“Dante is of importance to Leonardo in two respects. One is a fairly obvious one in that he really set in train…the standard Florentine poetic genre of the beloved lady. In his work, Beatrice is never really somebody he knows that well but she is idealised and sublimated into this extraordinary object of rarefied desire. He set in motion a tradition that goes through Petrarch and beyond, and one that was still thriving in the Leonardo courts…The other aspect to it is that Dante is the supreme poet-natural philosopher. We know about Dante’s imagination, we know his great storytelling abilities, but we tend to take into account rather less that in The Divine Comedy and in all his works – the Convivio (the Banquet) not least – there is an enormous amount of learning about objects, about physics, about the behaviour of things in the natural world and about light, above all. The Paradiso is about light. And also about the act of seeing. So, I think, for Leonardo, it was not just that Dante was the most potent poet he could read but that he set in train a sense of the science of art; the poetic imagination – ‘fantasia’ as Dante and Leonardo called it – is compatible with ‘intelletto’ – with the intellect – and that these are two strings to the poet’s bow. So, it’s the ability to understand how the natural world operates and the ability then to transmute that into an imaginative realm.” Read more...
The best books on Leonardo da Vinci
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