Leonardo’s art speaks of a man engaged with questions of faith, even if struggling to comprehend it. Although his St John has been held up as evidence of his homosexuality, people in the Renaissance were not defined by their sexual identity as they often are today. Leonardo struggled with sin and temptation like everyone else, but used his art to glorify creation at its best, not its basest.
At the invitation of King Francis I, Leonardo moved to France in 1516, where he spent the last three years of his life, according to [biographer Giorgio] Vasari, “earnestly resolved to learn about the doctrine of the Catholic faith.” Carlo Amoretti’s 1804 biography, the first to use archival research, described the aged Leonardo as having “abdicated things of this world with a grand determination to focus solely on the great themes of death and the afterlife.” He died a Christian death on May 2, 1519, after both Confession and Communion, leaving multiple bequests for Requiem Masses.
The name Leonardo da Vinci now carries so much star power that the Salvator Mundi, merely purported to be his, sold for $450 million in 2017. Thanks to Leonardo, the most highly valued image in this secularised world is the face of Christ the Saviour.
Catholics should not be shy about reclaiming their brilliant brother and celebrating 2019 as the year of the man who tirelessly studied creation until he found the Creator.