The untold story ofVitruvian Man, the drawing that captured the spirit of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance - and that still haunts our own
Vitruvian Manis 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. InDa 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 Ghostis 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.
Toby Lester is a contributing editor toThe Atlanticwhere he has been a writer, staff editor, senior editor and deputy managing editor. He is the author ofThe Fourth Part of the Worldwhich tells the story of the map that gave America its name.
'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.', Sister Wendy Beckett
'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'sDa Vinci's Ghostis 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.', David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z
'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.', Charles Mann, author of 1493 and 1491
'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.', Howard Markel, author of An Anatomy of Addiction
'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.', Chris Anderson, editor, Wired
'Like Da Vinci's famous drawing, Toby Lester's book is a small wonder-a work of brilliant compression that illuminates a whole world of life and thought. Lester proves himself to be the perfect guide to the Renaissance and beyond-affable, knowledgeable, funny. Leonardo's Virtruvian Man turns out to be a road map that can take us to remarkable places-once you learn how to read it.', Cullen Murphy, editor at large, Vanity Fair
'In the tradition of Dava Sobel and Stephen Greenblatt and, increasingly, himself, Toby Lester takes us on yet another marvelous mind ramble, this time following the wending centuries-long course, or rather the veritable watershed of such courses, that led to Leonardo's Vitruvian Man.', Lawrence Weschler, director, the New York Institute for the Humanities, and author of Uncanny Valley: Adventures in the Narrative
'Lester braids intellectual threads-philosophy, anatomy, architecture, and art-together in a way that reaffirms not only Leonardo's genius but also re-establishes the significance of historical context in understanding great works of art.', Publishers Weekly, Starred review
'Lester... beautifully demonstrates the intellectual pedigree of Leonardo's image', Moira Jeffrey, The Scotsman
'It's a fascinating intellectual history, and it's expertly told. Lester has got form here.', David Robinson, The Scotsman
'Toby Lester's Da Vinci's Ghost hits the mark... a compelling portrait of Leonardo, a potted history of western civilisation from ancient Rome to the Renaissance, and leavens scholarship with storytelling and graceful prose.', Rachel Spence, Financial Times
'This book is most of all a very well written and lucidly argued piece of intellectual synthesis.', Micheal Glover, Independent
'Richly rewarding', New York Times