On This Day In History – Leonardo da Vinci is born.


The Mona Lisa – Louvre Museum, Paris

On 15 April 1452, Leonardo da Vinci was born in the little town on Vinci, in Tuscany. He was born to the Florentine Notary Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci, and Caterina – a peasant girl. The little bastard boy would go on to become one of the most famous artists that the world had ever seen. At the age of 14, he was apprenticed to Verocchio and by the age of 20 he had qualified as a Master.

Leonardo would go on to produce some of the finest works of art Italy had seen at the time, and indeed would ever be seen. Although it has to be said that Leonardo was awful at getting his commissions finished – he never completed the altarpiece in the Palazzo della Signoria, nor did he complete his commission to pain the Adoration of the Magi for the monks of San Donato a Scopeto. Not only was he an artist, but he was an inventor as well. In 1502 he entered the service of Cesare Borgia as his military architect and produced some of the most accurate maps ever seen, including a map of Imola.


Da Vinci’s map of Imola

Leonardo spent his last years in France, in the service of King Francis I. Legend states then when Leonardo was dying, King Francis held the dying man’s head in his arms. He died on 2nd May, 1519 at Clos Lucé, and was buried in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert in Château d’Amboise.

Today, Leonardo da Vinci’s legacy lives on through his art work. In a recent trip to the Louvre in Paris, I was struck by just how many people crowded around the tiny Mona Lisa. She is the most famous of his works, people wondering just what on earth she was smiling at. It seemed to me as I stood in front of the Mona Lisa that many of those people didn’t even realise da Vinci had created other, much more beautiful works of art – some of which were on display in the very same room that they were crowded in. In fact, one only has to read his notebooks to understand that Leonardo da Vinci is very much more than the man who painted the Mona Lisa.


Leonardo da Vinci – self portrait

Review: Da Vinci’s Demons Episode 2 ~ The Serpent

This morning I sat myself down to watch episode 2 of Da Vinci’s Demons, a feeling of excitement brewing in me. Last week’s episode was thoroughly enjoyable, so I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into this one. As I mentioned in my previous review, Da Vinci’s Demons is a historical fantasy based around the life of a young Leonardo Da Vinci – it blends a mixture of history and fantasy seamlessly, making the show a rip-roaring ride. Even if you’re one of those who turns shows off at the merest hint of historical inaccuracy, I’d highly recommend you don’t because you’ll probably end up enjoying it just as much as I did. And in my very humble opinion, Da Vinci’s Demons is, quite possibly, one of the best shows to come out this year!
We ended episode 1 with Leonardo having been given a commission by Lorenzo the Magnificent to built war machines as well as finding himself becoming embroiled in a rather enthralling mystery to find the mysterious “Book of Leaves”. Episode 2 begins with Leonardo continuing that search. As actually happened in history, we see Leonardo (or rather, his friends Nico and Zoroaster) digging up a dead body. This body is the Jew who was hanged in the previous episode; Leonardo wanting his body after being told by the myserious Turk to begin his search with the “hanged man”. In history, Leonardo was known for his er…graverobbing…as dissection of humans wasn’t exactly legal during those times. So a nice though to see Nico and Zoroaster evading the guards to dig up the body for their maestro. We’re then treated to a rather gruesome scene in which Leonardo dissects the body to find what he’s looking for.
Leo cuts open dead people
Which of course, being brilliant, he does. It seems there’s a lot more to the Jew than meets the eye. Of course, Leonardo has a lot more on his plate than interesting mysteries. Not only must he build war machines for Lorenzo, but he has a portrait to do of Lucrezia Donati to paint as well. Lucrezia, being the love interest and a bit of a snake in the grass, seems like she’s going to prove a bit of a problem for Leonardo. But we’ll see how it goes as the series continues. I have to say, regarding Leonardo’s sexuality in the series, I have seen a lot of posts picking at the “change” to Leonardo’s sexuality. We don’t actually KNOW whether Leonardo was homosexual in history as so little is known about his personal life. Yes, he was locked up for sodomy according to some sources; however he also wrote in his notebooks “The act of procreation and anything that has any relation to it is so disgusting that human beings would soon die out if there were no pretty faces and sensuous dispositions” – this likely suggests asexuality. Historians can argue for weeks over whether or not Da Vinci was actually gay or not; but within this show I really like this story arc. Besides, from what I’ve seen so far it doesn’t actually make him out to be straight – if you look at the scene in episode 1 where the male model comes over and Leo says something along the lines of “he’s nice to look at”, I think that suggests bisexuality don’t you? Anyway, I’m ranting when I should be reviewing… *gets back on topic*

Leo and Lucrezia
One of my favourite scenes in this episode was where he’s first testing out his famous fan shaped musket. Let’s just say that things go catastrophically wrong (despite Leo’s smart mouth and his insistence that it’ll all be fine), and Lorenzo gets rather irritated; giving Leonardo a week to get it fixed and working. 

Testing the musket

I really thought that Blake Ritson came into his own in this episode. Ritson stars as Girolamo Riario; nephew of Pope Sixtus IV. In history, Riario was a bit of a derp and not the nicest of men. In the show, Riario is positively evil and Riario shows this excellently. In fact, his performance is positively mind blowing. The cold, unfeeling looks that he gave Nico during a rather gruesome scene were so brilliantly done that I found myself hating the man. And that is a sign of bloody brilliant acting!

The Widows Tear, a rather nasty torture device

I was highly impressed with the acting once again in this episode. I honestly couldn’t think of anyone better to play a young Leonardo; you can tell that he is really giving it his all and I have to say, as I’m watching I can really imagine that’s how Leonardo would have been. The smart mouthed sass helps immensely too!

Being clever. Again.

Zoroaster is such a reprobate
Greg Chillin is another of my favourites from this episode. The character of Zoroaster just makes me laugh so much. He’s just one of these characters who you instantly like; he’s so full of sass and such a bad boy. He’s bloody brilliant!

I was even more impressed with the cinematography and CGI elements of this episode than I was in the first. There is one very simple reason for this; and that can be seen in the screencap just above. This scene, involving a chase with the papal guards and Leo doing a very assassins creed moment with a makeshift lift, was absolutely mind blowing! I was staring at my screen in awe, and as the camera pans out you can really see the work that was put into the CGI.
I won’t spoil the ending of the episode for you all. But let’s just say it ends with a bang….

Lara Pulver as Clarice Orsini

Overall, another absolutely fantastic episode. I’ll say it again, even if you’re a historian with an eye for historical accuracy, I highly recommend this for it’s mix of history and fantasy. Just as many of you will read historical fiction novels that blend history and fantasy, this does the same and it does it fantastically. Feeling sceptical? Give it a chance, you might be pleasantly surprised. I for one, will be watching this series with interest!
In the mean time, while you wait for Episode 3 please do check out the following:
Tom Riley on twitter – @thisistomriley
DaVincisWriters on twitter – @DaVinciWriters
Da Vinci’s Demons on twitter – @DaVincis_Starz