Da Vinci's Demons: ep:104: The Magician




"The Magician" centered around Lorenzo still trying to figure out who the spy from Rome is and having to deal with their threats to take over. Leaning on Leonardo's military engineering abilities seems to be in vain as he is unable to deliver enough cannons in time. The very last night before Lorenzo was going to have to surrender da Vinci surprises all by displaying an enormousness cross bow that would launch  "cluster bombards" - saving the day. His affair with Lorenzo's mistress continues, but again not all is what it seems as Leonardo is arrested for sodomy allegations at the end of the episode. He also begins to find clues that Lorenzo's grandfather Cosimo "the Magician" is some how part of the secret society and also see's clues to find the "book of leaves." 

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The episode starts out with a story about Leonardo from when he was 14 by Andrea del Verrocchio. He tells of how Leonardo's father secretly commissioning his son to paint a shield  buckler - and then it being so great that he sold it to someone else. He also tells about how Leonardo came to be his student and enter into his studio. Both are fairly accurate although they still set his father up to be more of a villain to fit in with his character on the show. The following quotes are from da Vinci's first biographer Vassari:

This is the quote about how he ended up in Verrocchio's workshop:
"Nevertheless, although he occupied himself with such a variety of things, he never ceased drawing and working in relief, pursuits which suited his fancy more than any other. Ser Piero, having observed this, and having considered the loftiness of his intellect, one day took some of his drawings and carried them to Andrea del Verrocchio, who was much his friend, and besought him straitly to tell him whether Leonardo, by devoting himself to drawing, would make any proficience. Andrea was astonished to see the extraordinary beginnings of Leonardo, and urged Ser Piero that he should make him study it; wherefore he arranged with Leonardo that he should enter the workshop of Andrea, which Leonardo did with the greatest willingness in the world."

This is the quote about Leonardo making the buckler with the head of Medusa. It's said to have inspired some paintings but the original version is gone. 

"It is said that Ser Piero da Vinci, at his villa, was besought as a favour, by a peasant of his, who had made a buckler with his own hands out of a fig-tree that he had cut down on the farm, to have it painted for him in Florence, which he did very willingly, since the countryman was very skilful at catching birds and fishing, and Ser Piero made much use of him in these pursuits. Thereupon, having had it taken to Florence, without saying a word to Leonardo as to whose it was, he asked him to paint something upon it. Leonardo, having one day taken this buckler in his hands, and seeing it twisted, badly made, and clumsy, straightened it by the fire, and, having given it to a turner, from the rude and clumsy thing that it was, caused it to be made smooth and even.
And afterwards, having given it a coat of gesso, and having prepared it in his own way, he began to think what he could paint upon it, that might be able to terrify all who should come upon it, producing the same effect as once did the head of Medusa. For this purpose, then, Leonardo carried to a room of his own into which no one entered save himself alone, lizards great and small, crickets, serpents, butterflies, grasshoppers, bats, and other strange kinds of suchlike animals (some of these animals he dissected), out of the number of which, variously put together, he formed a great ugly creature, most horrible and terrifying, which emitted a poisonous breath and turned the air to flame; and he made it coming out of a dark and jagged rock, belching forth venom from its open throat, fire from its eyes, and smoke from its nostrils, in so strange a fashion that it appeared altogether a monstrous and horrible thing; and so long did he labour over making it, that the stench of the dead animals in that room was past bearing, but Leonardo did not notice it, so great was the love that he bore towards art.
The work being finished, although it was no longer asked for either by the countryman or by his father, Leonardo told the latter that he might send for the buckler at his convenience, since, for his part, it was finished. Ser Piero having therefore gone one morning to the room for the buckler, and having knocked at the door, Leonardo opened to him, telling him to wait a little; and, having gone back into the room, he adjusted the buckler in a good light on the easel, and put to the window, in order to make a soft light, and then he bade him come in to see it. Ser Piero, at the first glance, taken by surprise, gave a sudden start, not thinking that that was the buckler, nor merely painted the form that he saw upon it, and, falling back a step, Leonardo checked him, saying, "This work serves the end for which it was made; take it, then, and carry it away, since this is the effect that it was meant to produce.
This thing appeared to Ser Piero nothing short of a miracle, and he praised very greatly the ingenious idea of Leonardo; and then, having privately bought from a peddler another buckler, painted with a heart transfixed by an arrow, he presented it to the countryman, who remained obliged to him for as long as he lived. Afterwards, Ser Piero sold the buckler of Leonardo secretly to some merchants in Florence, for a hundred ducats; and in a short time it came into the hands of the Duke of Milan, having been sold to him by the said merchants for three hundred ducats."


Next up is Leo painting Lucrezia Donati, or at least preparing to. He says:

"Paining is about more than just strokes, there is perspective, do I paint you from below or from above. And there's symbols [to consider]. with a dog in your arms, the symbol of loyalty? And the folds of your dress, should they be lush and sumptuous or stiff and angular. And perhaps no gown at all. If I was a dutiful servant I would consider the name of my patron. That is what I struggle with."



There are countless notes from da Vinci's journals about perspective and how to paint. Without cameras or access to advanced art supplies (or technology) everything had to be done independently. From making the paint and canvas to learning how to compose the subject and then how to actually go about painting it. 


"Your wit wont get us out of this one da Vinci, your weapons will." Lorenzo

Lorenzo is frustrated with Leonardo's lack of progress and shuts down his other ideas and tells him to keep focused on making more cannons. 

"This is an artless pursuit. I would like to just make one of something." - Tom Riley
 

Realizing that he won't have time to make enough cannons he takes a lesson from nature - the Pomegranate. With it's design, spheres within spheres, he creates a similar model but out of iron and explosives. Although they would work he wouldn't have time to build them over night (if ever) so he makes props and tells the Roman Count Riario they are real - thus avoiding the immediate conflict that could have resulted in the ruin of Florence or the capture of himself. As Riario rides away he says:

"History is a lie. Well played artista. You'd be wise to remember that war is waged on many fronts."

This is alluding to an anon (anonymous) person accusing da Vinci of the crime of sodomy. During this time in history there were "the officers of the night" who were like morality police. Although rarely, (in the show they say 50 years) enforced the punishment for sodomy was to be burned at the stake. 

This really did happen to Leonardo and he was imprisoned for the crime but was never convicted due to lack of evidence. Whether or not he actually committed the "crime" or who accused him (and for what reason) is unknown. Although that will be explored further in the next episode and i'll save the information about his sexuality for it's proper place. 


Leonardo also is discovering more about the Book of Secrets and thinks he finds directions to where it could be in symbols within a painting of Cosimo - Lorenzo's Grandfather (the Magician.) He was planning to ask Lorenzo to support a voyage before he got arrested. 






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