Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci

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~This page is still under construction~

  • Author:: [[Walter Isaacson]]
  • Reading Status:: [[Books Read]]
  • Recommended By:: [[Powell's]]
  • Tags:: #Books #[[Leonardo Da Vinci]] #Engineering
  • Key Takeaways::
    • Power of Mindset
      • Procrastinate. "Men of lofty genius sometimes accomplish the most when they work least," he explained, "for their minds are occupied with their ideas and the perfection of their conceptions, to which they afterwards give form." Most of us don't need advice to procrastinate; we do it naturally. But procrastinating like Leonardo requires work: it involves gathering all the possible facts and ideas, and only after that allowing the collection to simmer.
      • Get distracted. Leonardo's willingness to pursue whatever shiny subject caught his eye made his mind richer and filled with types more connections. Go down rabbit holes. See things unseen.
      • Observe. Leonardo's greatest skill was his acute ability to observe things. It was the talent that empowered his curiosity, and vice versa. It was not some magical gift but a product of his own effort. #[[Be Observant]]
      • Retain a childlike sense of wonder. At a certain point in life, most of us quit puzzling over everyday phenomena. We might savor the beauty of a blue sky, but we no longer bother to wonder why it is that color. Leonardo did. So did [[Albert Einstein]], who wrote to another friend, "You and I never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born." We should be careful to never outgrow our wonder years, or to let our children do so.
    • [[City Building]]
      • In late 1517 he accompanied the king to Romorantin, where they stayed until January 1518. Drawing on the ideas and fantasies he had developed for an ideal city while living in Milan thirty years earlier, Leonardo began sketching in his notebook his radical and utopian aspirations for inventing a town from scratch.
    • [[Expertise]]
      • Day dream what you do. Practice in your head.
        • Think visually. Too often, when we learn a formula or a rule-even one so simple as the method for multiplying numbers or mixing a paint color-we no longer visualize how it works. As a result, we lose our appreciation for the underlying beauty of nature's laws.
      • First you learn the rules, then you break them
        • All told, The Last Supper is a mix of scientific perspective and theatrical license, of intellect and fantasy, worthy of Leonardo. His study of perspective science had not made him rigid or academic as a painter. Instead, it was complemented by the cleverness and ingenuity he had picked up as a stage impresario. Once he knew the rules, he became a master at fudging and distorting them, as if creating perspectival sfumato.
      • Experiment always
        • “First I shall do some experiments before I proceed further," he announced, "because my intention is to consult experience first and then with reasoning show why such experience is bound to operate in such a way.
      • Learn from what can be learned from. Not what can't be replicated.
        • Slapping the “genius" label on Leonardo oddly minimizes him by making it seem as if he were touched by lightning. In fact, Leonardo's genius was a human one, wrought by his own will and ambition. His genius was of the type we can understand, even take lessons from. It was based on skills we can aspire to improve in ourselves, such as curiosity and intense observation.
    • [[Self-Criticism]]
      • Respect facts. Leonardo was a forerunner of the age of observational experiments and critical thinking. When he came up with an idea, he devised an experiment to test it. And when his experience showed that a theory was flawed he abandoned his theory and sought a new one (such as his belief that the springs within the earth are replenished the same way as blood vessels in humans.)
      • ^^**One mark of a great mind is the willingness to change it. That willingness to surrender preconceptions was key to his creativity.**^^
    • [[Learning in Public]]
      • As the Leonardo scholar Charles Hope has pointed out, "He had no real understanding of the way in which the growth of [[Knowledge]] was a cumulative and collaborative process." Although he would occasionally let visitors glimpse his work, he did not seem to realize or care that the importance of research comes from its dissemination.
      • He was mainly motivated by his own [[Curiosity]]. He may have considered, as well, that he was making a contribution to public knowledge, but here it gets murky. He wrote that he intended his findings to be published, but when it came to editing and organizing his notes he was once again dilatory rather than diligent. He was more interested in pursuing knowledge than in publishing it. And even though he was collegial in his life and work, he made little effort to share his findings.
