Books: Tragic Pursuit

LEONARDO DA VINCI (561 pp.)—An-tonina Vallentin—Viking ($5).

Was Leonardo da Vinci a failure? A good many of his contemporaries thought so, and Leonardo gloomily agreed with them. It remained for posterity to decide that he was perhaps the most prodigiously gifted man who ever lived, the archetype of the Renaissance man.

Yet there is much ty be said for Michelangelo's accusation that Leonardo squandered the greatest of his gifts—his genius as an artist. Antonina Vallentin concludes, in her excellent biography, that it was the "tragic pursuit of perfection" that kept Leonardo moving restlessly from field to field. First published in the '30s, and...

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