Cyberspace Web





Enter the web.


Leonardo da Vinci's genius has little to do with his artistic talent. Granted, that da Vinci was one of the most gifted artists among his Italian contemporaries. Yet strangely enough, painters and sculptors of at least equivalent genius, such as Michaelangelo or Raphael, seem to have stood the test of time somewhat less favorably. Leonardo da Vinci's scientific skills, though far ahead of their time, were hardly concise and their applicability were questionable at best. Leonardo could, in a manner of speaking, even be considered a complete failure, although he would constitute a tragic rather than a pathetic figure. He spent his last few decades in considerable financial difficulty, and not without reason: Leonardo had abandoned far too many of his projects before completion. Indeed, he has produced just twelve paintings over an entire lifetime. With such fiascos as the uncompleted sculpture of Francesco Sforza's father, causing a waste of hundreds of thousands of tons of bronze as well as sixteen years of da Vinci's life, wealthy patrons and sponsors seemed reluctant - and justifiably so - to hire Leonardo.

Indeed, it's somewhat difficult to make a case for an eccentric who has little to show for his life's work except for a bundle of notes scribbled in backwards handwriting and, yes, a few paintings too, to be sure. Yet, isn't this a case of what is scientifically termed as the "close but no cigar" syndrome?

Such reasoning would mean missing the whole point, however. Granted, that Leonardo's concrete achievements pale in comparison to those of such figures as Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison or Steve Wozniak, all of whom invented highly functional and widely applicable devices, creations which meant immense advances for human technology. In contrast, Leonardo's designs and experiments may seem much like masturbatory reveries. He seldom, if ever, went so far as to build working prototypes. Leonardo da Vinci never claimed to be an inventor, however, and that makes all the difference. Leonardo was less of an engineer than a visionary, and the fact that he is usually regarded as the ideal Renaissance Man depends on more than the fact that he lived during the Renaissance and that he indulged in disciplines which respectable and somewhat intelligent Renaissance figures practiced. He's a Renaissance Man because he took an interest in nearly all such disciplines, all means of creating or discovering order and beauty in our universe. (Because, obviously, information is order, which is beauty, which is art and vanilla ice cream is completely irrelevant.) Moreover, he attempted to bridge the gap between these disciplines, so that he saw the flight of birds in swimming fish, and probably the Julia set in Mona Lisa's smile. His temporal coordinates didn't agree too well with his motivations, yet that didn't matter much. Life was one big hack for him, and hack away he did - to satisfy his insatiable curiosity.

Deadlines probably constituted the only concept which Leonardo deemed irrelevant to his life's work.