Wednesday, November 13th, 2019. New York City – Do you think it is important to know the sexual orientation of Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, more commonly known as Leonardo da Vinci?
Hettie Judah wrote an article about two of his young and handsome male assistants, Salaí and Melzi. Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno – known by Da Vinci as Salaí was a 10 years old boy when entered Leonardo’s workshop in 1490. Salaí stayed with Leonardo for 25 years. Francesco Melzi came into Leonardo’s life in around 1505. Melzi stayed with Leonardo until his death in 1519.
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“Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (14/15 April 1452 – 2 May 1519), more commonly known as Leonardo da Vinci, was an Italian polymath of the Renaissance whose areas of interest included invention, drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, paleontology, and cartography. He is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time, despite perhaps only 15 of his paintings having survived. The Mona Lisa is the most famous of his works and the most popular portrait ever made. The Last Supper is the most reproduced religious painting of all time and his Vitruvian Man drawing is regarded as a cultural icon as well. Leonardo’s paintings and preparatory drawings—together with his notebooks, which contain sketches, scientific diagrams, and his thoughts on the nature of painting—compose a contribution to later generations of artists rivalled only by that of his contemporary Michelangelo.
Although he had no formal academic training, many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime exemplar of the “Universal Genius” or “Renaissance Man”, an individual of “unquenchable curiosity” and “feverishly inventive imagination.” He is widely considered one of the most diversely talented individuals ever to have lived. According to art historian Helen Gardner, the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent in recorded history, and “his mind and personality seem to us superhuman, while the man himself mysterious and remote.” Scholars interpret his view of the world as being based in logic, though the empirical methods he used were unorthodox for his time.”_Wikipedia.org
OK, but was Leonardo da Vinci gay, bisexual, heterosexual or what?
Hettie Judah wrote the article, “The men who Leonardo da Vinci loved” on BBC.com, “As historic characters, Salaí (Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno) and Melzi (Francesco Melzi) come down to us through Leonardo’s depictions of them in word and image – both men were noted for their beauty, and Salaí is thought to be the model for the paintings Bacchus and Saint John the Baptist. To both composer and librettist, the relationships appear to have been more intense and profound than simply artist and assistants. “Leonardo draws Salaí so much, it’s not hard to say he was a muse as well,” says Mills. “Everyone considers him to have been Leonardo’s companion – he buys him expensive clothes, they travel together, everyone talks about how beautiful he was.”
In negotiating their way through the hard facts of Da Vinci’s life – and the gaps between them – Mills and Mullin enlisted the help of leading scholars Martin Kemp and Martin Clayton. “We wanted the conclusions we were drawing to be as likely as possible and as historically accurate as possible,” says Mills. “Leonardo scholars and academics conclude he very likely was gay, everything points toward that – the opera gives us a chance to explore that part of him in a year when everything else is being explored.”
While Da Vinci was a man ahead of his time in many ways, the nature of his companionship with Salaí was very much of its day. “Relationships like this between adult men and teenage boys were actually quite common in the world Leonardo moved in,” says Mullin. In the period Leonardo lived in Florence early in his career, homosexual relationships were so prevalent that the term ‘Florenzer’ became German slang for same-sex relationships. However in an attempt to control the practice, the city government encouraged citizens to denounce it. Aged 23, Leonardo was among four artists publicly accused of sodomy following an anonymous tip-off. “It is not known for certain if he went to jail,” says Mullin. “But that public shaming may have encouraged Leonardo to turn in on himself.”
The result of this inward gaze, Mills explains, is that “we don’t know much about Leonardo the man. In some ways it doesn’t matter what his sexuality was…”
So, was Leonardo da Vinci gay? Does it matter if he was homosexual?
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