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The Renaissance – Leonardo and da Vinci

by Zach Gasior

Of the many great minds associated with the Renaissance, none stands out more to the average person than Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).  Born Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci in Florence, Italy to a peasant and a notary, the man became one of the great thinkers and polymaths (painter, architect, mathematician, inventor, botanist, and so many other things) of all generations.

Leonardo De VinciMost well known for his paintings, Leonardo da Vinci created such masterpieces as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, which have been analyzed, examined, and critiqued for the last 500+ years.  His works are, to this day, critically acclaimed as some of the best in all of history.  However, his efforts did not stop with art.  Da Vinci also changed the way mankind looked at its own anatomy and the world around it.  He was revered as an inventor, sketching designs for the helicopter, tank, and calculator long before the machines were actually built.  He even created a working theory on plate tectonics.

Late in life, Leonardo lived in the Vatican, where both Raphael and Michelangelo were active at the same time.  He became a close friend to Francis I of France, and spent his last years living and working for Francis at Chateau d’Amboise in France.  Appreciated in life, and revered after death for his legendary accomplishments, Leonardo da Vinci is argued (fairly successfully) to be the father of the Renaissance, and he will forever be its most closely associated creator.

For a leader, it is an honor to be the namesake of Leonardo da Vinci.  For a ninja warrior trying to be a well-rounded thinker and strategist, it’s an even greater honor.  As a student of ninjutsu and a budding leader, Leonardo gained all the best traits of his namesake.  He is thoughtful, creative, analytical, and a strong presence for his brothers and friends.  Like Leonardo, da Vinci was something of a leader in his disciplines, and the ninja turtle adopted that nature into his own training.

Leonardo da Vinci was an interesting choice for the leader’s name.  The man himself was as much a mathematical and technical genius as he was a brilliant artist.  That aspect seems like it would fit much better with Donatello’s personality than that of Leonardo.  So why did the name go to the turtles’ leader?  Most likely, it’s because of da Vinci’s unofficial role as the father of the Renaissance.  The man thought to be in charge of the movement is essentially its leader.  So, if Renaissance artists are the theme for naming the warriors, then why not choose the leader of the movement for the leader of the brothers?

Leonardo TMNTOf course, there’s also the question of whether or not there was any actual reason for choosing the names as they were assigned.  While creators often think about every detail of their characters, right down to the names, there’s very little about Leonardo that would suggest some connection to da Vinci.  Yes, he has the mind of a leader, like the Renaissance man, but that’s about it.  He is not particularly artistic, and he’s certainly not the scientist.  So really there is nothing more than a very superficial relationship between the two, which begs the audience to wonder if there is anything more substantial about the other three turtles and their namesakes.  Was Raphael a hot head?  Was Donatello a scientist?  Did Michelangelo like to play practical jokes while painting the Sistine Chapel?

Leonardo da Vinci was a fascinating thinker and artist, and easily one of the best in history.  His namesake, Leonardo, received some of his analytical brains and his nature as a leader in a particular field.  While the connection between the two may not be much deeper than that, Leonardo has still done his artist proud as leader of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and will forever put the great mind of the Leonardo’s to good use.

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