Angelo Paratico speaks about Leonardo da Vinci
Angelo wrote a very interesting piece about Leonardo Da Vinci in the Corriere della Sera, in the blog ‘La nostra storia, di Dino Messina’, published on 23 July 2014. The title of the article is Il lato francese di Leonardo da Vinci nella biografia di Serge Bramly. Angelo speaks about the book Leonardo Da Vinci, Artista, Scienziato, Filosofo, by the French essayist Serge Bramly, and about the mystery that still surrounds Leonardo.
I was and I still am very attracted by the story of this incredible genius and sometimes, when studying his works, I think he has come from Mars as he was so ahead of his time. Two coincidences helped my closeness with Leonardo’s figure.
First, I spent a lot of time in the village of Vinci because I was working as a business consultant for Pastificio Lensi, which has been since 1920 a boutique company, a family firm making of very good Italian pasta. I became a friend of this very nice family. The father, Marzio, was an indefatigable entrepreneur, the mother was always supportive and maternal, and the daughter, very beautiful and dynamic, was the export manager of the company. I assisted at her wedding too, and I remember that I danced all long night in a Renaissance villa, quite drunk, with a woman from Rome who had very pointed and hard breasts – of which feature, as a consultant, I was very curious. About the village of Vinci, which I liked so much, I can quote Pasta Lensi’s brochure (http://www.pastalensi.com):
‘Before the birth of Pasta Lensi in Vinci, Italy, the little Tuscan village in the Florence province, with its iconic vineyards and olive groves, had already made history. It was from this small, scenic village that one of Italy’s most famous residents, Leonardo Da Vinci, lived during the Italian Renaissance. Among his many titles, Leonardo was a painter, sculptor, scientist, inventor and musician, who loved the art of food and entertaining. His inspiration went well beyond painting The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. He lent his creative juices to the kitchen and developed the first spit-turner and the first barbecue stove. Long after Leonardo had left his mark, the village of Vinci birthed other artists and artisans, including Pasta Lensi with its Old World methods of creating the perfect pasta with the best, freshest ingredients. Greatness, in many forms, comes from Vinci!’
In the meantime – during my consultancy in Vinci, I mean, not during the wedding dances – I had my headquarters in Corso Magenta in Milan, in front of the Chiesa delle Grazie where there is the painting The Last Supper. Leonardo had resided in Milan in the house where I had my office, where he painted this masterpiece. In the meeting room there is a column finely painted in pale colours – the background is a light green. It is possible to spot an elegant climber and a little bird that the landlord (and the Italian Fine Art Ministry) insisted they were made by Leonardo himself. That was a terrific excuse, you can imagine, to increase the rent of the office each year – until it became unaffordable and we had to give up.
In conclusion, I was very close to Leonardo da Vinci and I could study with great dedication his life and his work. And I always had the impression, as I said, that there was something strange and mysterious in his life. You can say that he was a genius, a polymath, and that is all, but if you analyse the whole of his work – or rather the small part that we have after the disappearance of the major part of his documents – you can feel something incoherent with his historical period, something that seems to have originated in another space-time dimension.
I remember a funny movie, Non ci resta che piangere (Nothing Left to Do but Cry), in 1984, starring Massimo Troisi and Roberto Benigni who, one day, discover that that they have travelled back in time to the year 1492 and are in a Tuscan village. They meet Leonardo Da Vinci. The three have a talk, and Massimo and Roberto try to explain to Leonardo inventions that were back then unknown (such as traffic lights, electricity, trains, etc.), which he seems incapable of understanding. The character of Leonardo is very humorous since he looked like a dull student. At the end of the film, Massimo and Roberto spot steam coming up from somewhere down the valley and hear a train whistle blowing, and are happy thinking that they have returned to their own time. Actually, it was Leonardo da Vinci, who had in the meantime treasured their bizarre teachings and invented the locomotive.
It is a joke, a comic movie, but the truth is that the only thing missing for Leonardo was energy, which was not available back then. If Leonardo had had a form of energy, he would have realised almost everything – and you must agree that that is a strange thing for a man of the fifteenth century, born in the distant village of Vinci.
Since I’m now in Cambridge for a week, let me conclude these considerations by remembering another scientific mystery, this time of mathematics: Srinivasa Ramanujan, (1887–1920), an incredible Indian genius devoid of higher education, or rather completely autodidact. He was co-opted in Cambridge by Hardy and Littlewood, two great mathematicians, because of his strange findings. He made extraordinary contributions to number theory, infinite series and continued fractions simply by speaking at night with the goddess of Namagiri, the consort of Narasimha, the lionman incarnation of Vishnu. He would absorb the elements of a difficult problem and the morning after was ready with astonishing formulae, which nobody understood where they came from. Read the book The Music of the Primes, by Marcus du Sautoy, if you are interested in my digressions about mathematics – you won’t regret it.
Yes, there are strange things that make art and science more interesting. So, Angelo, don’t give up until you discover Leonardo da Vinci’s mystery. Was he a man or a Martian, please?