Robin Maxwell's articles @ Huffington Post
Signora da Vinci JANE Augie Appleby
Was Leonardo da Vinci Gay?

Bronze statue of Donatello's "David"

While everyone seems to have extremely strong opinions about the man, no one - biographer or historian - has conclusive evidence about whether Leonardo was straight, gay, bi-sexual or asexual. My best guess is that his sexual preferences changed according to his age, his social setting, and the emotional and political pressures brought to bear upon him.

Probable self-portrait of Leonardo from Adoration of the Magi

As a young apprentice in Andrea Verrocchio's bottega, Leonardo was surrounded by lots of "pretty boys" who had little or no money to spend on whores, so homosexual behavior was perhaps more a necessity than a choice. When Leonardo was nineteen, he and three other Florentine youths (two of whom were relatives of the Medici) were arrested by the church's vice squad - the Officers of Night - on a charge of "sodomy." In those days, sodomites could be burned at the stake. But the infamous trial that ensued proved nothing, and charges were later dropped.

Once he was a bit older, there was every reason to think Leonardo visited female, as well as male prostitutes. It seems clear that the sodomy trial had an effect on the budding artist's sexuality - putting him off it for a time. The scandal seemed to traumatize this exquisitely sensitive young man. Once an outgoing, fancily clad man-about-town, he became quite reclusive and solitary.

Later in life, Leonardo appeared asexual. While he adored having beautiful young men surrounding him as apprentices, he was so caught up in the "life of the mind" that sex may have become quite unimportant to him.Some of his writings suggest that he thought the sex act silly, the sex organs repulsive, and the only redeeming qualities the attractive faces of the participants - all that kept the human race from dying out.
Verrocchio's bronze "David."  Some believe the model in the sketch
of David's pose is a 16 year-old Leonardo.
Click here to buy this book on
Click here to buy this book on Barnes & Noble
Click here to buy this book on
"Maxwell tells the story of Caterina, a young alchemist’s daughter whose illicit love affair brings her the greatest love of her life, her genius son Leonardo. In order to watch over and protect him, she escapes from the restrictions of her gender, entering into a seductive garden of philosophy, art, learning and danger. From the dusty streets of Vinci and the glories of Il Magnifico's Florence, to the conspiratorial halls of Rome and Milan, the book celebrates one woman’s unquenchable ardor for knowledge, and a secret world that historical fiction readers rarely see."
— C.W. Gortner, author of THE LAST QUEEN

"Signora da Vinci is without a doubt the best historical fiction I have read all year. In her most remarkable novel yet, Robin Maxwell takes us back to the Italian Renaissance to give us a beautifully rendered and captivating portrait of Leonardo da Vinci's mother, Caterina. A masterful blend of fact and fiction, Signora da Vinci mesmerizes."

— Michelle Moran, Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen

"Here is a superbly imagined portrait of a woman living in turbulent times who boldly behaved as few dared.  Caterina da Vinci moved in a world that included the glittering Medici and the villainous Savonarola, all of whom are well-limned in this sparkling epic. Set in the sunshine of 15 th century Tuscany, the novel continually delights with intriguing details, from the bottega workshops of the great Italian masters to the minutiae of an alchemist's laboratory."

Vicki Leon, Uppity Women of the Renaissance, Working IX to V
For Reading Groups - Readers Guide Questions
Bonus Passport to Leonardo and Caterina's World!
15th CENTURY RECIPE: Grape and Olive Compote
What is "The Shadow Renaissance?"
Was the Shroud of Turin the world's first photograph?
Signora da Vinci JANE Augie Appleby NEW! ATLANTOS
All Rights Reserved . No part of this site may be reproduced without express written permission. Web design by