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Exploring the mysteries of Leonardo

Exhibit reveals a ‘superhuman’ artist, inventor

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“His mind and personality seem to us superhuman, the man himself mysterious and remote.”

Thus wrote art historian Helen Gardner about the archetype of Renaissance Man, Leonardo da Vinci. But is there a mystery still about Leonardo’s sexual orientation?

This giant polymath of the High Renaissance — painter, sculptor, scientist, civil and military engineer, architect, mathematician, musician, anatomist, botanist and writer — appears to have no close relationships with women, except for one. He kept his private life indeed quite secret.

His sexual orientation has been the subject of analysis and speculation and even satire.

He has been thought by many, including Sigmund Freud, to have been gay, but Freud believed him to have merely been latent — gay-oriented but that those desires were unfulfilled.

Some have concluded that he was chastely gay, traumatically stung into sexless celibacy after a charge against him of sodomy with a male prostitute in 1476 when he was 24.

Or instead, as the art historian Kenneth Clark supposed, was Leonardo intimate with two of his pupils? One of them confided to Leonardo’s brothers after his death that the great man’s feelings for his young students were “sviscerato et ardentissimo” (“deeply felt and most ardent love”).

And then there are Leonardo’s private, erotic drawings of one of those pupils, also his ward, the notorious boy known by his well-deserved nickname “Salai” (the little unclean one), who came to live with Leonardo when he was a 10-year-old in 1490 when the painter was 38, and lived with him for 30 more years. Other paintings, especially “John the Baptist” and “Bacchus,” depict androgyny and homoeroticism.

An exhibit at the National Geographic Museum, “Da Vinci – the Genius,” which closes there on Sept. 12, should help to sweep away some of the mysteries surrounding da Vinci, the man who was perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived, whose unquenchable curiosity was equaled only by his vast powers of invention.

The exhibit, which concentrates on his scientific and engineering side as much as his artistic scope, illustrates the point made by the historian Marco Resci who declared of Leonardo that his vision of the world was cooly rational and empirical and not mysterious at all.

For example, in the National Geographic exhibit, which offers a stunning catalogue of the range of da Vinci’s epic genius, consider the section on flight, summed up by Leonardo himself in these words: “There shall be wings! If the accomplishment be not for me, t’is for some other.” For Leonardo was the first to look at the science of flight and in the process to create the engineering of aeronautics.

Leonardo began this study working on the design for flying machines based on wing movements he observed closely by analyzing the flight patterns of birds and bats and dissecting them to study the anatomy of their wings. Later, however, he realized that humans — with less than a quarter of their weight in their arms and chest muscles — would simply never have the strength to fly like birds.

So he began instead to investigate flight without wing movement, by careful study of wind velocity and ways to use air currents to reach great heights. And his ideas, sketched in his many notebooks using his striking mirror-image cursive (being left handed, it was easier for him to write from right to left), foreshadow the use of gliders, airplanes and helicopters and also parachutes of today.

The genius of the National Geographic Exhibit is how it demonstrates the full scope of Leonardo’s genius. It is a comprehensive traveling presentation that required more than a decade to complete and features a vast array of full-scale machine inventions built according to his personal “codices” (or notebooks). It also includes reproductions of his most famous paintings, including the “Mona Lisa.”

To understand the mystery and the genius of Leonardo da Vinci, this is an opportunity not to be missed.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ben Sweeney

    August 26, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Dear David: The best way to understand leonardo’s Sexual orientation is to put your self back in the renaissance as a bastard son of a CPA whose mother was likely middle eastern slave …. Then realize that he served kings and Queens as a very important confidant…. He was then portrayed as Plato holding the book Timeo by Raphael…. Obviously Leonardo was very special was considered a Plato-like figure by his contemporaries… If you would like to see objective evidence about Leonardo, visit http://www.leonardoshands.com all the best, ben

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Bars & Parties

Disco Funk Brunch at Crazy Aunt Helen’s

Tara Hoot and DJ Phil Reese perform

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Tara Hoot and DJ Phil Reese (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Drag queen Tara Hoot and DJ Phil Reese perform at the biweekly Disco Funk Brunch at the LGBT-owned Crazy Aunt Helen’s on Sunday. For future showtimes, go to crazyaunthelens.com. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

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Blade’s summer closing party set for Sept. 17 in Rehoboth

Benefits journalism scholarship

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Rehoboth Beach Museum, Joe Maggio Realty, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

The Washington Blade’s 15-year tradition of hosting a summer kickoff party in Rehoboth Beach was disrupted due to COVID restrictions. In lieu of that May event, the Blade is hosting a summer closing party on Friday, Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. at The Pines (56 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del.). 

Tickets are $20, which includes two drinks and appetizers. The event benefits the Blade Foundation’s Steve Elkins Memorial Journalism Fellowship, a 12-week program in which an LGBTQ student journalist covers stories of interest to Delaware’s queer community each summer. 

All COVID safety protocols will be followed, including a requirement that attendees furnish proof of vaccination to gain entry. 

If you are unable to attend you can make a donation to the Blade Foundation at BladeFoundation.org. Sponsors of the event include Delmarva Power and The Pines.

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Rehoboth to close out summer with SunFest

Series of events to replace long-running Sundance due to pandemic

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This year’s Sundance in Rehoboth is renamed SunFest and will look different from this scene in 2019 due to the pandemic. (Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

SunFest will feature a week of live performances, dances, and a live auction, sponsored by non-profit LGBTQ+ center CAMP Rehoboth.

The weeklong festival runs from Aug. 29 to Sept. 5 and is a change from the annual SunDance that CAMP Rehoboth has sponsored since 1988. This transformation began last year when the event was forced to go digital due to the coronavirus and the in-person events scheduled this year are important, according to development director and co-coordinator of SunFest Anita Broccolino.

“We love that community feel and the in-person makes all the difference in the world for us. Not being able to do it last year just reminded everyone how important we all are to one another,” Broccolino said. “I think that bringing back these events this year is just huge for us and it will be extra celebratory as a result.”

The festival begins with a 5k race and online auction opening on Sunday. Monday night features a give-back event at Iron Hill Brewery while Tuesday’s agenda is still to be determined, said Broccolino. Diego’s will host a Studio 54 give-back dance party on Wednesday and Thursday is the Port 251 women’s give-back. 

Live performances featuring the Skivvies, Randy Harrison and Diane Huey are scheduled for Friday night and Jennifer Holiday will follow with a performance on Saturday night, both at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center. The festival closes out Sunday with auction pick-ups and Fun in the Sand and Sun, according to the CAMP Rehoboth website.

This event is also important to the organization’s contributions to the community, said Broccolino.

“The essential services we provide for free to the community, which is a huge amount of health and wellness activities, as well as arts programming, a lot of youth programming and the community counts on us for those things. We never stopped during COVID, we made as much as we could virtual, but we took quite a hit not being able to raise those funds and awareness of the programs,” Broccolino said. “We invite the entire community to come celebrate with us and make it to Rehoboth Beach, and let’s make it joyful, and wonderful and make sure we’re living up to the standards of all the people who helped found CAMP Rehoboth and live up to their legacy and beyond.”

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