      • This is true for all of his studies, not just his work on anatomy. The trove of treatises that he left unpublished testifies to the unusual nature of what motivated him. He wanted to accumulate knowledge for its own sake, and for his own personal joy, rather than out of a desire to make a public name for himself as a scholar or to be part of the progress of history. #Learning
    • [[Collaboration]]
      • Collaborate. Genius starts with individual brilliance. It requires singular vision. But executing it often entails working with others. [[Innovation]] is a team sport. Creativity is a collaborative endeavor.
      • We should modify the traditional questions asked by art historians: Which version is the "authentic" or "autograph" or "original" one? Which are mere "copies"? Instead, the proper and more interesting questions to ask are: How did the collaboration occur? What was the nature of the team and the teamwork? As with so many examples in history where creativity was turned into products, Leonardo's Florence studio involved individual genius combined with teamwork. Both vision and execution were required. #teamwork #Vision
      • All told, The Last Supper is a mix of scientific perspective and theatrical license, of intellect and fantasy, worthy of Leonardo. His study of perspective science had not made him rigid or academic as a painter. Instead, it was complemented by the cleverness and ingenuity he had picked up as a stage impresario. Once he knew the rules, he became a master at fudging and distorting them, as if creating perspectival sfumato.
  • Notes::
    • Make lists. And be sure to put odd things on them. Leonardo's to-do lists may have been the greatest testaments to pure [[Curiosity]] the world has ever seen. #Checklists
    • Collaborate. Genius starts with individual brilliance. It requires singular vision. But executing it often entails working with others. [[Innovation]] is a team sport. Creativity is a collaborative endeavor.
      • "Investing is not a team sport–company building is a team sport, but investing is an individual sport." -[[Chamath Palihapitiya]] #Investing #[[Investing 101 2.0]] #[[Social Capital]]
    • Think visually. Too often, when we learn a formula or a rule-even one so simple as the method for multiplying numbers or mixing a paint color-we no longer visualize how it works. As a result, we lose our appreciation for the underlying beauty of nature's laws.
    • Let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Eventually, [[Steve Jobs]] embraced a countermaxim, "Real artists ship," which means that sometimes you ought to deliver a product even when there are still improvements that could be made. That is a good rule for daily life. But there are times when it's nice to be like Leonardo and not let go of something until it's perfect.
    • Procrastinate. "Men of lofty genius sometimes accomplish the most when they work least," he explained, "for their minds are occupied with their ideas and the perfection of their conceptions, to which they afterwards give form." Most of us don't need advice to procrastinate; we do it naturally. But procrastinating like Leonardo requires work: it involves gathering all the possible facts and ideas, and only after that allowing the collection to simmer.
      • "[[Sometimes doing nothing is the most important something]]." - [[Brother Stice]] #Quotes
    • Respect facts. Leonardo was a forerunner of the age of observational experiments and critical thinking. When he came up with an idea, he devised an experiment to test it. And when his experience showed that a theory was flawed he abandoned his theory and sought a new one (such as his belief that the springs within the earth are replenished the same way as blood vessels in humans.)
      • In so behaving, the University of Chicago is imitating [[Charles Darwin]], who spent much of his long life thinking in reverse as he tried to disprove his own hardest-won and best-loved ideas. And so long as there are parts of academia that keep alive its best values by thinking in reverse like Darwin, we can confidently expect that silly educational practices will eventually be replaced by better ones, exactly as Carl Jacobi might have predicted. #[[Self-Criticism]]
    • Get distracted. Leonardo's willingness to pursue whatever shiny subject caught his eye made his mind richer and filled with types more connections. Go down rabbit holes. See things unseen.
    • Start with the details. In his notebook, Leonardo shared a trick for observing something carefully: Do it in steps, starting with each detail. A page of a book, he noted, cannot be absorbed in one stare, you need to go word by word. "If you wish to have a sound knowledge of the forms of objects, begin with the details of them, and do not go on to the second step until you have the first well fixed in memory." #[[First Principles]]
    • Observe. Leonardo's greatest skill was his acute ability to observe things. It was the talent that empowered his curiosity, and vice versa. It was not some magical gift but a product of his own effort. #[[Be Observant]]
    • Retain a childlike sense of wonder. At a certain point in life, most of us quit puzzling over everyday phenomena. We might savor the beauty of a blue sky, but we no longer bother to wonder why it is that color. Leonardo did. So did [[Albert Einstein]], who wrote to another friend, "You and I never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born." We should be careful to never outgrow our wonder years, or to let our children do so.
