Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, better known as Leonardo da Vinci, was an Italian painter, sculptor, engineer, scientist, inventor, and architect. Da Vinci is known to many in different ways, but he is most renowned for his most famous painting, the Mona Lisa. He was born out of wedlock near Vinci to Piero da Vinci, a successful notary, and Caterina di Meo Lippi, a lower-class woman. He was educated under painter and sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio in Florence.
He began his career in Florence but soon moved to Milan and spent some time in the service of Ludovico Sforza. He spent most of his life in Florence and Milan, with a brief stay in Rome. Da Vinci amassed a large following, a large number of imitators, and lots of students. Throughout his life, da Vinci created various sculptures, painted works of art that have endured till the present day, and designed revolutionary inventions. Some of his blueprints include ideas for an early flying machine and a tank.
Leonardo da Vinci is often called a revolutionary, a genius, a man ahead of his time. Even by today’s standards, da Vinci’s skills and achievements are still a marvel. He is often credited as the founder of the High Renaissance. Much of da Vinci’s works have been lost to time. Fewer than 25 attributed major works remain, including numerous unfinished works.
Any scholar studying the Renaissance period or Western art always ends up bewildered by da Vinci’s many talents. His mind was a marvel of human design. Since his death, his achievements, interests, empirical thinking, and personal life have always incited interest and admiration. Da Vinci’s incredible mind wasn’t the only thing people wanted to unravel about him. In their pursuit to understand the man, many historians have asked the question: “Was Leonardo da Vinci gay?” Let’s take a closer look at the revolutionary inventor and artist’s personal life to answer this question.
VOTE: What was Leonardo Da Vinci’s Sexuality?
Leonardo da Vinci’s Relationships
Da Vinci’s famed notebooks contain a myriad of sketches and drawings of highly detailed mechanical inventions and human anatomy. He jotted down whatever his mind could conjure, but he didn’t write down much regarding his personal life. His sexuality has long been a subject of speculation and satire. Interest in the artist’s gender identity began in the mid-16th century. It was revived during the 20th century, mostly thanks to Sigmund Freud and his “Leonardo da Vinci, A Memory of His Childhood.”
Leonardo and His Students, Melzi and Salai
Two notable men whom da Vinci was rumored to have been heavily involved with were his pupils Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno and Count Francesco Melzi. Caprotti was nicknamed Salai or il Salaino, translating to “little devil.” Salai had gotten the nickname thanks to the long list of misdemeanors. Da Vinci had called him “a thief, a liar, stubborn, and a glutton.”
Salai stayed with da Vinci until the great artist’s death, remaining a loyal servant for 30 years. Da Vinci’s most prized painting, the Mona Lisa, was bequeathed to Salai. This act has led many to assume that da Vinci and Salai’s relationship transcended that of a master and his pupil. Salai is often referred to as being beautiful. It is rumored that he was the inspiration for da Vinci’s “Bacchus” and “Saint John the Baptist,” which elicit androgyny and eroticism.
Melzi stayed with da Vinci in France until his death. When da Vinci died, Melzi wrote to da Vinci’s brothers, stating that da Vinci was “like an excellent father to me,” he continued, saying:
Da Vinci described his feelings for the students as loving and passionate. As far back as the 16th century, these relationships have been considered homosexual and erotic in nature. Biographers have made claims that da Vinci explicitly expressed his relations with Salai as intimate and sexual.
Leonardo da Vinci, Sodomy, and Sexuality
When da Vinci was 24 years old, he, along with several other artists, was arrested in 1476 for sodomy. An anonymous tip had led authorities to a male prostitute who had reportedly offered services to da Vinci and a handful of other men. The accusations were later dropped as no evidence supported the claim. Rumor has it that one of the accused, a member of the aristocratic Tornabuoni family, was the main reason the charges were dropped quickly.
A passage from one of his notebooks is one of the few known circumstances in which da Vinci made a reference to his sexuality. The passage states: “The act of procreation and anything that has any relation to it is so disgusting that human beings would soon die out if there were no pretty faces and sensuous dispositions.” This statement has long been subject to various interpretations in the pursuit to find da Vinci’s sexuality.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Most Important Works
Da Vinci has created some of the most significant paintings in Western art. The “Mona Lisa,” his magnum opus, is his best-known work and is considered the most famous painting in the world. “The Last Supper” is also the most reproduced religious painting of all time. The “Vitruvian Man,” a drawing of a man with perfect proportions, is often used as a symbol of humanity and is a cultural icon. In 2017, “Salvator Mundi” was auctioned and priced at $430 million, making it the most expensive painting ever sold at a public auction.
Was Leonardo da Vinci Gay?
Yes, Leonardo da Vinci was gay. Scholars believe that da Vinci was gay as he had always surrounded himself with young men. There is little to no information pointing to da Vinci having any significant relationships with women, but it is possible that he was bisexual. The relationship he had with his young male pupils seems to be the best supporting detail of his sexuality. He had often referred to their relationships as sexual.