There is no shortage of literature on Leonardo Da Vinci for children. There is one book that stood out in my mind because it had such great activities that really brought the artist, wait no the scientist, wait no the inventor, uh the architect, the “ultimate renaissance man” to life! It was “Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You Can Build Yourself” by Maxine Anderson.
When studying Da Vinci you have to remember the time in which he lived. It was not one united Italy as it is today. Victor Immanuel didn’t unify Italy until 1861. Up until then it was comprised of many independent city states that frequently went to war. For this reason a lot of Da Vinci’s art and inventions deal with war. One of his first paintings was a shield. One of DaVinci’s father’s tenents carved a shield and asked his father to have it painted by an artist. So the budding artist Leonardo DaVinci captured all sorts of animals, dissected them, and put together different animal parts to create the most grotesque, horrifying monster he could imagine and painted it on the shield. His father found the shield quite frightening! Children love this story and have the thought of creating something truly scary on their own shield. Kids can make their own using cardboard and a plastic milk container. There are detailed instructions in the above mentioned book. Unfortunately, Leonardo’s shield did not survive the centuries. If you want to give your shield makers a little inspiration one of my favorite pieces by Caravaggio may do the trick. He painted on a shield the Greek Mythology villain, Medusa. Who looks a lot like Caravaggio! I love this piece, gore and all. I always warn my traveling companions that this piece mesmerizes me and I need some time with it when I’m at the Uffizi. Here are the scary shields we made.
Caravaggio’s scary Medusa shield:
One of Da Vinci’s greatest contribution to art was perspective. Before him paintings seemed flat. He invented an amazing little contraption to help him accurately portray perspective. These pictures are of my children experimenting with our replica.
This is a young adult chapter book that we read that we really enjoyed. It is classified young adult for a reason. We read it aloud. I glazed over the parts I didn’t feel were appropriate for their age. With that said, the book does a wonderful job interweaving historical events of the time.