    • Seek knowledge for its own sake. Not all knowledge needs to be useful. Sometimes it should be pursued for pure pleasure. #Learning
    • So even though we may never be able to match his talents, we can learn from him and try to be more like him. His life offers a wealth of lessons. #[[Live the Library]]
    • Be curious, relentlessly curious, "I have no special talents," Einstein once wrote to a friend, "I am just passionately curious," Leonardo actually did have special talents, as did [[Albert Einstein]], but his distinguishing and most inspiring trait was his intense curiosity. #Curiosity
    • “Talent hits a target that no one else can hit," wrote the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. "Genius hits a target no one else can see." Because they "think different," creative masterminds are sometimes considered misfits, but in the words that [[Steve Jobs]] helped craft for an Apple advertisement, "While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."
    • He enjoyed the challenge of conception more than the chore of completion.
    • “Tell me if anything was ever done," he repeatedly scribbled in notebook after notebook. “Tell me. Tell me. Tell if ever I did a thing. .. .Tell me if anything was ever made.”
    • "As a well-spent day brings a happy sleep," Leonardo had written thirty years earlier, "so a well-employed life brings a happy death."
    • Specifically, he was trying to understand the formula for keeping the area of a right triangle the same while varying the lengths of its two legs. He had fussed with this problem, explored by Euclid, repeatedly over the years. It was a puzzle that, by this point in his life, as he turned sixty-seven and his health faded, might seem unnecessary to solve. To anyone other than Leonardo, it may have been. Then abruptly, almost at the end of the page, he breaks off his writing with an "et cetera." That is followed by a line, written in the same meticulous mirror script as the previous lines of his analysis, explaining why he is putting down his pen. "Perché la minestra si fredda," he writes. Because the soup is getting cold.
    • In late 1517 he accompanied the king to Romorantin, where they stayed until January 1518. Drawing on the ideas and fantasies he had developed for an ideal city while living in Milan thirty years earlier, Leonardo began sketching in his notebook his radical and utopian aspirations for inventing a town from scratch.
    • In turn, Leonardo could learn from the erudite and graceful young king. As Leonardo once wrote in his notebooks, referring to [[Alexander the Great]] and his tutor, "Alexander and [[Aristotle]] were teachers of one another." #Learning
    • ^^**One mark of a great mind is the willingness to change it. That willingness to surrender preconceptions was key to his creativity.**^^
      • In so behaving, the University of Chicago is imitating [[Charles Darwin]], who spent much of his long life thinking in reverse as he tried to disprove his own hardest-won and best-loved ideas. And so long as there are parts of academia that keep alive its best values by thinking in reverse like Darwin, we can confidently expect that silly educational practices will eventually be replaced by better ones, exactly as Carl Jacobi might have predicted. #[[Self-Criticism]]
    • He was able to avoid pedantry by regularly bringing his theories down to earth, so to speak, and tying them to practical applications. As he instructed himself in a typical notebook jotting, "When you put together the science of the motions of water, remember to include under each proposition its application, in order that this science may not be useless."
    • The fact that he didn't publish served to diminish his impact on the history of science. But it did not diminish his genius.
    • As the Leonardo scholar Charles Hope has pointed out, "He had no real understanding of the way in which the growth of [[Knowledge]] was a cumulative and collaborative process." Although he would occasionally let visitors glimpse his work, he did not seem to realize or care that the importance of research comes from its dissemination.
    • He was mainly motivated by his own [[Curiosity]]. He may have considered, as well, that he was making a contribution to public knowledge, but here it gets murky. He wrote that he intended his findings to be published, but when it came to editing and organizing his notes he was once again dilatory rather than diligent. He was more interested in pursuing knowledge than in publishing it. And even though he was collegial in his life and work, he made little effort to share his findings.
