Leonardo da Vinci’s Bizarre Caricatures & Monster Drawings

The car­i­ca­ture was once a high­ly-regard­ed art form, before it was cor­nered on the upper end by the New York Review of Books and on the more pedes­tri­an side by board­walk and street fair artists. Dur­ing the Euro­pean Renais­sance and the ensu­ing cen­turies of artis­tic devel­op­ment, near­ly every artist had a car­i­ca­ture side project—if only in the mar­gins of their sketchbooks—and some, like Leonar­do da Vin­ci, were wide­ly known and appre­ci­at­ed for their skill in the art.

Gen­er­al­ly renowned these days for the high seri­ous­ness of his Mona Lisa, Last Sup­per, and Vit­ru­vian Man, Leonar­do does not tend to be asso­ci­at­ed with grotesque humor. Yet the car­i­ca­tures “were some of his most pop­u­lar and influ­en­tial works,” writes Jonathan Jones at The Guardian, “from the 16th cen­tu­ry up to the time of [William] Hog­a­rth,” the huge­ly pop­u­lar 18th cen­tu­ry Eng­lish visu­al satirist.

These car­i­ca­tures con­nect Leonar­do not only to graph­ic art of the future but to an ear­li­er, Medieval world—the “hell­ish visions of Bosch and Bruegel.” They are “Gar­goyles,” wrote crit­ic Ken­neth Clark, “the com­ple­ment to saints; Leonar­do’s car­i­ca­tures were com­ple­men­tary to his untir­ing search for ide­al beau­ty.

And gar­goyles were the expres­sion of all the pas­sions, the ani­mal forces, the Cal­iban grunt­ings and groan­ings which are left in human nature when the divine has been poured away.” Clark tem­pers this char­ac­ter­i­za­tion by not­ing that these draw­ings “in their expres­sion of pas­sion­ate ener­gy, merge imper­cep­ti­bly into the hero­ic.”

Indeed, Leonar­do loved unusu­al faces and heads—he found odd-look­ing peo­ple of all kinds fas­ci­nat­ing, and turned them into tragi­com­ic fig­ures fit for the stage. Gior­gio Vasari, the 16th cen­tu­ry biog­ra­ph­er of Renais­sance artists, wrote that Leonar­do was “so delight­ed when he saw curi­ous heads, whether beard­ed or hairy, that he would fol­low any­one who had thus attract­ed his atten­tion for a whole day, acquir­ing such a clear idea of him that when he went home he would draw the head as well as if the man had been present.”

We can’t say that stalk­ing exhibits much respect for the kinds of bound­aries most peo­ple would pre­fer to main­tain, but Leonar­do’s behav­ior does dis­play a rev­er­ence for inter­est­ing human phys­iog­no­my, both a source and a foil for his ide­al­iza­tions of the human form. Leonardo’s car­i­ca­tures res­onate into the late 20th cen­tu­ry in the work of Ralph Stead­man, the gonzo illus­tra­tor and polit­i­cal car­toon­ist.

In his satir­i­cal illus­trat­ed biog­ra­phy of Leonar­do, Stead­man remarked that the Renais­sance artist who enno­bled the human form also found “that man was not what he appeared to be, despite the pre­vail­ing atmos­phere of fine thoughts and high aspi­ra­tions.” Stead­man quotes a pas­sage from Leonardo’s note­books that sounds much more Swift­ian or Rabelaisian than high-mind­ed Renais­sance human­ist:

His Holi­ness the Pope sur­round­ed him­self with none but craven guz­zlers, gross pre­tenders and a host of fawn­ing dig­ni­taries who gri­maced through their days at court with no more grace than beg­gars I had enter­tained in days gone by — though they had nei­ther choice nor wit to rise above them­selves and in that they had a rea­son.

Oh that I had ways to sure­ly serve their putrid mas­quer­ades and twit­tery to make a drag­on from the very menagerie with­in the Vat­i­can itself.

If I could take for its head that of a mas­tiff or set­ter, for its eyes those of a cat, for its ears those of a grey­hound, with the eye­brows of a lion, the tem­ples of an old cock and the neck of a water tor­toise. 

O vile mon­ster! How much bet­ter it for men that thou shouldst go back to hell! For this the vast forests shall be stripped of their trees; for this an infi­nite num­ber of crea­tures shall lose their lives.

