Why Leonardo da Vinci’s brilliance endures, 500 years after his death

His creativity and foresight in science, engineering, and the arts continue to surprise and amaze today.

Leonardo’s “Mona Lisa” is believed to depict Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a Florentine silk merchant. Every year, millions of visitors jostle for a view at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The painting, protected by a thick layer of glass that must be cleaned regularly, has never been restored.

In an instant, centuries collide—a moment unlike anything I have ever experienced. I have come to Windsor Castle to see the queen’s collection of Leonardo da Vinci drawings.

Outside the towering stone walls, tourists snap selfies and rummage through souvenir tea towels. Inside, past an arched gateway bedecked by gargoyles, Leonardo ushers me back to the Renaissance.

I can almost hear whispers of the artist as I gaze at a leather album bound in the late 1500s in the castle’s stately print room. Gold embellishments adorn the volume’s two-and-a-half-inch spine. The cover, stained and worn by the imperceptible fingerprints of generations past, reads: Disegni di Leonardo da Vinci Restaurati da Pompeo Leoni (drawings by Leonardo da Vinci conserved by Pompeo Leoni).

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