Cover image for Leonardo da Vinci : origins of a genius
Leonardo da Vinci : origins of a genius
Brown, David Alan, 1942-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven : Yale University Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
vii, 240 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 30 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
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ND623.L5 B78 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

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This study looks at Leonardo's beginnings as an artist from his years in the Florentine workshop of sculptor, Andrea del Verrocchio, to his first paintings. The author scrutinizes Leonardo's works and brings them into relation to each other and to their sources.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

In an effort to understand the developmental processes that culminate in mature works, researchers have long focused on the early years of the creative genius. This may well be the first such inquiry into the young Leonardo, and Brown, an eminent da Vinci scholar and curator of Italian Renaissance Painting at the National Gallery, has done a masterly job of tracing early influences and the emergence of da Vinci's intense curiosity about nature and ability to re-create it in drawing and painting. The chapter on "Ginevra de'Benci" is a splendid example of how art history and contemporary scientific techniques can be combined in the examination and attribution of a painting. The excellent full-page reproductions and small detail examples are carefully placed within the text for ease of reference, something too often lacking in works of this type. The bibliography is extensive, and the index is a guide not only to the text but to the additional notes as well. A fine critical study accessible to both interested lay readers and scholars; highly recommended for large general collections and all art libraries.‘Paula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Freud's long essay on Leonardo appeared in 1910, at approximately the same time that the question of attributions to the early Leonardo became heated. Both seemed at the time attacks on the prestigious founder of the High Renaissance. Brown, the curator entrusted with the sole Leonardo painting in the US, the Ginevra de' Benci in Washington, here sets out to describe the early, less canonical period of this legendary career. He concentrates particularly on the extended period in which Leonardo stayed with his master (and, it is suggested, his lover) Verrocchio, i.e., before 1477. Connoisseurship remains a live issue: Brown attributes a marble carving to Leonardo; offers a reconstruction of the front and the originally intended verso of the Ginevra and argues for an earlier date (c. 1475, as a marriage portrait); and debates the assignment of drapery drawings in the shop. Taking paint samples from Leonardos still seems to be taboo, so there is less technical analysis than one might have expected. Profuse and gorgeous color details attract expert and amateur alike. The welcome appendix details the battle in connoisseurship between Bode and Morelli, among others. Reducing Walter Pater's exorbitant hymn to Leonardo to mere footnote material has required a not-always-easy mix of social history with connoisseurship, one that will attract many and various readers. General readers; undergraduates through professionals. P. Emison; University of New Hampshire