I’m going to a Leonardo da Vinci exhibition soon, which is pretty cool, because I consider him the most inspiring man in history. Da Vinci is the essential Renaissance Man. He championed this period of enlightenment, when after 1,000 years of letting the church do their thinking, Europeans started reasoning and creating again…
I’m not even sure if Da Vinci is my most favorite Renaissance artist. As far as pure art goes, Michelangelo sure gave him a run for his money. But what I find most inspirational about him is that he was so much more than an artist. He used his brain and eyes to invent machines that were centuries ahead of their time. He was a sculptor, inventor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, writer, anatomist, geologist as well as the painter who created the Mona Lisa.
But what if Leonardo had lived in different times? Would he have been burned on the stake during the Middle Ages for being a heretic? Or if he lived today; would he map the human genome before lunch, only to waste the rest of the day trying to copy his address book to his new phone? And would he sue Dan Brown? Of course we will never know, but it’s entertaining to speculate about “What if…”
So what if Da Vinci…
…had lived during the post-World War 2 economic boom
Would he have become a Pop Artist? Da Vinci definitely had a commercial side. His list of contractors includes the Duke of Milan, the King of France, the Military, the cities of Florence and Venice, various private contractors, etc.
So would he have gone the same route as Andy Warhol or Roy Lichtenstein? Their work blends art, popular culture, advertising and design into Pop Art. Warhol is famously commercial; just think of his designs for product packaging. Campbell’s Soup labels still proudly wear their Warhol design. So how would Da Vinci have liked this period? And how would Mona Lisa have looked?
…had studied Arnold Schwarzenegger
I don’t doubt that Leonardo would have respected Governator’s accomplishments. After all, Schwarzenegger respectively became Mr Universe, moviestar and Governor of California. But I think that the man from Vinci (Yes, that is what “da Vinci” means) would especially have been fascinated by Schwarzenegger’s body.
Da Vinci was an incredible anatomist. His sketches, investigations and lectures on the muscles, bones, tendons and nerves in the human body were unparalleled in his time. He helped medical science move to a new level. So when he became well-known, he was given permission to dissect human corpses at hospitals in Rome, Milan and Florence.
The 30 corpses Leonardo dissected weren’t his only studies of the human body. He also practiced topographical anatomy, which means that he studied bodies from the surface. So a body like Arnold’s with its huge muscles and very little fat to hide their every movement, would have been absolutely fascinating for him.
…had worked with Vincent van Gogh
Would Leonardo have joined Vincent van Gogh for drinks, and seek inspiration in absinthe? Or would his brain have needed sobriety? A tripping brain may inspire an artist. It may even inspire out-of-the-box thinking, which may help an inventor explore new territories. But still, an inventor also needs to rely on his reasoning, he needs a fully functional brain.
Van Gogh defied the “rules” of the art of his time, and explored new levels of abstraction. I believe that Da Vinci would have admired that. But I don’t really see Leonardo as the person to be “tripping balls” or cut his own ear off.
…had been on Facebook
Given the number of selfies that Leonardo painted, he might have liked the social media. So would he have promoted his work on Facebook? Or would he have just been social, and messed around with his contemporaries?
Original artwork by Leonardo da Vinci, Roy Lichtenstein, Michelangelo and Vincent van Gogh. Photoshopped by firstname.lastname@example.org