Though the car­i­ca­tures may not go as far as the hor­ri­fy­ing hodge­podge in this descrip­tion, they do por­tray human beings with rather less clas­si­cal equa­nim­i­ty than the serene Mona Lisa or the very com­posed Christ. But due to Leonar­do’s skill and seem­ing­ly irre­press­ible love for the human form—even if he had a jaun­diced view of human nature—the car­i­ca­tures con­tin­ue to be inspir­ing pieces of work.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Leonar­do da Vinci’s Vision­ary Note­books Now Online: Browse 570 Dig­i­tized Pages

Ralph Steadman’s Wild­ly Illus­trat­ed Biog­ra­phy of Leonar­do da Vin­ci (1983)

What Leonar­do da Vin­ci Real­ly Looked Like

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Dr. Weil’s 60-Second Technique for Falling Asleep

Give Dr. Andrew Weil three min­utes, and he can teach you a 60-sec­ond tech­nique for falling asleep. Above, the alter­na­tive med­i­cine guru walks you through the 4–7‑8 breath­ing method. As he demon­strates, it “takes almost no time, requires no equip­ment and can be done any­where.” And once you mas­ter it, you can use the 4–7‑8 breath­ing tech­nique (explained and demon­strat­ed in greater detail here ) to low­er your anx­i­ety lev­els (use­ful these days!), nav­i­gate ten­sion-filled moments, and deal with food crav­ings.

Else­where, Weil has said, “If I had to lim­it my advice on health­i­er liv­ing to just one tip, it would be sim­ply to learn how to breathe cor­rect­ly.” Hence why he cre­at­ed an audio record­ing, Breath­ing: The Mas­ter Key to Self Heal­ing, which you can still pur­chase online.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

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via The Lad­ders

Relat­ed Con­tent:

10 Hours of Ambi­ent Arc­tic Sounds Will Help You Relax, Med­i­tate, Study & Sleep

Music That Helps You Sleep: Min­i­mal­ist Com­pos­er Max Richter, Pop Phe­nom Ed Sheer­an & Your Favorites

Moby Lets You Down­load 4 Hours of Ambi­ent Music to Help You Sleep, Med­i­tate, Do Yoga & Not Pan­ic

240 Hours of Relax­ing, Sleep-Induc­ing Sounds from Sci-Fi Video Games: From Blade Run­ner to Star Wars

How a Good Night’s Sleep — and a Bad Night’s Sleep — Can Enhance Your Cre­ativ­i­ty

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How to Cook Like Frida Kahlo & Georgia O’Keefe

It’s a myth that starv­ing artists don’t eat.

They do, just not often or well. Their meals rarely rate recipes, let alone cook­books.

Those cook­books do exist though.…

The most­ly con­cep­tu­al Starv­ing Artist Cook­book put togeth­er by EIDIA (aka artists Paul Lamarre and Melis­sa Wolf) comes close to the spir­it of sus­tain­ing life through mea­ger ingre­di­ents… like spaghet­ti or 4 pages of shred­ded Prav­da.

Not so this oth­er title, which approach­es cute over­load with an abun­dance of Insta­gram-wor­thy illus­trat­ed fare—moji­tos, an unstruc­tured berry tart, a “man­ly” burg­er.…

Do “starv­ing” artists no longer fear being out­ed as posers?

Suc­cess­ful artists may not wor­ry about that, as they eat what­ev­er and how­ev­er they want.

Andy Warhol had the taste of an eccen­tric child.

Mari­na Abramović takes the ascetic route.

Many have glady trad­ed the can­dle in the chi­anti bot­tle for the most rar­i­fied restau­rants in town.

Geor­gia O’Keefe and Fri­da Kahlo, PBS Dig­i­tal Stu­dios’ series the Art Assign­ment informs us, took cooking—and eating—seriously.

So seri­ous­ly, their culi­nary efforts led to cook­books, which the Art Assignment’s host, cura­tor Sarah Urist Green, tries out on cam­era.

O’Keefe, who grew up in Wis­con­sin on home­made yogurt, home­made cheese, and plen­ti­ful home­grown pro­duce, ground her own flour in order to bake dai­ly loaves of whole wheat bread.

Green treats view­ers to a brief overview of O’Keefe’s life and work as she strug­gles with the grinder. (You might get the same, or bet­ter, results if you take a $5 bill to a good bak­ery right at open­ing.)

