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Leonardo Da Vinci: A Life (Penguin Lives)

3.47  ·  Rating Details ·  314 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
National Book Award winner Sherwin Nuland distills one of the greatest minds ever into its pure essence...truly awe-inspiring (Time) The life and work of the great Italian Renaissance artist and scientist Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) have proved endlessly fascinating for generations. In Leonardo da Vinci, Sherwin Nuland completes his twenty-year quest to understand an unl ...more
ebook, 176 pages
Published January 4th 2005 by Penguin Books (first published 2000)
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Feb 12, 2014 Artguy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, non-fiction
In my opinion, which is only backed up by this book, Leonardo Da Vinci is the most fascinatingly brilliant man to ever live. Not only was he a legendary painter, but he made discoveries in areas of anatomy and physiology that weren't otherwise "discovered" in some instances until 1969. He was a sought-after weapons builder in a few wars, a civil engineer tasked with redesigning conquered cities, and a great writer among other things.

What is amazing is that, although he accomplished so much, he c
Aug 13, 2016 Phil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A third of the way through this short book I grew very weary of the speculation as to the sexual proclivities (if there were any) of da Vinci. I had not realized Freud had written a major paper on why he thought da Vinci to be gay, the cause of it and the artist’s ability to repress all his sexual urges and pour the passion of that repressed sexual love into the making of his art.

Da Vinci himself wrote: “The act of procreation and anything that has any relation to it is so disgusting that human
Oct 23, 2015 Tammy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The subject is -unquestionably- fascinating, and I like the format of the biography taking the first half and the person's works as the second half.
Wasn't quite so fond of the author. He dates himself with some of his phrases and choices of themes to the point that I found myself flipping to the front of the book to double check the copyright date more than once. Being distracted by the author from the subject is increasingly becoming a major pet peeve of mine, which is why I rated two stars rat
Feb 16, 2010 Chad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So I knew Leonardo was an artist, anatomist, engineer, and had a cameo in Ever After (my wife made me watch it). It was about time I learned more.

I found Leonardo to be enthralling. I loved his insatiable curiosity. I empathized with his habit of beginning so many projects and having a tough time finishing them. I found it interesting how he began studying anatomy in order to be a better artist, but it appears shifted to being an artist to that he could further study anatomy. I find it fascinat
4. 1888 English Edition

The Manifesto was published as the platform of the Communist League, a working men's association, first exclusively German, later on international, and under the political conditions of the Continent before 1848, unavoidably a secret society. At a Congress of the League, held in November 1847, Marx and Engels were commissioned to prepare a complete theoretical and practical party programme. Drawn up in German, in January 1848, the manuscript was sent to the printer in Lond
Barbara M
Leonardo da Vinci was a gifted and brillant man - way ahead of his time! He was a painter, architect, engineer, philosopher, mathematician, and scientist.

This slim volume (170 pages) is a quick read that provides an overview of Leonardo's early life and accomplishments.

The author, Sherwin Nuland, is a surgeon. The section of the book on Leonardo's contributions to the study of anatomy and medicine were very well done. It's clear the author appreciated the brillance of Leonardo and understood tha
Apr 15, 2009 Elynn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It was nice because it was a short history, and it was informative, but sometimes got too much into the theoretical (why Leonardo did something) and drew on psychological/sexual impetus for his paintings, especially when it came to the Mona Lisa. Also it spent too much time addressing popular belief that Leonardo was homosexual, which the author believes is possible, without actually giving evidence or reasons why he was (the author discounts the one event that most historians use to justify the ...more
May 05, 2013 123sami rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I came across this book, I figured that it would be a boring biography of unimportant things in Leonardo's life, but I took it anyway, because it looked short. I have been interested in this person, Leonardo Da Vinci, for a few years now and wanted to know a bit more about him. It took me a little while to adjust to the book due to the author's vast and distinct vocabulary. After the twentieth page, I started to become more fluent with the book by understanding how it was written. It was j ...more
Mar 15, 2012 Will rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the understanding of where and when he was during his life. Perhaps I expected more content on the process of creating art, and various important pieces; instead, the author spends quite a bit of ink discussing psychoanalysis of his mommy issues leading potentially to his ambiguous and likely suppressed sexuality, and some digressions on Freud's thinking about da Vinci. Also, there was quite a bit of semi-useful discussion of his influence as an anatomist. Sadly, a lot of this text was ...more
May 31, 2015 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
This was an excellent shorter biography of the
great Leonardo DaVinci - artist, inventor, engineer, scientist - the prototype for the
Renaissance Man. Like Shakespeare, born
of unexceptional parents, a peasant woman
and a notary, he was an unequaled genius.
Feb 21, 2015 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a good starter book into the world of Leonardo da Vinci that focused a lot on his work in the field of anatomy. I hope to read a more comprehensive tome in the future but for now this will suffice.
Jun 16, 2014 Simon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was vaguely amused that this book started out with the statement that the question of Leonardo's sexuality is unimportant, and then went on to be pretty much obsessed with it for the rest of the book. :)
Feb 05, 2012 Avocado rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is a simply beautiful biography of Leonardo. I recommend this book both as an introduction to the life of Leonardo and to the experienced Leonardo reader. For someone who knows little about the man but is curious to learn more, it is an expertly written introduction. It gives you an outline of his life's events, but it digs even deeper. It tells you of his passions, his emotions, and his desires. It isn't simply a biography of fact. You will finish this book feeling that much closer to hist ...more
Joe Matson
Da Vinci is an interesting subject, and this book focuses in particular on his accomplishments as an anatomist. Even though the book is short, it's rather a slow read.
Stephy Costa
Jun 27, 2015 Stephy Costa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Started listening to this book and immediately took it out. As fascinating as I find Leonardo DaVinci I don't find this authors book very interesting at all.
Carol Oldham
Read a different book about Da Vinci. Nuland inserts his own ideas about homosexuality.
Jul 25, 2014 Subhash is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
i Like This Book and Focus To Be Great Code
Jul 15, 2014 Chrisanne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Redundant and overly focused on things that I felt were irrelevant.
Very thin writing regarding Leonardo's life, though one can't blame the author - the sources for such a biography don't exist. Thus, there is lots of speculation, suppositions, etc. I also never got the sense of how the masterworks we associate with Leonardo - the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, etc. - fit in within the context of his life. I suppose one shouldn't read a short biography to get that fullness, though other books in this series (especially the one on Beethoven by Edmund Morris) have ac ...more
Josh Lange
Jul 17, 2010 Josh Lange rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
-birthplace disputed
-anatomy knowledge hundreds of years before his time
-first person to recognize arteriosclerosis
-left many projects unfinished
-shopped around ideas for war machines that were never built
-planned buildings that were never made
-worked for the ruler who was the basis for machiavelli's the prince
-high value of math, considered painting the highest art
-saw the best way to paint as being a capturing of a specific moment (last supper: just after jesus reveals he knows someone will be
Linda Appelbaum
I gained some idea about the man but in some ways ended up with more questions than answers. Much of the book was supposition and speculation.Very little facts are known to researchers today so fleshing out Leonardo Da Vinci is a difficult task.He was obviously a genius and probably had ADD b ecause he went off in so many directions and left unfinished countless projects. Even so some of his ideas were centuries ahead of their time. I like to wonder what such a mind today would be like.
Mar 29, 2008 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am always interested in the lives of people more gifted than myself. When I was a little girl, I loved reading biographies and still do.

