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October 16, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

INVENTING LEONARDO by A. Richard Tucker (University of California Press: $15.; 278 pp., illustrated). Although Leonardo possessed one of the most extraordinary minds in human history, he remains a singularly elusive figure. Unlike Michelangelo, who produced art that was displayed prominently in Rome and Florence, Leonardo completed relatively few works, many of which were damaged or destroyed. "The Last Supper" began to deteriorate shortly after he stopped working on it; his notebooks remained unpublished for centuries. Tucker recounts Leonardo's life, carefully separating popular myths from the few verifiable facts. He shows how subsequent generations have created visions of Leonardo that reflect their cultural biases, rather than the actual personality and accomplishments of the brilliant, frustrated artist/scholar.

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