She also tack­les the wheat germ Tiger’s Milk smooth­ie advo­cat­ed by Adele Davis, a nutri­tion­ist whom O’Keefe  admired, and Green Chiles with Gar­lic and Oil and Fried Eggs, using recipes from the cook­books A Painter’s Kitchen and Din­ner with Geor­gia O’Keefe.

Before attempt­ing the same, you might want to watch the Kahlo-cen­tric episode, above, in which Green dis­cov­ers a much bet­ter method for roast­ing the poblano pep­pers she hap­less­ly sub­sti­tut­ed for New Mex­i­co chiles in O’Keefe’s egg dish.

Here, they’re used for Chiles Rel­lenos, a dish whose pro­nun­ci­a­tion the self-effac­ing Green butch­ers, along with a mul­ti­tude of oth­er Span­ish phras­es, a fact not lost on the video’s Youtube com­menters. They also take issue with the pres­ence of plan­tains, her prepa­ra­tion of the Nopales Sal­ad, and her cook­ing skills in gen­er­al. No won­der Green—a self-pro­claimed wussy where ser­ra­nos are concerned—seems so eager to reach for a shot of tequi­la as din­ner is final­ly served.

Green chose the dish­es for this episode from Frida’s Fies­tas: Recipes and Rem­i­nis­cences of Life with Fri­da Kahlo by Marie-Pierre Colle and Kahlo’s step­daugh­ter, Guadalupe Rivera.

Kahlo her­self learned to cook from her mother’s copy of El Nue­vo Cocinero Meji­cano, and from hus­band Diego Rivera’s first wife, Guadalupe (lead­ing one to won­der if some of that cook­book’s recipes aren’t mis­at­trib­uted to the more famous cook).

As with the O’Keefe video and the cook­books cit­ed here­in, there’s a wealth of vin­tage pho­tos and repro­duced art­work on dis­play.

Even though Green alludes to Kahlo’s dark side, sen­si­tive stom­achs might have trou­ble with the inclu­sion of the graph­i­cal­ly vio­lent Unos Quan­tos Piqueti­tos. Anoth­er paint­ing, My Nurse and I is at least relat­ed to eat­ing, if not cook­ing and recipes.

Those with stom­achs of steel on the oth­er hand can con­tin­ue on to anoth­er Art Assignment—the supreme­ly gross Meat Sculp­ture from the Futur­ist Cook­book.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Futur­ist Cook­book (1930) Tried to Turn Ital­ian Cui­sine into Mod­ern Art

MoMA’s Artists’ Cook­book (1978) Reveals the Meals of Sal­vador Dalí, Willem de Koon­ing, Andy Warhol, Louise Bour­geois & More

Sal­vador Dalí’s 1973 Cook­book Gets Reis­sued: Sur­re­al­ist Art Meets Haute Cui­sine

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Dis­cuss Emi­ly Dick­in­son with her infor­mal­ly at Pete’s Mini Zine­fest in Brook­lyn this Sat­ur­day. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Émile-Antoine Bayard’s Vivid Illustrations of Jules Verne’s Around the Moon: The First Serious Works of Space Art (1870)

What does space trav­el look like? Even now, in the 21st cen­tu­ry, very, very few of us know first-hand. But we’ve all seen count­less images from count­less eras pur­port­ing to show us what it might look like. As with any­thing imag­ined by man, some­one had to ren­der a con­vinc­ing vision of space trav­el first, and that dis­tinc­tion may well go to 19th-cen­tu­ry French illus­tra­tor Émile-Antoine Bayard who, per­haps not sur­pris­ing­ly, worked with Jules Verne. Verne’s pio­neer­ing and pro­lif­ic work in sci­ence fic­tion lit­er­a­ture has kept him a house­hold name, but Bayard’s may sound more obscure; still, we’ve all seen his art­work, or at least we’ve all seen the draw­ing of Cosette the orphan he did for Les Mis­érables.

“Read­ers of Jules Verne’s ear­ly sci­ence-fic­tion clas­sic From the Earth to the Moon (De la terre à la lune) — which left the Bal­ti­more Gun Club’s bul­let-shaped pro­jec­tile, along with its three pas­sen­gers and dog, hurtling through space — had to wait a whole five years before learn­ing the fate of its heroes,” says The Pub­lic Domain Review.