When I read biographies as a child, I was looking for a formula for success. Now, I read biographies to see how people get through the day.

This book is a good overview of daVinci's life for the general reader. Nuland has an effective prose style that enhances the book's interesting subject.
May 21, 2012 Cory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book rather interesting, although it was about Leonardo-the anatomist, and I would rather learn about Leonardo-the visionary, and his great plans to make man fly, and his plans to build a giant horse out of bronze, this was still interesting. Although it was a rather hard read because it was by a medicine professor at Yale, it was still understandable, and I learned a lot about Da Vinci's life, and would love to learn more.
Part biography and part medical history, this book was interesting, but at times seemed to get bogged down in unnecessary details that did not aid the progression of the book. The last chapter was the most interesting. In this chapter, Nuland focuses on the specific things that Leonardo discovered about the human body that doctors did not rediscover until the second half of the nineteenth century. Pretty crazy stuff.
Roxana Nunez
Jun 26, 2013 Roxana Nunez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I always knew that Leonardo was more than a great artist. I knew he had a very curious mind. What I did not know is how famous he was during his time, for starting projects and not finishing them. It seems that in today's standards, he would have been diagnosed ADHD. Also, the writer has a different perspective. His interest is on science and yet he blends both the artistic and the scientific mind of Da Vinci very well.
Bryce Holt
Informative, yes, but done by a man so obviously fixated with the anatomist that the exploration seems complete only at an obsessive schoolboy level. We all become enamored with those creative geniuses who far outweigh our own scopes and concepts, but to see someone more or less suckle the creative teat so amorously kind of made me creeped out.

Feb 29, 2008 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Sherwin Nuland, a physician who also wrote How We Die among other works, did a masterful job with this biography of the great Da Vinci. This demythologized the man and gave me a more down-to-earth and human view of him, while simultaneously increasing my respect and admiration for him. A very good book about an astonishing man.
Nov 27, 2013 Noemie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leonardo was a very interesting man, someone I would have loved to meet. He was very intelligent but a procrastinator. Which is sad, because he could have made a lot more things! I've been interested in him since I first heard of him, now I know a lot more about him and I feel like he's even more intriguing then what I thought!
Fascinating yet I wish there were more information and more in-depth accounts on who he was as a man and as an artist. But regardless of what I found lacking, the only fact is this: that Leonardo da Vinci remains one of the most enigmatic, interesting and gifted intellectuals in history.
Harry Red
Jul 09, 2016 Harry Red rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
Simply mind-blowing. A true genius comes to life.

Nuland is a professor of medicine and he calls Leonardo 'the greatest anatomist of all time.' High praise indeed, from a specialist no less.

Read this if you want to see how high human potential actually is.
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Sherwin Nuland was an American surgeon and author who taught bioethics and medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine. He was the author of The New York Times bestseller and National Book Award winning How We Die, and has also written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New Republic, Time, and the New York Review of Books.

His NYTimes obit:
More about Sherwin B. Nuland...

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