Was Renaissance Artist Leonardo da Vinci Gay ? Part 1

About the Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci and the debate over whether or not he was a homosexual.



Person in Question: Leonardo, born in 1452 in Vinci near Florence, the illegitimate son of a notary and a peasant girl, is often said to have been the greatest genius who ever lived. Surely he was the peerless "Renaissance man"--painter, sculptor, engineer, inventor, anatomist, natural scientist, and insatiable student of a dozen more areas of knowledge. Raised by his father but not especially well educated (at 22 he had to teach himself Latin, the language of the ABCs in the schooling of the time), Leonardo may have been apprenticed to the famous artist Andrea del Verrocchio. By 1472, in any event, he was a member of the Florentine painters' guild.

About 10 years later, Leonardo offered himself as a military engineer to the powerful ruler of Milan, Ludovico Sforza. While he advised Sforza on such matters between 1483 and 1499, Leonardo also produced some of his greatest artistic works, among them the Last Supper and the since destroyed equestrian monument to Sforza's father. In 1499 Leonardo's patron was deposed by the French, and the artist passed his final 20 years on a series of frustrated travels in search of a home--to Florence, where he worked in the service of Cesare Borgia; to Milan again in 1506; to Rome in 1513, where he was particularly depressed by the preferment given younger artists; and finally, about 1517, to Cloux in France.

Many critics have lamented that because Leonardo was interested in so many things, he never achieved the glory in any one of them that his somewhat younger contemporaries, Michelangelo and Raphael, did. But even those critics are awed by his brilliance and originality in so many fields. Personally, Leonardo was courteous and civil in society. But he was essentially a withdrawn, antisocial individual, frustrated and bitter at the end of his life. He lived quietly and moderately, disapproved of drinking and bawdiness, was basically a vegetarian, and was extremely fastidious in his personal habits. Leonardo was a strikingly handsome and powerful man in the image of the muscular Renaissance God the Father that he helped to create. But there was also the air about him of a pathological prude. In a famous passage, Leonardo the student of anatomy described "the act of coitus and the members that serve it" as "so hideous that if it were not for the beauty of faces and the craftsmen's ornamentation and the liberation of the spirit, the human species would lose its humanity."

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