For five centuries, Leonardo da Vinci has stood alone as the quintessential Renaissance man—the incomparable artist, writer, thinker, and inventor who most powerfully transformed his world. In this dazzling new intimate biography, award-winning author Charles Nicholl creates a portrait of the artist for our time—a biography that brings Leonardo to life as a complex man living in a fascinating, dangerous, quickly changing world. Drawing freely on his own original translations of Leonardo’s notebooks as well as newly discovered contemporary accounts, Nicholl captures the very texture of Leonardo’s mind and the pungent visceral impressions he transmuted into art. Detail by brilliant detail, Nicholl reconstructs the life and times of the artist, from his troubled childhood as the illegitimate son of an established Tuscan family to his years of apprenticeship in the burgeoning art world of Medici Florence to his unrivaled achievements in a breathtaking array of disciplines and media. Here, too, are compelling new answers to the enduring mysteries of Leonardo’s sexual orientation, the true identity of the Mona Lisa, and the early experiences that inspired his lifelong obsession with human flight. A writer of irresistible charm and quicksilver imagination, Nicholl takes us from the backstreet artists’ studios of Florence to the glittering palazzi of the Medici, Sforza, and Borgia families as he pursues the most extravagantly talented and maddeningly elusive artist of all time. The result is a biography of rare grace and penetration.