Leonardo da Vinci: the best books of the last 500 years


This post is by Jonathan Jones from Books | The Guardian


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His death was five centuries ago, but the artist, scientist and inventor still fascinates. Jonathan Jones recommends the best books to come to grips with the Tuscan prodigy

It’s 500 years since Leonardo da Vinci died and almost as long since the first, and still most seductive, biography of him appeared. Giorgio Vasari’s 1550 book The Lives of the Artists is still in print – and a great read. It’s full of strange tales, including the time the teenaged artist made a monster from lizards, bats and insects then painted it on a shield to terrify his father. The way Vasari tells it, you’re not quite sure if this was art or magic – it almost reads as if the monster came to life. Yet Vasari’s fabulism is threaded with nuggets from people who knew the polymath. They remembered his love of young men with long curly hair, belief in ...