Leonardo The Trickster


Published in Aurora, The Philosophy Dept. Journal, CUNY Graduate Center, Jan. 2000


"The purpose of this essay is to try to decipher a famous childhood recollection of Leonardo da Vinci about Kite: 'This writing distinctly about the Kite seems to be my destiny, because among the first recollections of my infancy, it seemed to me that, as I was in my cradle, a Kite came to me and opened my mouth with its tail, and struck me several times with its tail inside my lips.'

I will analyze two rival -- art historical and psychoanalytic -- interpretations of this recollection by Leonardo, and also some sociological data about sodomy in Renaissance Florence that became available only recently. I will try to solve the mystery of the Kite on the grounds of aesthetics, and I will base my analysis primarily on the concept of the Renaissance created by Mikhail Bakhtin in his monograph Rabelais and his world (1940). This is the first attempt to apply Bakhtin's method of research and interpretation to the visual arts."

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