When it appeared, 1870’s Around the Moon (Autour de la Lune) offered not just “a fine con­tin­u­a­tion of the space adven­ture” but “a superb series of wood engrav­ings to illus­trate the tale” cre­at­ed by Bayard. “There had been imag­i­nary views of oth­er worlds, and even of space flight before this,” writes Ron Miller in Space Art, “but until Verne’s book appeared, these views all had been heav­i­ly col­ored by mys­ti­cism rather than sci­ence.”

Com­posed strict­ly accord­ing to the sci­en­tif­ic facts known at the time — with a depar­ture here and there in the name of imag­i­na­tion and visu­al metaphor — the illus­tra­tions for A Trip Around the Moon, lat­er pub­lished in a sin­gle vol­ume with its pre­de­ces­sor as A Trip to the Moon and Around It, stand as the ear­li­est known exam­ple of sci­en­tif­ic space art. Verne went as far as to com­mis­sion a lunar map by famed selenog­ra­phers (lit­er­al­ly, schol­ars of the moom’s sur­face) Beer and Maedlerm, and just last year the Lin­da Hall Library named Bayard a “sci­en­tist of the day.” As with the uncan­ni­ly accu­rate pre­dic­tions in Verne’s ear­li­er nov­el Paris in the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry, a fair few of the ideas here, espe­cial­ly to do with the mechan­ics of the rock­et’s launch and return to Earth, remain sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly plau­si­ble.

What­ev­er the inno­va­tion of the pro­jec­t’s con­sid­er­able sci­en­tif­ic basis, its artis­tic impres­sion fired up more than a few oth­er imag­i­na­tions: both Verne’s words and Bayard’s art, all 44 pieces of which you can view here, served as major inspi­ra­tions for ear­ly film­mak­er and “father of spe­cial effects” Georges Méliès, for instance, when he made A Trip to the Moon. Dis­ap­point­ed com­plaints about our per­sis­tent lack of moon colonies or even com­mer­cial space flight may have long since grown tire­some, but the next time you hear one of us denizens of the 21st cen­tu­ry air them, remem­ber the work of Verne and Bayard and think of how deep into his­to­ry that desire real­ly runs.

Via The Pub­lic Domain Review.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jules Verne Accu­rate­ly Pre­dicts What the 20th Cen­tu­ry Will Look Like in His Lost Nov­el, Paris in the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry (1863)

How French Artists in 1899 Envi­sioned Life in the Year 2000: Draw­ing the Future

Sovi­et Artists Envi­sion a Com­mu­nist Utopia in Out­er Space

A Trip to the Moon (and Five Oth­er Free Films) by Georges Méliès, the Father of Spe­cial Effects

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

A Massive 55-Hour Chronological Playlist of Bob Dylan Songs: Stream 763 Tracks

Cropped image by Row­land Scher­man, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Shake­speare may have come up with the sev­en ages of man (see: As You Like It for more info), but Bob Dylan has had more than sev­en ages in his five decades of mak­ing music. There’s the young Woody Guthrie fan, the protest singer, the poet of a gen­er­a­tion, the recluse, the Chris­t­ian con­vert, the man who made Greil Mar­cus ask “What is this shit?” about his 1970 Self-Por­trait album, the Mys­tic who chan­neled “old weird Amer­i­ca” as Mar­cus would also define it, the end­less tour­ing work­horse, the Trav­el­ing Wilbury, the pen­cil-mus­tache dap­per stan­dards inter­preter, and on and on.

You get the point, so this Spo­ti­fy col­lec­tion (gath­ered togeth­er by Samuel Hux­ley Cohen) sets out to take on this mon­u­men­tal career with a 55 hour playlist of Dylan’s music, 763 songs in total, in chrono­log­i­cal order, from 1962’s “You’re No Good” to “Melan­choly Mood” from 2016’s Fall­en Angels. (His cur­rent album from this year, the three-disc Trip­li­cate is not rep­re­sent­ed, though it’s sep­a­rate­ly on Spo­ti­fy here.)

Not only can one chart the artis­tic pro­gres­sion from earnest folkie to liv­ing enig­ma, one can chart the changes in Dylan’s voice over time, which has long been the sub­ject of crit­i­cism. His young voice was once com­pared to a “cow stuck in an elec­tric fence,” and now in his 70s, “ Dylan’s voice has been in ruins dur­ing many of his recent con­certs, some­where between Howl­in’ Wolf’s growl and a tuber­cu­lar wheeze,” as the Chica­go Tri­bune’s Greg Kot wrote recent­ly. But in between, there were soft­er moments. As a younger Dylan fan I was exposed at first only to his clas­sic 1960s tril­o­gy—Bring­ing It All Back Home through Blonde on Blonde—and his nasal, accusato­ry tone, only to be befud­dled by the voice on Nashville Sky­line. It didn’t even sound like the same per­son.

