Da Vinci's Demons: Episode 2: The Serpent

Da Vinci's Demons: Episode 2: The Serpent 

This episode was about Leonardo showing Lorenzo Medici his Cannon, which failed, and then by the end proving it did work, and thus proving his allegiance to the Medici family. It's called "The Serpent" because he is trying to find the "Tree of knowledge" through the "book of leaves" and this is shown by a play about the Garden of Eden. It also alludes to Lorenzo's mistress being a spy for the Vatican. 

“In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.” Real Leonardo da Vinci

"The river is circular. One man's death paves the way for another. Men like ourselves can change the river's course. There is no yesterday you see. Time is one single continuum. See as I have seen into infinity and you will be a god, but know this, you will suffer" - The Turk & in Leo's dream.

Leonardo dissected his first body on this episode, (although he didn't get into anatomy until later in his life.) It's also interesting how they included having his assistants find cadavers for him. How did the real life Leo get bodies to dissect? It's probable that he paid for the corpses of criminals rather than actually digging up graves. He dissected over 10 bodies and the following quote is what he had to say about it:

"And you, who say that it would be better to watch an anatomist at work than to see these drawings, you would be right, if it were possible to observe all the things which are demonstrated in such drawings in a single figure, in which you, with all your cleverness, will not see nor obtain knowledge of more than some few veins, to obtain a true and perfect knowledge of which I have dissected more than ten human bodies, destroying all the other members, and removing the very minutest particles of the flesh by which these veins are surrounded, without causing them to bleed, excepting the insensible bleeding of the capillary veins; and as one single body would not last so long, since it was necessary to proceed with several bodies by degrees, until I came to an end and had a complete knowledge; this I repeated twice, to learn the differences.

And if you should have a love for such things you might be prevented by loathing, and if that did not prevent you, you might be deterred by the fear of living in the night hours in the company of those corpses, quartered and flayed and horrible to see. And if this did not prevent you, perhaps you might not be able to draw so well as is necessary for such a demonstration; or, if you had the skill in drawing, it might not be combined with knowledge of perspective; and if it were so, you might not understand the methods of geometrical demonstration and the method of the calculation of forces and of the strength of the muscles; patience also may be wanting, so that you lack perseverance. As to whether all these things were found in me or not, the hundred and twenty books composed by me will give verdict Yes or No. In these I have been hindered neither by avarice nor negligence, but simply by want of time. Farewell."
Leonardo da Vinci

Obviously this is something that we, even today, consider morbid - with the exception of Doctors and Morticians. But back then it was heretical and.. well just imagine dissecting bodies without refrigeration or light bulbs. Leonardo wanted to know how the human body operated and he did what he had to do to figure that out.


" You're the bastard son of a servant girl I spilled my seed into. Your heritage contains you" - Ser Perro (Leo's Father)

 Although he was a "Bastard" - his father and mother were not married, he had a fairly good relationship with his father for the most part and wouldn't have been anything like what is portrayed in the show. Again, Leo was his only son for the first couple decades of Leonardo's life.

The only conflict that happened with his father was actually with his step brothers in contention of the family will when Ser Perro died. The fact that Leo would even contest the will goes to show that he was on good terms with his father. (and thought he should be included)  If he would have done what he did in this show he wouldn't have even tried.

*It's also interesting to note that Leo's uncle (His father's Brother) left all of his estate to da Vinci. (in real life)*

This episode was focused around Leonardo's cannon - which he did design, but it's doubtful that was actually built during his life time or during his involvement with the Medici's. Although a cannon of Leo's design was found recently and it is possible that he did try to cast it: http://derekbair.blogspot.com/2011/06/leonardo-da-vinci-cannon-found.html

Another part of this episode involved people invading his studio and trying to find something he was trying to hide. He would have devised a way to keep his notebooks safe and did design such devices. But what is the best way to keep your secrets safe?

The best way to keep your secrets safe is for no one to know that you have any secrets. Almost all of what Leonardo documented in his journals was kept to himself and wasn't revealed to the world until hundreds of years after his death.

The other way to keep preserve "secret knowledge" is to hide them in plain sight. This is known as stenography, and is basically hiding information in an obscure way in an image/ painting. This is evident in the Last Supper and the "Virgin of the Rocks" (The first version) etc etc etc

It's much more likely that Leonardo didn't need to keep his notebook's secret because people didn't know the extent of which he was writing about. -

(At the time people considered him an aloof painter and had no idea what he was really writing about.)


"If I need to think I need to drink." -Da Vinci's Demon's da Vinci

The show presents Leonardo as a wine guzzling, opium smoking - troubled soul. This is probably accurate, at least at some times in his life. He definitely drank and said "Wine takes revenge on the drunkard" and has journals that has a list to buy wine for "Day drinking." Whether or not he smoked anything is up for conjecture, but he was very creative and erratic.

"Inspiration cannot be forced" Da Vinci's Demons Da Vinci


Did he design grenades? Potentially but there were some things he wouldn't have documented - weapons especially so they wouldn't get into the wrong hands. Better to not write them down at all because there is nothing good to come from them for anyone. (In his design of his War Tank he purposely designed it incorrectly.)


"I can draw anything I've seen" -Da Vinci's Demons Da Vinci

This is interesting because it assumes that Leonardo had a "photographic memory"  but his journals show otherwise. He says to carry around a little notebook to sketch different expressions and movements of various people and says that there are too many for memory. If he would have had an eidetic memory then he wouldn't have had to sketch what he saw, and there are other quotes by him that allude that he didn't have the best of memories. He was a really bad speller and if he would have seen a word spelled correctly - and he had a photographic memory - he should have been able to see it and then spell it right. Right?

But wait!

Although, in another scene it shows him trying to imagine how a key would fit into a certain kind of lock. This ability is very similar to a photographic memory and is similar to the abilities of Autistic Savants. 1 in 10 people with autism have savant abilities. They also have very strong visualization talents.

Being able to imagine something and being able to re-call something are two different abilities.



Further on in the episode he mentions that he is able to do more than one thing at once.

"Men of lofty genius when they are doing the least work are most active." - Real Leo

This shows that he was able to work out a problem in his mind, without it actually being in front of him. This is something Michelangelo also said when he was sculpting the statue of David. It's said that he came and looked at the block of marble for 4 months before he even started chiseling.   Eg: They worked in their minds before they worked with their hands.


Another thing worth mentioning about this episode is about books themselves. The printing press was just invented and prior to that every single book was hand written.

No idea what the "book of Leaves" is or how that relates to Leonardo. That is for the show to reveal as it goes on.

"The whole point of progress is over-reaching, why doesn't anyone understand that." Da Vinci's Demon's da Vinci

At the end of the show Leo shows that his cannon will actually work by shooting down 6 people (from the Vatican) and securing his standing with the Medici. This is definitely not something Leonardo would have actually done.

"The Medici created and destroyed me." - Leonardo da Vinci


Popular posts from this blog

Velociperception & Ainan Celeste Cawley

Derek Hess - Forced Perspective

Salvator Mundi (The Savior of the world) by Leonardo da Vinci? (Update)