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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Infinite Curiosity

New-Da-Vinci-Painting-Possibly-Discovered-2As I mentioned in my post for the Main Street Vegan blog over the summer, one of the virtues that the shift to veganism seems to cultivate is curiosity. I’ve been thinking about Leonardo recently, what with my rekindled artistic ambitions and all, so I thought I’d share this excerpt from Colin Spencer’s The Heretic’s Feast: A History of Vegetarianism about the most curious man who ever lived:

…Before Montaigne and roughly contemporary with both Erasmus and More one giant among men passionately denounced the slaughter of animals and loathed meat-eating: Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Renaissance man himself, possibly the greatest draughtsman ever to have lived, possessed of an infinite curiosity which drove him on in an unstinting examination of life’s myriad phenomena. Yet in the sixty or so biographies in the London Library on his life and work, only one book bothers to discuss his vegetarianism…

Leonardo’s inventions or near-discoveries would have made him remarkable enough without the paintings or drawings. He designed the first armoured vehicles, several types of aircraft and helicopters, anticipated the submarine and almost discovered the circulation of the blood. He dissected corpses and made anatomical drawings hundreds of years ahead of his time. Around and among all these drawings and sketches he wrote copiously. His views on vegetarianism and his pity for animals were no secret—a letter from India, written by Andrea Corsali in 1515, to Giuliano de Medici (Leonardo’s patron) tells us: ‘Certain infidels galled Guzzerati do not feed upon anything that contains blood, nor do they permit among them that any injury be done to any living thing, like our Leonardo da Vinci.’

There is throughout Leonardo’s scattered notes a rising disgust with man himself, as here: ‘King of animals—as thou hast described him—I should rather say King of the beasts, though being the greatest—because thou doest only help them, in order that they may give thee their children for the benefit of the gullet, of which thou hast attempted to make a sepulchre for all animals’…Leonardo writes: ‘Now does not nature produce enough simple vegetarian food for thee to satisfy thyself? And if thou art not content with such, canst thou not by the mixture of them make infinite compounds, as Platina describes and other writers on food?’ Leonardo was clearly aware of vegetarian cuisine.’

Was there any such thing as a meat-free cookbook back then? I must keep reading!

 

2 Comments to Infinite Curiosity

  1. Susan's Gravatar Susan
    September 11, 2014 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    This was fascinating! I never knew this about Leonardo! Thanks!

  2. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    September 12, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I learned on our trip that Franz Kafka was a vegetarian too.

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.