2nd May 1519
i
Illustration by Igor Kubik
Experiences

2nd May 1519

Anniversary of the Month
Adam Węgłowski
Reading
time 4 minutes

Just over 500 years ago, in the Clos Lucé in Amboise, France, Leonardo da Vinci passed away at 67 years of age. He had spent the last months of his life dependent on the mercy of the French king, struggling with physical handicaps brought on by a cerebral stroke. Leonardo busied himself with organizing his notes, rarely making attempts at creating new sketches. Surely this was not how he imagined growing old. Not to mention our idea of how the Tuscan genius should have retired, considering the esteem and respect his name evokes to this day. Indeed, he was considered a genius already back in the day; people admired his paintings and blueprints, and he became an inspiration to generations of artists and inventors. Still, it was far from the idolatrous worship Leonardo receives today.

The growing obsession

Take Mona Lisa. Back then, it was considered just one of many paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, and not the most awe-inspiring work of all time. The Gioconda only gained its fame and lustre after it was stolen from the Louvre in August 1911. Strange circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the painting, the investigation, suspected leads – all of these things fuelled public interest in the painting. “In the ensuing months, composers wrote tunes about the Mona Lisa and its subject’s beauty; editorial cartoonists mocked police efforts to find her; and cabaret singers appeared as topless versions of her,” writes publicist Simon Houpt in his book Museum of

Information

You’ve reached your free article’s limit this month. You can get unlimited access to all our articles and audio content with our digital subscription. If you have an active subscription, please log in.

Subscribe

Also read:

23rd April 1564
i
Illustration by Igor Kubik
Experiences

23rd April 1564

Anniversary of the Month
Adam Węgłowski

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in England. Or, at least, we assume so. His father was John Shakespeare, a farmers’ son who did a lot of odd jobs (including working as a beer tester!) before he advanced socially, thanks to his successful glove-selling business and active participation in local politics. William’s mother, Mary, came from the prominent Arden family.

Doesn’t sound too shabby, does it? And yet Mark Twain mocked the Bard, saying that his parents could not read, write, or even sign their names. This might have also been the case with William’s numerous siblings. Strangely, however, it is said that he was sent for schooling to Oxford-educated teachers who equipped him with a broad education. Why was William the one to be granted such privilege? Nobody knows. Also, one cannot help but wonder if gifted teachers were the only key to the all-round knowledge the Bard was so eager to flaunt in his works. How come this provincial son of a nouveau riche father had such broad vocabulary, was intimately familiar with classical literature, knew his way around court life, and was fluent in legal matters, as well as military science, seafaring and medicine, not to mention mythology, folklore and the customs of various countries other than England. It couldn’t possibly all be exclusively due to the comprehensive education programme, could it?

Continue reading