Since my early childhood at Notre Dame des Victoires RCA, I have always nurtured an adoration for all sorts of heroes. And one of my heroes who remains forefront in my mind is the Italian Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci (photo). 2019 marks the quincentennial of the death of the great Italian master who passed away following a stroke on the 2nd May 1519, at the age of 67. Leonardo da Vinci died in the Chateau of Clos Lucé, near Amboise, in France, where he went to live in 1517 following a pressing invitation from the French King Francis I.
Why am I in awe with Leonardo?
Because he did not receive any formal education. I first heard that piece of information from Max Moutia, over the radio, when I was doing my fifth standard.
Because it is said that his mother was a slave, da Vinci was an illegitimate child. “Da Vinci” is not a surname but the name of the town where he was born, Vinci.
Because he was ambidextrous.
Because my hero was a vegetarian who loved animals and despised all sorts of wars. Paradoxically, my later readings of his life will show that he used his genius to invent arms. He also bought caged animals to set them free.
Because he invented the bicycle (300 years before the first real bike), hydraulic pumps, drew plans for armoured vehicles, produced drawing of bridges, created expandable tube (Bouée which children use worldwide), designed the first parachute…
Because he was the first man to propose contact lenses in 1508.
Because Leonardo da Vinci drew the muscles of cadavers which he stole during the night.
Because he wrote from right to left. He had a passion for secrecy, puns…
Because he escaped death penalty. Yes, the genius was 24 when he was arrested on charges of sodomy along with his male companions but was saved due to lack of witnesses. He has no relationships with women. However, on this aspect, I have not been able to understand him.
Because of his famous painting Mona Lisa. It is said that my great hero took ten years just to paint the lips of Mona Lisa.
It is interesting to quote what he said on his death bed: “I have offended God and mankind. My work did not reach the quality it should have.” Can one be a better perfectionist than Leonardo, who was also a great procrastinator?
And I was taught by Rev. Luchumaya, my history teacher at St Andrews School, in the early 80’s that:
(a) “Learning never exhaust the mind”;
(b) “Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master”;
(c) “Where there is shouting there is no true knowledge”.
In Mauritius, we will fail to our expense to celebrate Leonardo. Luckily, we have the Internet. Thank you Vint Cerf (Father of the Internet) and his collaborator Robert E. Kahn, who, in December 1997, were awarded the US National Medal of Technology by President Bill Clinton for founding and developing the Internet.