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Leonardo da Vinci (Penguin Lives) [Hardcover]

By Sherwin Nuland (Author)
Our Price $ 16.96  
Retail Value $ 19.95  
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Item Number 153580  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   176
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.82" Width: 5.43" Height: 0.71"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Oct 31, 2000
Publisher   Viking Adult
ISBN  0670893919  
EAN  9780670893911  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
A distinguished chronicler of the human body and spirit interprets a Renaissance genius

The enigma of the Mona Lisa's smile is not less than the enigma of her creator's life force."In Leonardo da Vinci, Sherwin Nuland (whose own work Time has called "awe-inspiring") completes his twenty-year quest to understand an unlettered man who was painter, architect, engineer, philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. What was it that propelled Leonardo's insatiable curiosity? How could he be, in the same moment, as naive as a child and as profound as a sage?

Nuland finds clues in his subject's art, relationships, and scientific studies--as well as in the manuscripts spotlighted by their sale at auction to Bill Gates. Nuland detects the siren voice that lured the great artist so often into the arms of science--his fascination with anatomy, first as the basis for his paintings and then as the crucial component in his aim to systematize all knowledge of nature. Scholarly and passionate, Nuland's Leonardo da Vinci takes us deep into the first truly modern, empirical mind, one that was centuries ahead of its time.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Of Most Interest to Doctors and Biologists  Aug 19, 2007
Leonardo was the prototypical "Renaissance Man," a fact that renders him remarkably difficult for any one biographer to encapsulate fully. Add to that the page limitations imposed upon writers of the Penguin Lives (the typical Life is roughly 165 pages long), and you have an impossible task, no matter how competent the author.

Sherwin Nuland is that rarest of all creatures, an articulate doctor (surgeon), who has written several popular books about his craft, including the very popular How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter. So he was the ideal choice to write about Leonardo's anatomical studies, which he does well.

What he omits is any discussion of Leonardo's other accomplishments in art, mechanics, aeronautics,... But what modern writer could have written knowledgeably about those wide-ranging fields? Perhaps Isaac Asimov, but he died in 1992.

To Dr. Nuland's credit, he doesn't try, producing instead a fine book on those topics he does understand. Still, he doesn't capture the man.

For those who are interested, there is an excellent film, The Life of Leonardo Da Vinci, produced for Italian television in 1971, that provides a superb overview of Leonardo's life. A labor of love by the Italians, it is the definitive film on the subject.
Laborious read, focusing mainly on da Vinic's anatomical studies  Apr 30, 2007
Armed with a limited understanding of da Vinci's paintings, scientific research and anatomical studies, I picked up this book hoping to gather a better understanding of Leonardo's life and work. Unfortunately, I found this book to be a laborious read, focusing mainly on da Vinic's anatomical studies.

I wouldn't say this book is horrible, or that one shouldn't read it. Rather, it's just not the book for you if you desire a more traditional biography. Yet, I'm not certain a traditional biography could exist concerning da Vinci. Large gaps exist in our understanding of him, and much of what we do know is speculative - except where his anatomical work is considered, and which this book mainly covers.
Too Brief in Parts. Yet Some Parts Brilliant.  Oct 28, 2006
There can be little doubt that Leonardo da Vinci was a man of great intellect and skill. His impact upon society, however, has not been great. His inventions were never brought to fruition and his work in anatomy, while treasured today as being complex and far sighted, did little for the practice of medicine at the time of its publication. Yet, despite all this, it is a brave man who totally disregards Leonardo.

The author of this work on da Vinci, Sherwin B. Nuland, is a surgeon; an interesting choice for a biographer. Nuland brings a particular skill set to the work but not a complete skill set. The first portion of the book that deals in general with Leonardo's life is not strong. The reader is whisked through the years without ever feeling that he has gained any insights whatsoever. But, when Nuland turns to anatomy in the final chapters, the books takes a whole new turn. Clearly, the writer's knowledge shines and the reader sees in much greater depth the genius that was Leonardo.

At a time when there were no X rays, anesthesia or any real knowledge of the body's circulatory system, Leonardo's work was brilliant. Rather than describe the workings of the human body, Leonardo used drawings as his medium. Working with cadavers and having to work at great haste, Leonardo was a man ahead of his time. Nuland allows the reader to truly imagine the skill of the man.

Overall, Nuland's book is a work in two parts. The first, which is general biography, has only slight merit. His subsequent analysis of Leonardo's work in anatomy reads wonderfully. It is a great pity that the whole book could not have been of the same standard as the second part.
Anatomy of a biography  May 13, 2006

Because Leonardo da Vinci was so prolific and so ahead of his time in so many areas, the big temptation is for biographers to focus on one part of his biography -- both because it's easier and because most readers are likely drawn to him because of one particular part of his talents.

Ostensibly, this book does exactly that: it focuses Leonardo the anatomist, which, of all the great Tuscan's talents -- among his other talents he could have been renowned solely as a sculptor, painter, inventor, architect, designer, urban planner, philosopher, physicist, or mathematician -- is probably the least interesting to me. The focus of the book wasn't clear to me when I picked it up at an airport book store (which is a criticism, by the way), but it turned out to be an unexpectedly inspired choice, because Leonardo's study of anatomy was linked directly and indirectly to so many of his other pursuits.

Because of that, the first 2/3 of the book are background that touch on most of Leonardo's disciplines in chronological order, giving what amounts to one of the better overviews of the original Renaissance Man that I've come across (and I've read several). Only at the end does well-regarded author Sherwin B. Nuland tie it together by examining issues related to anatomy in more detail, at which point I admit I began to lose interest -- not because of any fault of the book's but simply because I get a bit queasy when the conversation turns to things like filling a human eye with different substances so it can be cut open and examined without it collapsing.

I give the book good marks for readability, no doubt inspired in part by Mr. Nuland's obvious passion for all things Leonardo. And the unusually thoughtful bibliography was a nice surprise.

But it would have been improved by an index and most of all by more illustrations, illustrations of all kinds: maps to show where places are relative to each other; examples of some of Leonardo's artwork which in parts is discussed and described at some length; perhaps a photo of Leonardo's unusual handwriting, which is examined and interpreted; reproductions of Leonardo's diagrams and drawings that illustrate the points being made, whether about the design of cities or war machines or of the anatomy so central to the end of the book. As it is, the book carries only four illustrations (all somewhat related to anatomy), and one isn't even by Leonardo.
So, how much do you want to learn about anatomy  Apr 20, 2006
This is a small book (166 pages) and it's focus is small also. Nuland really wanted to write a book only about DaVinci's facination with the human body and his accomplishments in describing his findings (some of which weren't proven until the middle of the twentieth century). It's a book totally about hero worship. But, Nuland does tell you this on the first page, you just have to realize it.

This is an eight chapter book, the first six read like cliff notes on DaVinci's life. The last two are totally turned over to a description of some of the contents of his notebooks, their history (as to who had them, and now has them) and of the number that have been lost or butchered over the last five hundred years.

There is one chapter almost completely turned over to Freud's psycho-sexual analysis of DaVinci and his paintings, and another to the history and speculation about and of the Mona Lisa.

Unless your a real Nuland fan, or a fan of anatomical historiography, you can skip this book, and read the biography by Charles Nichols.

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