chapter
Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)
Pages 7

Leonardo da Vinci, painter of the Mona Lisa, has long been held up as the epitome of the universal genius for his achievements in numerous branches of the arts and sciences and is one of the most written-about figures from the Italian Renaissance. The reconstruction of Leonardo’s sexual orientation and its consequences for both his artistic and scientific work has been relatively short on facts and long on speculation. Central to most accounts are a set of archival documents recording anonymous accusations of sodomy lodged twice in 1476 against him while he was an apprentice in Andrea del Verrocchio’s workshop in Florence. Both charges-which implicated Leonardo and several other Florentine citizens, some from prominent families, with one Jacopo Saltarelli, an artist’s model whose name appears in at least one other sodomy case prosecuted by the Office of the Night, a special magistracy set up to police homosexual activity-were dismissed.