Title: Leonardo’s Legacy: How Da Vinci Reimagined the World
Author: Stefan Klein, translated by Shelley Frisch
Release Date: April 27, 2010
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Rating: 4 out of 5
In Leonardo’s Legacy, Stefan Klein looks at Leonardo’s accomplishments during his lifetime – his art, his observations, his dreams, and his inventions – in order to understand Leonardo da Vinci’s relevance for the modern day world.
I love reading about history, science, and art, so when I saw this book that combined those three topics, I was fascinated. I really wanted to learn about Leonardo da Vinci and his thought processes, and how even his failures in life contributed to his way of thinking.
The most fascinating part of Leonardo’s Legacy for me was Klein’s close look at that infamous painting, the Mona Lisa. He researches this painting, trying to determine why it is so revered. He actually makes a convincing case that the reason has to do with science (though I won’t spoil that discovery here by expounding on it). Klein then progresses to discuss Da Vinci’s views on science and how they have been forgotten, overshadowed by his art, and frequently misunderstood.
This book is also a travelogue of sorts. Klein travels to the different places Leonardo lived, to see the actual place the artist was when something sprang forth in his mind. He looked at how his circumstances and location influenced Leonardo’s thought processes and goals. It also gives the reader a solid grasp on the chronology of Leonardo’s life.
A quick note on the translation – often works in translation can be very dry. However, that’s not the case here. Clearly, Shelley Frisch is an experienced translator, and there is a certain beauty to her prose. Whether that is preserved from the original, I can’t say, but she did a wonderful job with this text.
I really enjoyed Leonardo’s Legacy. It was well written, clear, informative, and never dragged (and that’s rare, considering it’s about history). Klein’s conclusions are solid, and he peppers the book with useful black and white pictures. I really did enjoy it, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for Klein’s other books.