Walter Isaacson 2017. Leonardo da Vinci. Simon & Schuster: New York, 599 pp.

Among so many achievements, Leonardo discovered the explanation for how the aortic valve closes (not by back pressure of the blood, but by turbulence); didn’t realise that the blood circulated; realised that mountains were the result of uplift; didn’t care about fame or spreading his knowledge (only about discovery); was a committed vegetarian but still glad design machines of war and work for brutal thugs like Cesare Borgia; was lucky to live in a time and place where it was (mostly) ok to live an open relaxed gay lifestyle.

But most interestingly, his sfumato wasn’t just a painting technique but a deeply held philosophical view that the world was infinite (contra Carlo Rovelli, for example) and that not only do we only percieve reality imperfectly, but (apparently) he thought reality itself was as seen through a veil (Isaacson’s words). An analogue guy for sure, not digital.

What a fabulously interesting book to have researched and written, or to have read. Full of wonderful reproductions of paintings and notebook pages, and heavily endnoted.

HMS Beagle by Conrad Martens