    • This is true for all of his studies, not just his work on anatomy. The trove of treatises that he left unpublished testifies to the unusual nature of what motivated him. He wanted to accumulate knowledge for its own sake, and for his own personal joy, rather than out of a desire to make a public name for himself as a scholar or to be part of the progress of history. #Learning
    • One of the things that could have most benefited Leonardo in his career was a partner who would help him follow through and publish his brilliant work. Together he and Marcantonio could have produced a groundbreaking illustrated treatise on anatomy that would have transformed a field still dominated by scholars who mainly regurgitated the notions of the second century Greek physician Galen. Instead, Leonardo's anatomy studies became another example of how he was disadvantaged by having few rigorous and disciplined collaborators along the lines of [[Luca Pacioli]], whose text on geometric proportions Leonardo had illustrated. #[[Greatest Partnerships]]
    • Then comes my favorite item on any Leonardo list: "Describe the tongue of the woodpecker." This is not just a random entry. He mentioned the woodpecker's tongue again on a later page, where he described and drew the human tongue. “Make the motions of the woodpecker," he wrote. When I first saw his entry about the woodpecker, I regarded it, as most scholars have, as an entertaining oddity—an amuse-bouche, so to speak—evidence of the eccentric nature of Leonardo's relentless curiosity. That it indeed is. But there's more, as I discovered after pushing myself to be more like Leonardo and drill down into random curiosities. Leonardo, I realized, had become fascinated by the muscles of the tongue.
    • Perhaps Clark is right, in that our store of art does not include a Battle of Anghiari or other potential masterpieces. But if posterity is poorer because of the time Leonardo spent immersed in passions from pageantry to architecture, it is also true that his life was richer.
      • What makes your life richer? #[[Lilly pads of your career]]
    • He was a perfectionist faced with challenges other artists would have disregarded but that he could not. So he put down his brushes. That behavior meant he would never again receive a public commission. But it is also what allowed him to go down in history as an obsessed genius rather than merely a reliable master painter.
    • Other painters would not have noticed, or would have chosen to ignore, the way figures in a large painting could seem disproportionate when viewed from different parts of the room. But Leonardo was obsessed by the optics, mathematics, and art of perspective.
      • Masters are often made by obsession. Not skill.
    • The Arno projects, the circular fortress, and the draining of the Piombino swamps had one thing in common with many of Leonardo's grandest projects, and even some of his less grand ones: they never came to fruition. They showed Leonardo at his most fantastical, dreaming up schemes that darted back and forth across the boundaries of practicality. Like the construction of his flying machines, they were too fanciful to execute.
      • "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." [[Lewis Carroll]]
    • This inability to ground his fantasies in reality has generally been regarded as one of Leonardo's major failings. Yet in order to be a true visionary, one has to be willing to overreach and to fail some of the time. Innovation requires a reality distortion field. The things he envisioned for the future often came to pass, even if it took a few centuries. Scuba gear, flying machines, and helicopters now exist. Suction pumps now drain swamps. Along the route of the canal that Leonardo drew there is now a major highway. Sometimes fantasies/ are paths to reality. #Failure
      • If you are able to accomplish everything of which you dream then you are not dreaming big enough
    • Imagine the scene. For three months during the winter of 1502-3, as if in a historical fantasy movie, three of the most fascinating figures of the Renaissance-a brutal and of a pope, a sly and amoral writer-diplomat, and a dazzling painter yearning to be an engineer-were holed up in a tiny fortified walled town that was approximately five blocks wide and eight blocks long.
      • This should be a movie #[[Fiction Writing Ideas]]
    • He thinks by sketching. It is a process he called "componimento inculto," an uncultivated composition that helps work out ideas through an intuitive process. #Writing
      • When you're overthinking, write. When you're under-thinking, read.
