Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Leonardo da Vinci: Young Artist, Writer, and Inventor

Leonardo da Vinci: Young Artist, Writer, and Inventor

George E. Stanley
For ages 8 to 12
Simon and Schuster, 2005   ISBN: 978-1416905707

Leonardo was only two when his mother, a pretty peasant woman, took him to live with his grandparents. She knew that they would be able to do more for her son than she could and she hoped that the baby's father, Ser Piero, would help her boy make it in the world. Though he did not visit his son much in Vinci, when Leonardo was fourteen his father sent for him. Leonardo was going to live in Florence where he would learn a trade.

Ser Piero did not know much about his son, having seen him so infrequently over the years. So he asked Leonardo what he would like to do with his life. What was he good at? Leonardo explained that he loved to draw and he showed his father some of his sketches. Ser Piero was so impressed with what he saw that he asked the renowned artist, Andrea del Verrocchio to take Leonardo on as an apprentice in his bottega – his workshop. When Verrocchio saw what Leonardo could do he was eager to take the boy on as a student. There was no doubt that Leonardo was very gifted indeed.

In fact Leonardo was soon helping his master out when commissions came in. Leonardo could draw hands better than Verrocchio and he drew beautiful angels. Wanting to improve his drawing and painting skills further Leonardo decided to ask a local doctor to let him watch the dissections that he did on dead people and animals. It was a disagreeable thing to have to do but Leonardo learned a lot. Having a better understanding of human and animal anatomy helped Leonardo make his subjects more lifelike. His studies of bird wings even led him to believe that wings could be made for humans which would allow them to fly through the air.

Though Leonardo was incredibly talented, intelligent, and pleasant to have around, he did have the tendency not to complete the projects that he was working on. It was a trait which he recognized in himself but which he did not know how to correct. He also struggled with periods of depression. One minute he would be feeling cheerful and the next he felt very unhappy and in need of private time alone.

In this excellent biography the author concentrates on Leonard da Vinci's early years, the years when his skills as an artist were first coming to the fore. We see how much people admired the young boy and how much his co-workers liked him. We also see that he, like the rest of us, had his flaws. Being unable to finish his projects was something which Leonardo da Vinci was prone to all his life. Indeed today galleries and museums are full of his unfinished works.

Using an intimate style of writing full of details, the author truly takes his readers back to mid 1400's Florence. He gives his audience a real feel for what it might have been like to be an apprentice artist in the great city.

This is one of the titles in the "Childhood of World Figures" series.