Yes, there are bones to pick with this playlist, most­ly in its strict adher­ence to release date chronol­o­gy and not so much record­ing chronol­o­gy, which would make more sense (but would be way more time con­sum­ing). The Base­ment Tapes make more fas­ci­nat­ing lis­ten­ing com­ing as they real­ly did after Blonde on Blonde in 1967, after Dylan’s motor­cy­cle acci­dent and before John Wes­ley Hard­ing, the album high­ly informed by those ses­sions. Not so much placed here right after the astound­ing but inti­mate and bleak Blood on the Tracks. And a lot of the live and rare record­ings found on the ever increas­ing Boot­leg Series are just a jum­ble.

But put it this way, the man him­self could care less in what order you lis­ten to them, or if at all. A real­ly thor­ough chronol­o­gy might reveal the “real Dylan,” but then again…maybe not. Enter at your own risk.

Click here to access the playlist on Spo­ti­fy. Or stream it above.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Bob Dylan’s New­ly-Released Nobel Lec­ture: A Med­i­ta­tion on Music, Lit­er­a­ture & Lyrics

Hear a 4 Hour Playlist of Great Protest Songs: Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Bob Mar­ley, Pub­lic Ene­my, Bil­ly Bragg & More

The First Episode of The John­ny Cash Show, Fea­tur­ing Bob Dylan & Joni Mitchell (1969)

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

How Did the Egyptians Make Mummies? An Animated Introduction to the Ancient Art of Mummification

Not every child looks for­ward to a trip to the muse­um, but how many have failed to thrill at the sight of an ancient Egypt­ian mum­my? How many adults, for that mat­ter, can resist the fas­ci­na­tion of this well over 5000-year-old process of pre­serv­ing dead bod­ies in a state if not per­fect­ly life­like then at least eeri­ly intact? If you’ve ever won­dered exact­ly how mum­mi­fi­ca­tion worked — or if you’ve sim­ply for­got­ten the descrip­tions accom­pa­ny­ing the dis­plays you saw on those muse­um trips — this short video from the Get­ty Muse­um’s Youtube chan­nel pro­vides an insight into how the ancient Egyp­tians did it.

The video uses a real mum­my as a case study, the pre­served body of a twen­ty-year-old man named Her­ak­lei­des (as we know because his mum­mi­fiers, though them­selves uniden­ti­fied, wrote it on his feet), who died in the first cen­tu­ry A.D. He had most of his inter­nal organs removed — even his heart, which com­mon prac­tice usu­al­ly dic­tat­ed leav­ing in, but for some rea­son not his lungs  — and spent forty days buried in salt that drew every last bit of mois­ture out of him.

He then received rub­bings of per­fumed oils, fol­lowed by a poured-on lay­er of resin to which strips of linen (the mum­my’s char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly copi­ous “ban­dages” of pop­u­lar cul­ture) could adhere. Wrapped onto a board, equipped with a “mys­te­ri­ous pouch” as well as a mum­mi­fied ibis, and cov­ered with an unusu­al red shroud embla­zoned with sym­bols and a por­trait of him­self, Her­ak­lei­des was ready for his jour­ney into the after­life.

“Such elab­o­rate bur­ial prac­tices might sug­gest that the Egyp­tians were pre­oc­cu­pied with thoughts of death,” says the Smith­so­ni­an’s page on Egypt­ian mum­mies. “On the con­trary, they began ear­ly to make plans for their death because of their great love of life. They could think of no life bet­ter than the present, and they want­ed to be sure it would con­tin­ue after death.” The ancient Egyp­tians believed “that the mum­mi­fied body was the home for this soul or spir­it. If the body was destroyed, the spir­it might be lost.”