    • We should modify the traditional questions asked by art historians: Which version is the "authentic" or "autograph" or "original" one? Which are mere "copies"? Instead, the proper and more interesting questions to ask are: How did the collaboration occur? What was the nature of the team and the teamwork? As with so many examples in history where creativity was turned into products, Leonardo's Florence studio involved individual genius combined with teamwork. Both vision and execution were required. #teamwork #Vision
    • In other words, we should put aside our romantic image of the artist alone in his studio creating works of genius. Instead, Leonardo's studio was like a shop in which he devised a painting and his assistants worked with him to make multiple copies. This is similar to the way it had been in Verrocchio's bottega. “The process of production is more in keeping with the commissioning of a superbly made chair from a major designer-craftsman," Kemp wrote after the results of the technical analysis. “We do not ask if a certain glued joint in the chair was made by the head of the workshop or one of his assistants-providing the joint holds and looks good." #Collaboration
    • It’s reassuring to discover that Leonardo spent as much on books be did on clothes. In the inventories he made in 1504, he listed 116 volumes. These included Ptolemy's Cosmography, which he later cited in describing the human circulation and respiratory system as a microcosm of the earth's. He also acquired more books on math, including a three-volume translation of Euclid and a book he described as being about "the squaring of the circle," which was probably a text by Archimedes. There are many more texts on surgery, medicine, and architecture, but his tastes also ran to more popular fare. By then he owned three editions of Aesop's fables and multiple volumes of bawdy verse. He had also acquired the book on architecture written by his friend from Milan, Francesco di Giorgio, who had been a collaborator in conceiving Vitruvian Man. He made annotations throughout and copied some passages and drawings into his notebook. #Reading
    • As with many of his inventions, his scuba gear was, at least during his time, just over the edge of practicality. It would be centuries before his ideas came to fruition.
    • All told, The Last Supper is a mix of scientific perspective and theatrical license, of intellect and fantasy, worthy of Leonardo. His study of perspective science had not made him rigid or academic as a painter. Instead, it was complemented by the cleverness and ingenuity he had picked up as a stage impresario. Once he knew the rules, he became a master at fudging and distorting them, as if creating perspectival sfumato.
    • This use of accelerated perspective, in which the walls and ceiling recede toward the vanishing point more quickly than normal, was one of the many tricks that Leonardo learned from the theatrical events he produced. His use of such artifices is another example of why his work on plays and pageants was not time squandered.
      • No experience is a waste if you learn from it.
    • When Leonardo was summoned by the duke, they ended up having a discussion of how [[Creativity]] occurs. Sometimes it requires going slowly, pausing, even procrastinating. That allows ideas to marinate, Leonardo explained. Intuition needs nurturing. “Men of lofty genius sometimes accomplish the most when they work least," he told the duke, "“for their minds are occupied with their ideas and the perfection of their conceptions, to which they afterwards give form." #[[Sometimes doing nothing is the most important something]]
    • When Leonardo was painting The Last Supper, spectators would visit and sit quietly just so they could watch him work. The creation of art, like the discussion of science, had become at times a public event. According to the account of a priest, Leonardo would "come here in the early hours of the morning and mount the scaffolding," and then "remain there brush in hand from sunrise to sunset, forgetting to eat or drink, painting continually.
      • What public events do you attend?
    • Leonardo's investigations of light and color were successful because he cared about the science of optics. Other perspective theorists, such as Brunelleschi and Alberti, wanted to know how objects could be projected onto a flat panel. Leonardo pursued that knowledge as well, but it led him to another level: he wanted to know how light from objects that enters the eye and is processed by the mind.
    • By pursuing science that went well beyond its utility for painting a picture, Leonardo could have fallen prey to academism. Some critics have suggested that his excess of diagrams showing light hitting contoured objects and his deluge of notes about shadows were at best a waste of time and at worst led him to be too studied in some later works. To disprove that, you only need to look at Ginevra de’ Benci and then the Mona Lisa to see how a profound understanding of light and shadow, both intuitive and scientific, led to the latter being the historic masterpiece. And to be convinced that he could be flexible and clever in bending the rules of perspective given the needs of a complex situation, one only has to look at, and marvel at The Last Supper." #Academia
      • This is a clear difference between wasting time and crafting your inner self. What is the ultimate outcome of your activities on who you are as a person.
    • His work on linear perspective was not groundbreaking; Alberti had explained much the same. But Leonardo was more innovative when he focused on acuity perspective, which describes how objects far away become less distinct.
      • You don’t think for the sake of having innovative ideas. But if you think long enough and hard enough you’ll come up with innovative ideas.
    • Just as he blurred the boundaries between art and science, he did so to the boundaries between reality and fantasy, between experience and mystery, between objects and their surroundings.
    • As with his study of anatomy, he began his work on these subjects to help perfect his painting techniques, but then proceeded to immerse himself in the complexities of science for the pure joy of understanding nature.
