Leonardo da Vinci: Renaissance Man (New Horizons, Thames & Hudson, £6.95 in UK)

 

It was largely Leonardo who gave birth to the concept of the "universal" man or "Renaissance man" who could be just about everything in one - painter, architect, inventor, sage, mathematician, scientist, etc. He was, in fact, most or even all of these, but the price for such versatility was that he finished only a handful of pictures and the great equestrian statue he planned for Milan was never cast in bronze. Even the Last Supper was soon a ruin due to defective materials. There is a remote, enigmatic side to him which has baffled and fascinated commentators over the centuries, and his private life remains inscrutable. This little book is a useful summary, but Leonardo resembles a prism whose many sides dazzle you when you come too close. B.F.