Mercedes T. Bass Lecture: Leonardo da Vinci and His World

August 8, 2017  • Society of Fellows

What elements of a place and time spark and nourish creativity? One might say Leonardo was born at the right time — an extraordinary talent with the good luck to live when artistic expression and scientific exploration were deeply valued and financially supported (though Leonardo himself struggled to find steady patronage). How did the context of Renaissance Italy allow Leonardo and his contemporaries to experiment so boldly and reach such spectacular heights? We’ll explore Florence and Milan — with a short stop in France — to illuminate the particular aspects of the era’s political structure, patronage system, the Church, and key scientific debates and discoveries that yielded this magical mix. If Leonardo had been born elsewhere in another century, would he be the icon we revere today? What lessons can we apply to our own society?

Featuring Bill Cook, Walter Isaacson, Martin Kemp, Ross King, Luke Syson, and Bill Wallace in conversation.