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Leonardo da Vinci and India

 

Leonardo da Vinci never visited India and yet he nurtured a deep empathy for the land its people and culture.  This comes across from the reading of his many manuscripts, a study of his art work and the records of his contemporaries.  Leonardo, the master artist read much material on India.  "This second hand information could have given Leonardo the idea of relationship between Man and Nature which is very different from that possessed by the European and Italian Renaissance people," said Prof. Carlo Vecce, who is a professor of Italian Literature, at the University of Macerata.  Prof. Vecce delivered a lecture at the IGNCA (October 12, 2004) on the topic "Leonardo da Vinci and India."

He said that Renaissance placed Man at the centre of the Universe.   Studying da Vinci centuries later, a German scholar had called him a 'super Christian.'  The German scholar had said that da Vinci knew the Orient.

Prof. Vecce described da Vinci as a universal personality, not merely because of his famous paintings, but because of his approach to various subjects like science and art.  He is also well-known in every country, he added.  Drawing attention to the fact that da Vinci was a pure vegetarian, not eating anything of blood, he said that it was very strange in the West during da Vinci's time.  In fact one of the Italian travellers and a friend of da Vinci during his visit to India wrote back home about the "impressive" fact that meat and non-vegetarian food was abhorred by the king and the ruling classes in Gujarat, whereas it was common amongst the lower strata of people.  He likened it to the taste of da Vinci and also exclaimed that this situation was just the reverse of the one prevailing the West where it was the ruling gentry that enjoyed meat and the laity were generally kept away from it.

Da Vinci wrote about a fictitious journey to the east.  He imagined he was in India.  His writings were enigmatic, Prof. Vecce said.  Some of his landscape paintings were non-European looking and certainly had a Oriental appeal, he added.

 

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