from people who are merely extraordinarily smart, was creativity, the ability to apply imagination to intellect. (He) tried to know all there was to know about everything that could be known.”

The reason we know all this is because of paper and da Vinci’s copious notes that are still being discovered today. Would he approve of the Kindle that might not be around 10 years from now? Once again Isaacson states, “The willingness to surrender preconceptions was key to his creativity.”

 

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com or find him on Facebook.

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