      • The things you DO should push you towards the things you LOVE
    • It should not be hard for you to look at stains on walls, or the ashes of a fire, or the clouds, or mud, and if you consider them well you will find marvelous new ideas, because the mind is stimulated to new inventions by obscure things."
    • By exalting the interplay between art and science, Leonardo wove an argument that was integral to understanding his genius: that true creativity involves the ability to combine observation with imagination, thereby blurring the border between reality and fantasy. #[[Multidisciplinary Thinking]]
    • A counterargument was made in 1489 by Francesco Puteolano, who argued that poetry and historical writing were most important. The reputations and memories of the great rulers, including Caesar and Alexander the Great, came from historians rather than sculptors or painters, he said. #History
    • This type of staged debate on the comparative value of various intellectual endeavors, ranging from math to philosophy to art, was a staple of evenings at the Sforza Castle. Known as a paragone, from the Italian word for "comparison," such a discourse was a way for artists and scholars to attract patrons and elevate their social status during the Italian Renaissance. This was another field in which Leonardo, with his love of both stagecraft and intellectual discussion, could excel as an ornament of the court.
    • Thus, in everything extremes prepare to be avoided: Too much light gives crudeness; too little prevents our seeing.
    • We tend to think of artists as lone creators, holed in a garret, waiting for inspiration to strike. But as evident in his notebooks and in the process that led to his drawing of Vitruvian Man, much of Leonardo's thinking was collegial.
    • Leonardo went from seeking knowledge that could be of practical use and began seeking knowledge for its own sake, out of pure curiosity and joy. This was evident when he sat down after seven years in Milan with a clean notebook sheet and made a list of the topics he wished to investigate. On top he wrote the date, “on the second of April 1489," which was unusual for him and an indication that he was embarking on an important endeavor.
    • At times when he found a concept difficult to comprehend, Leonardo would copy passages of Pacioli's explanations verbatim into his notebooks.
    • Note:** Who are the master-explainers for you?
    • Leonardo increasingly came to realize that mathematics was the key to turning observations into theories. It was the language that nature used to write her laws. "There is no certainty in sciences where mathematics cannot be applied," he declared.
    • Deep observation must be done in steps: "If you wish to have a sound knowledge of the forms of objects, begin with the details of them, and do not go on to the second step until you have the first well fixed in memory.
    • His curiosity, like that of Einstein, often was about phenomena that most people over the age of ten no longer puzzle about: Why is the sky blue? How are clouds formed? Why can our eyes see only in a straight line? What is yawning? Einstein said he marveled about questions others found mundane because he was slow in learning to talk as a child. For Leonardo, this talent may have been connected to growing up with a love of nature while not being overly schooled in received wisdom.
    • But his uncanny abilities to engage in the dialogue between experience and theory made him a prime example of how acute observations, fanatic curiosity, experimental testing, a willingness to question, dogma, and the ability to discern patterns across disciplines can lead to great leaps in human understanding.
    • When he began absorbing knowledge from books in the 1490s, it helped him realize the importance of being guided not only by experiential evidence but also by theoretical frameworks. More important, he came to understand that the two approaches were complementary, working hand in hand. “We can see in Leonardo a dramatic attempt to appraise properly the mutual relation of theory to experiment," wrote the twentieth-century physicist Leopold Infeld.
    • His appetite for soaking up information from books was voracious and wide-ranging.
    • In addition, he liked to pick people's brains. He was constantly peppering acquaintances with the type of questions we should all learn to pose more often.
    • As usual, Leonardo was easily distracted by related topics. While studying horses, he began plotting methods to make cleaner stables; over the years he would devise multiple systems for mangers with mechanisms to replenish feed bins through conduits from an attic and to remove manure using water sluices and inclined floors.
    • Ideas are often generated in physical gathering places where neople with diverse interests encounter one another serendipitously. That is why Steve Jobs liked his buildings to have a central atrium and why the young Benjamin Franklin founded a club where the most interesting people of Philadelphia would gather every Friday. At the court of Ludovico Sforza, Leonardo found friends who could spark new ideas by rubbing together their diverse passions.
