This is the first in "The Life and Travels of da Vinci" series and it is obvious that the author, Catherine McGrew Jaime, has researched well a beloved topic. She expertly interwove facts about Leonardo's tense relationship with his father, his apprenticeship to master Verrocchio, Florence's architectural details, and information about the Medici family into a quick-reading narrative.
In this section, Leonardo has lived in Florence for only six months. He grabbed his drawing utensils--sketching paper and a charcoal stick.
What he really wanted to do was to draw--to draw the buildings that he was seeing here, and to put some of this amazing architecture down on paper where he could study it in the evenings. He had seen a church before he came to Florence, certainly, and yet he had never imagined this many churches in one location before. Church spires punctured the sky above Florence at every block. (p. 53)When Leonardo wasn't busy helping Verrocchio mix paints, create colorful banners, jeweled robes, and beautiful blankets for the Medici family; or run errands for him, he learned Latin and hovered around other workshops. Alongside Antonio Pollaiuolo, he helped perform autopsies and studied muscles and joints. Other times he visited Paolo Toscanelli, a famous mathematician and mapmaker where he learned elements of astronomy, geography and optics.
At twenty-years-old, six years after being apprenticed to Verrochio, Leonardo was accepted into the Painters' Guild and given the title, Maestro (Master). Although he was entitled to open his own workshop he stayed another five years so he could continue to learn from Verrochio.
Once on his own, he began receiving small commissions. Although he was a masterful painter, inventing and science were his first loves. Even when money was tight, he "continued his scientific and mechanical work, with designs for screws, drills, mills, and machines for waterworks." (p. 148) Eventually Leonardo got tired of Florence and decided to apply to the Duke of Milan for work. He wrote a letter to the duke suggesting his defensive plans could be a help to him, packed his belongings, some of his favorite drawings, and his prized silver lyre. With only a few coins to his name he started out on the two hundred mile journey that would take him to his next adventure.
For the next chapter in Leonardo's life, you'll have to read Leonardo: Masterpieces in Milan. If you wish to enter the drawing for this book, please leave me a comment by 6 PM July 1. Make sure you leave your email address if I don't have it. Follow my blog or share this on social media and I'll enter your name twice; just make sure you tell me what you do.
You might also want to check out Catherine's overview of Da Vinci's life in her book, Leonardo Da Vinci: His Life and His Legacy.