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A Biographical Novel

By Curtis Bill Pepper

This compelling novel takes the reader into the tumultuous period of the Renaissance and the origins of Leonardo da Vinci, the bastard child of a notary. Of da Vinci, the eminent art historian Kenneth Clark wrote, “no more complex and mysterious character ever existed than this Hamlet of art history.” Clark noted that one had to be “familiar with all of Leonardo’s writings in their chronological order (and) the state of learning in the Renaissance to judge Leonardo’s progress in relation to that of his contemporaries.”

Curtis Bill Pepper has risen to that challenge after fifteen years of research in Italy unearthing archival records that point to the identity of Leonardo’s mother, a Circassian slave, and shed light on the various individuals who played important roles in the development of his character and intellect. The author places Leonardo in the context of the Medici, Sforza, and French dynasties, the politics of rival city-states, incessant internal wars and foreign invasions, theological disputes among religious orders, and corrupt, power-driven papacies that characterized the era.

The end result of Pepper’s efforts does not in any way supplant many formidable biographies, or invaluable research by Leonardo specialists. It goes beyond them in seeking to portray the physical reality and psychic conflicts within this obsessively driven human being – a relatively unknown aspect of the artist that has generally eluded historians.

“What went through the mind of a man centuries ahead of his time? Leonardo: A Biographical Novel discusses this enigmatic figure of history, tracing his own path to his artistry and brilliance scarred by his own demons and a world that hated him for what he truly was. Tracing his unique habits, and his role in the tumultuous courts of the Renaissance, Leonardo is a strongly recommended pick for any general fiction collection and for those who want to be entertained while understanding one of history's greatest minds and souls. ”

—The Midwest Book Review

“Biographer Curtis Bill Pepper applies formidable brush strokes in his latest work, a carefully drawn study of the Renaissance genius who created The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. Hard facts are delivered with skill and solid research. Now, nearly five centuries after the famous painter drew his last breath in a French chateau, we know more of the daemons and angels that tormented and inspired him. The result of his lifelong struggle is a legacy of incomparable scope. Born in an age of gradual enlightenment, the illegitimate son of a Circassian slave fought rejection and prejudice amid wars, petty politics, epidemics and religious fervor. Emblematic of Leonardo's early passion is the sketch of his dead and dearly beloved stepmother, hastily drawn in a noxious morgue. This is no Da Vinci story written in code. It's a superbly crafted novel that imbues history with the very breath of life. ”

—Mary McReynolds, The Oklahoman

“One doesn’t see many novels of this type anymore. A massive epic covering Leonardo da Vinci’s entire life, it encompasses his major accomplishments in art, engineering, anatomy, mathematics, and architecture, all set against the political and cultural backdrop of several Italian Renaissance cities. Beginning with his illegitimate birth in 1452 in the Tuscan town of Vinci, Pepper allows an intimate glimpse into Leonardo’s remarkable mind and limitless curiosity. He forms a close bond with his young stepmother, Albi, whom he remembers all his life. Apprenticed early on to the Florentine painter Verrocchio, he soon surpasses his master and later calls Lorenzo de Medici and the Duke of Milan his patrons. Pepper fully illustrates the personal lives of these men and their families, too; although these scenes are fascinating, it causes some loss of focus. The writing is most gripping as it delves into Leonardo’s creative process; his choices of models for his religious paintings have potentially serious consequences. Scrupulously researched, dramatic, occasionally dense, and full of admiration for the man’s achievements, Leonardo repays readers’ efforts. ”

—ALA Booklist

2012; Alan C. Hood & Co., Inc.; Hardcover; 6 1/8" X 9 1/4"; 584 pages
ISBN: 978-0-911469-36-3

Price: $35.00

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