    • He developed his thoughts about these topics not just from his own experience and reading; they were formulated also through conversations with friends and colleagues. Conceiving ideas was for Leonardo, as it has been throughout history for most other crossdisciplinary thinkers, a collaborative endeavor. Unlike Michelangelo and some other anguished artists, Leonardo enjoyed being surrounded by friends, companions, students, assistants, fellow courtiers, and thinkers. In his notebooks we find scores of people with whom he wanted to discuss ideas. His closest friendships were intellectual ones.
    • What made Vitruvius's work appealing to Leonardo and Francesco was that it gave concrete expression to an analogy that went back to Plato and the ancients, one that had become a defining metaphor of Renaissance humanism: the relationship between the microcosm of man and the macrocosm of the earth.
      • Note:** Seeing nature in art and art in nature.
    • In his notebooks, he decried "men who desire nothing but material riches and are absolutely devoid of the desire for wisdom, which is the sustenance and truly dependable wealth of the mind." As a result, he spent more time pursuing wisdom than working on jobs that would make him money beyond what he needed to support his growing household retinue.
    • In notes for his treatise on painting, Leonardo recommended to young artists this practice of walking around town, finding people to use as models, and recording the most interesting ones in a portable notebook: "Take a note of them with slight strokes in a little book which you should always carry with you," he wrote. "The positions of the people are so infinite that the memory is incapable of retaining them, which is why you should keep these sketches as your guides.
    • The beauty of a notebook is that it indulges provisional thoughts, half-finished ideas, unpolished sketches, and drafts for treatises not yet refined.
    • These are not Saint Augustine's Confessions but rather the outward-looking enthrallments of a relentlessly curious explorer.
    • These little books on his belt, along with the larger sheets in his studio, became repositories for all of his manifold passions and obsessions, many of them sharing a page.
    • Leonardo's idea was to combine the streets and canals into a unified circulation system. The utopian city he envisioned would have two levels: an upper level designed for beauty and pedestrian life, and a level hidden below for canals, commerce, sanitation, and sewage.
    • On a page that includes a drawing of a water clock and sundial, he lets loose a lament that touches on the sadness of unfinished work: "We do not lack devices for measuring these miserable days of ours, in which it should be our pleasure that they be not frittered away without leaving behind any memory of ourselves in the mind of men." He began scribbling the same phrase over and over again, that includes a drawing of a water clock and suna page every time he needed to try a new pen nib or to fritter away a moment: "Tell me if anything was ever done.. .Tell me...Tell me. And at one point he jotted a cry of anguish: "While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die."
    • Alberti, in On Painting, emphasized the importance of the idea in a clear and crisp sentence: “Movements of the soul are made known by movements of the body."
    • He sought to portray not only moti corporali, the motions of the body, but also how they related to what he called "atti e moti mentali," the attitudes and motions of the mind. More important, he was a master at connecting the two.
    • The significance of this goes beyond helping us understand the anatomical aspects of the Saint Jerome. It shows that Leonardo's record of unreliability was not simply because he decided to give up on certain paintings. He wanted to perfect them, so he kept hold of many of them for years, making refinements.
      • Note:** What am I continuously refining?
    • Leonardo went on to paint the sky in the Adoration of the Magi and some highlights of the human figures and parts of the architectural ruins. Then he stopped.
    • Why? One possible reason is that the task he undertook became overwhelming for a perfectionist. As Vasari explained about Leonardo's unfinished works, he was stymied because his conceptions were "so subtle and so marvelous" that they were impossible to execute faultlessly. "It seemed to him that the hand was not able to attain to the perfection of art in carrying out the things which he imagined." According to Lomazzo, the other early biographer, “he never finished any of the works he began because, so sublime was his idea of art, he saw faults even in the things that to others seemed miracles."
    • Nevertheless, unlike Michelangelo, Leonardo was a master at painting women. From Ginevra de' Benci to the Mona Lisa, his portraits of women are deeply sympathetic and psychologically insightful. His Ginevra is innovative, at least for Italy, by ushering in a threequarter view for women's poses rather than the full profile that was standard. This allows viewers to look at the eyes of the woman, which, as Leonardo declared, are "the window of the soul." With Ginevra women were no longer presented as passive mannequins but were shown as people with their own thoughts and emotions.
    • He also honed the skills of courtiership. Interested in every art and technology, he would grill people from all walks of life, from cobblers to university scholars, to learn their secrets.
