Where a Little Dose of Leonardo Is Still a Lot

Holland Cottor in The New York Times:

Leonardo-head-girlIn 2003, the Metropolitan Museum mounted an exhibition of just under 100 drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and pulled in close to half a million visitors in just over two months. This fall, the Morgan Library & Museum is presenting a miniature — very miniature — version of that show called “Leonardo da Vinci: Treasures From the Biblioteca Reale, Turin,” and it, too, should generate serious traffic, particularly as it includes two outstanding items — a book and a drawing — that the Met didn’t have. Leonardo is magnetic. Even if you know nothing about art, you probably know his name. And with him, scale is relative. On the one hand, he’s titanic, god-size, this painter-sculptor-draftsman-architect-inventor-writer who was also a self-taught physicist, botanist, zoologist, musician, moral philosopher and ballistics expert. But he’s also human, our size. He was a chronic procrastinator; he was bad at languages; he was a left-hander who wrote in a quirky, backward script.

He was one of Western culture’s sublime geeks. He seems to have lived in a state of perpetual brainstorming, as if life were a theoretical proposition to be tested daily. Did he ever power down, take a vacation? Maybe, but his version of kicking back was our version of doing extra homework. His observational curiosity was unsleeping, and he carried notebooks everywhere. Anything that crossed his eye, from bugs to battlements, was worth dwelling on, sketching, writing about, thinking about, figuring out.

More here.