If you find your­self shar­ing these beliefs, do have a look at Nation­al Geo­graph­ic’s guide on how to make a mum­my in 70 days or less. And just as you’d need to arrange the right ingre­di­ents to pre­pare a sat­is­fy­ing meal, some­thing else the Egyp­tians enjoyed, don’t attempt any mum­mi­fi­ca­tion at home with­out mak­ing sure you’re ful­ly stocked with resin, oint­ments, lichen, straw­dust, beeswax, palm wine, incense, and myrrh. And it goes with­out say­ing that how­ev­er many feet of wrap­pings you’ve got, it could­n’t hurt to have more.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Open­ing of King Tut’s Tomb, Shown in Stun­ning Col­orized Pho­tos (1923–5)

How the Egypt­ian Pyra­mids Were Built: A New The­o­ry in 3D Ani­ma­tion

The Met Dig­i­tal­ly Restores the Col­ors of an Ancient Egypt­ian Tem­ple, Using Pro­jec­tion Map­ping Tech­nol­o­gy

Try the Old­est Known Recipe For Tooth­paste: From Ancient Egypt, Cir­ca the 4th Cen­tu­ry BC

The Turin Erot­ic Papyrus: The Old­est Known Depic­tion of Human Sex­u­al­i­ty (Cir­ca 1150 B.C.E.)

A Drone’s Eye View of the Ancient Pyra­mids of Egypt, Sudan & Mex­i­co

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Ralph Steadman’s Wildly Illustrated Biography of Leonardo da Vinci (1983)

It is for good rea­son that we for­ev­er asso­ciate illus­tra­tor Ralph Stead­man with the deliri­ous work of Hunter S. Thomp­son. It took the two of them togeth­er to invent the gonzo style of jour­nal­ism, which we may almost call incom­plete now if pub­lished with­out the req­ui­site car­toon grotesques. Stead­man con­jures visions of dev­ils and demons as deft­ly as any medieval church painter, but his hells remain above ground and are most­ly man-made. Whether illus­trat­ing Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dic­tio­nary, George Orwell’s Ani­mal Farm, the cast of Break­ing Bad, or the vis­ages of Amer­i­can pres­i­dents, he excels at show­ing us the freak­ish fever dreams of the mod­ern world. He may, wrote The New York Times’ Sher­win Smith in 1983, “be the most sav­age polit­i­cal car­toon­ist of the late 20th cen­tu­ry.”

Steadman’s illus­tra­tive lega­cy places him in the com­pa­ny of history’s great­est visu­al satirists, but also makes him an odd choice for a biog­ra­phy of Leonar­do da Vin­ci. Though Leonar­do fre­quent­ly drew car­i­ca­tures in his note­books, the bulk of the Renais­sance genius’s work con­cerns itself with order and precision—the pur­pose­ful­ness of his line a stark con­trast to the crazed ink splat­ters of Steadman’s work.

Nonethe­less, Steadman’s I, Leonar­do, which he under­took not on com­mis­sion but on his own ini­tia­tive, exhibits a pro­found insight into the Ital­ian painter-sculptor-philosopher-inventor’s rest­less cre­ative mind. Leonar­do pre­sent­ed a very cool exte­ri­or, but his inner life may well have resem­bled a Stead­man draw­ing.

The project came to life in 1983 as what Stead­man called “a qua­si-his­tor­i­cal mish­mash,” a “tongue-in-cheek” sup­posed long-lost auto­bi­og­ra­phy of Leonar­do in pic­tures. “It is more than a col­lec­tion of illus­tra­tions on Leonardo’s life, based upon three years of work and research,” remarked a Wash­ing­ton Post review. “Stead­man does not mere­ly the­o­rize about the man, but attempts to go inside the artist’s bones.” Stead­man, writes Maria Popo­va, “even trav­elled to Italy to stand where Leonar­do stood, seek­ing to envi­sion what it was like to inhab­it that end­less­ly imag­i­na­tive mind.” The illus­tra­tions are a sur­pris­ing­ly effec­tive com­bi­na­tion of da Vin­ci-esque dis­ci­pline and Stead­manesque sick humor.

In his intro­duc­tion to the book, Stead­man com­ments on Leonardo’s split per­sona. His “expe­ri­ence showed him that man was not what he appeared to be, despite the pre­vail­ing atmos­phere of fine thoughts and high aspi­ra­tions…. The puri­ty of his paint­ing set the divine stan­dard of Renais­sance art—and of any art for that mat­ter. I believe he pre­served intact a part of his pri­vate self which found out­let in his more per­son­al notes and draw­ings.” Many of those draw­ings include the afore­men­tioned car­i­ca­tures of mon­strous, gri­mac­ing beings who would fit right in with Steadman’s night­mar­ish draw­ings.