      • Diversity of [[Knowledge]] — “After attending seven regional conferences in seven states with President Hinckley, Elder Nelson learned what others who traveled with him also observed. Regardless of the destination, he knew something about the history of the area and its people. In the pear-growing area of Medford, Oregon, for example, President Hinckley started a priesthood leadership meeting with a dissertation of fruit trees and how important it was to prune trees in February so that there would be fruit in September. ‘President Hinckley doesn’t expect to be bowed to and prefers to be treated as though he is an ordinary worker,’ said Elder Nelson. ‘But he isn’t ordinary in any respect. He is a multifaceted [[genius]]. He understands anatomy and physiology better than any non-physician I have worked with. He talks with builders about finials and mullions and speaks the language unique to their profession. When questions arise that have legal ramifications, he typically says, ‘I’m no lawyer, but it seems to me that…’ and them renders an opinion that my lawyer colleagues insist would be a credit to any lawyer. Whether it is medicine or law, education or plumbing, it doesn’t seem to matter. He grasps things quickly, has an amazing breadth of knowledge, and can apply what he knows.’ A man with an insatiable appetite for [[Learning]], President Hinckley not only read widely but found other ways to increase his knowledge and understanding of specialized areas of expertise. After observing him at another regional conference, Elder Nelson reported: ‘One of the security officers assigned to us worked for the local police department. We had time between sessions, and President Hinckley grilled that officer for an hour about their procedures, techniques, and even the equipment they used. I marveled that he knew which questions to ask, each of which was law-enforcement specific.’ Bishop [[Robert D. Hales]] added: ‘I have never met an individual who can become so well informed through reading and through contact with people. When he spends an evening at dinner with someone, he leaves knowing something about that individual’s expertise.’” #Conversation #[[Spirit of Humility]]
    • There was no place then, and few places ever, that offered a more stimulating environment for creativity than Florence in the 1400s. Its economy, once dominated by unskilled wool-spinners, had flourished by becoming one that, like our own time, interwove art, technology, and commerce.
    • "Intellectual passion drives out sensuality," he wrote in one of his notebooks.
    • “First I shall do some experiments before I proceed further," he announced, "because my intention is to consult experience first and then with reasoning show why such experience is bound to operate in such a way.
    • It was a good time for a child with such ambitions and talents to be born. In 1452 Johannes Gutenberg had just opened his publishing house, and soon others were using his moveable-type press to print books that would empower unschooled but brilliant people like Leonardo. #Education
      • Why hasn’t [[Khan Academy]] had the same affect?
    • They will say that because I have no book learning I cannot properly express what I desire to describebut they do not know that my subjects require experience rather than the words of others.
    • Other than a little training in commercial math at what was known as an "abacus school," Leonardo was mainly self-taught. He often seemed defensive about being an unlettered man," as he dubbed himself with some irony. But he also took pride that his lack of formal schooling led him to be a disciple of experience and experiment." #Education
    • His notebooks and drawings are a window into his fevered, imaginative, manic, and sometimes elated mind. Had he been a student at the outset of the twenty-first century, he may have been put on a pharmaceutical regimen to alleviate his mood swings and attention-deficit disorder. One need not subscribe to the artist-as-troubled-genius trope to believe we are fortunate that Leonardo was left to his own devices to slay his demons while conjuring up his dragons.
    • Vision without execution is hallucination. Skill without imagination is barren.
    • Slapping the “genius" label on Leonardo oddly minimizes him by making it seem as if he were touched by lightning. In fact, Leonardo's genius was a human one, wrought by his own will and ambition. His genius was of the type we can understand, even take lessons from. It was based on skills we can aspire to improve in ourselves, such as curiosity and intense observation.
    • I embarked on this book because Leonardo da Vinci is the ultimate example of the main theme of my previous biographies: how the ability to make connections across disciplines—arts and sciences, humanities and technology—is a key to innovation, imagination, and genius. #[[Multidisciplinary Thinking]]
    • "Likewise in painting, I can do everything possible," he wrote." Thus he became the archetype of the Renaissance Man, an inspiration to all who believe that the "infinite works of nature," as he put it, are woven together in a unity filled with marvelous patterns. #polymath