About the book
Vitruvian Man is the world's most famous drawing, by one of the world's most famous artists. The image - named after a Roman architect and engineer, Vitruvius - has become visual shorthand for artistic genius and scientific inquiry, and yet nobody knows anything about it. In Da Vinci's Ghost, critically acclaimed historian Toby Lester examines the forces that converged in 1490 to turn an idea that had been around for centuries into this iconic image, bringing the ghost of an unknown Leonardo da Vinci back to life.Rooted in little-known episodes of the artist's colourful career, and taking in ideas including theories of the cosmos, Roman land-surveying and the relationship between anatomy and architecture, the book tells the story of his evolving, lifelong study of the human body, restoring in vivid detail the intellectual and cultural spheres of fifteenth-century Florence and Milan. Beautifully illustrated with da Vinci's drawings and those of his predecessors, Da Vinci's Ghost is both a personal story and a grand saga of intellectual discovery that brilliantly reconstructs the artistry and scholarship of one of the world's greatest creative minds.
Erudite, elegant, enthralling. This is a wonderful book. Toby Lester understands, and makes us understand, the unique intensity with which Leonardo saw the world. He saw it not only in its infinite diversity but also as an impression of his own self, an explanation of what it means to be human. Hence Vitruvian Man.
Every once in a while that rare book comes along that is not only wonderfully written and utterly compelling but also alters the way you perceive the world. Toby Lester's Da Vinci's Ghost is such a book. Like a detective, Lester uncovers the secrets of an iconic drawing and pieces together a magisterial history of art and ideas and beauty.
Like almost everyone, I've seen Leonardo's drawing of the nude man in the circle. But until I read Toby Lester's terrific new book, I had no idea about the story behind the picture--or even that there *was* a story behind the picture. Deftly weaving together art, architecture, history, theology and much else, Da Vinci's Ghost is a first-rate intellectual enchantment.
Da Vinci's Ghost is both a beautiful and a brilliant book. After reading Lester's account, you will never be able to look at Leonardo's Vitruvian Man the same way again.
In reconstructing the forgotten story of Vitruvian Man, Toby Lester, a canny decoder of images and a great storyteller, sheds new light on the enigmatic Leonardo da Vinci.