The gonzo illus­tra­tor found a kin­dred satir­i­cal Leonar­do inside the famed mas­ter draughts­man and engi­neer. His inter­est in the Renais­sance artist’s anar­chic psy­che mir­rors that of anoth­er keen observ­er, Sig­mund Freud, who described Leonar­do as “a man who awoke too ear­ly in the dark­ness, while the oth­ers were all still asleep.” (Steadman’s first “his­tor­i­cal mish­mash” project was a 1979 illus­trat­ed Freud biog­ra­phy.) The artist behind I, Leonar­do has a slight­ly dif­fer­ent take on the sub­ject. Stead­man, writes Smith, saw Leonar­do “in 1980’s terms—as ‘a man tak­en up by a cor­po­ra­tion that couldn’t use him.’”

See many more of Steadman’s Leonar­do illus­tra­tions at Brain Pick­ings and pur­chase a copy of the book here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ralph Steadman’s Sur­re­al­ist Illus­tra­tions of George Orwell’s Ani­mal Farm (1995)

Gonzo Illus­tra­tor Ralph Stead­man Draws the Amer­i­can Pres­i­dents, from Nixon to Trump

Break­ing Bad Illus­trat­ed by Gonzo Artist Ralph Stead­man

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Hugh Hefner (RIP) Defends “the Playboy Philosophy” to William F. Buckley, 1966

“Mr. Hefn­er’s mag­a­zine is most wide­ly known for its total expo­sure of the human female,” says William F. Buck­ley, intro­duc­ing the guest on this 1966 broad­cast of his talk show Fir­ing Line. “Though of course oth­er things hap­pen in its pages.” Not long before, pub­lish­er and plea­sure empire-builder Hugh Hefn­er’s Play­boy mag­a­zine ran a series of arti­cles on “the Play­boy phi­los­o­phy,” a set of obser­va­tions of and propo­si­tions about human sex­u­al­i­ty that pro­vid­ed these men fod­der for their tele­vised debate. Hefn­er stands against reli­gious­ly man­dat­ed, chasti­ty-cen­tered codes of sex­u­al moral­i­ty; Buck­ley demands to know how Hefn­er earned the qual­i­fi­ca­tions to issue new codes of his own. Describ­ing the Play­boy phi­los­o­phy as “sort of a hedo­nis­tic util­i­tar­i­an­ism,” Buck­ley tries simul­ta­ne­ous­ly to under­stand and demol­ish these 20th-cen­tu­ry revi­sions of the rules of sex.

“The Play­boy founder is no match for the Catholic who snipes him at will with ‘moral’ bul­lets,” writes the poster of the video. “The acer­bic, dry Buck­ley is on attack mode with a con­ser­v­a­tive audi­ence, in moral pan­ic, behind him. The Catholic had the era of con­ser­vatism behind him. [ … ] In the 21st cen­tu­ry though, Buck­ley would have a hard­er time defend­ing moral­i­ty with Hefn­er.” One won­ders how Buck­ley and Hefn­er, were they still alive today, might revis­it this debate in 2017. (Buck­ley died in 2008, and Hefn­er passed away yes­ter­day at the age of 91.) Times have cer­tain­ly changed, but I sus­pect Buck­ley would raise the same core objec­tion to Hefn­er’s argu­ment that loos­en­ing the old stric­tures on sex leads, per­haps coun­ter­in­tu­itive­ly, to more sat­is­fied, more monog­a­mous pair­ings: “How in the hell do you know?” Though this and cer­tain oth­er of Buck­ley’s ques­tions occa­sion­al­ly wrong-foot Hefn­er, the faith­ful can rest assured that he keeps enough cool to fire up his sig­na­ture pipe on cam­era.

Note: This post first appeared on our site back in 2012. We brought it back today for obvi­ous rea­sons, and updat­ed it to reflect Hefn­er’s pass­ing. Since 2012, a huge archive of “Fir­ing Line” episodes have been put online. Get more on that here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

375+ Episodes of William F. Buckley’s Fir­ing Line Now Online: Fea­tures Talks with Chom­sky, Borges, Ker­ouac, Gins­berg & More

Yeah, Baby! Deep Pur­ple Gets Sha­gadel­ic on Play­boy After Dark

James Bald­win Bests William F. Buck­ley in 1965 Debate at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty

Jack Ker­ouac Meets William F. Buck­ley (1968)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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