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Was Leonardo Gay?


Francesco Melzi - Portrait of Leonardo, after 1510

Francesco Melzi (Italian, 1491/93-ca. 1570). Portrait of Leonardo, after 1510. Red chalk on paper. 275 x 190 cm (108 1/4 x 74 3/4 in.).

© Royal Library, Windsor.
Yes, I read that Leonardo was a "flamboyant homosexual" in The Da Vinci Code, too. It came as somewhat of a shock. Not the "homosexual" part, mind you - rather, the astonishing discovery that the author had managed to uncover details of Leonardo's orientation after so many centuries. Many have tried, and all have failed until this novel's publication. (Not that literary claims in The Code have been backed with primary documentation ... but let's not allow lack of evidence to impede a good story ... )

The sketch seen here is by the Lombard artist Francesco Melzi, Leonardo's pupil, companion and primary heir. Melzi became an apprentice to Leonardo in 1508, during the latter's second stint in Milan, and remained at his side until Leonardo died in 1519.

The fact that Melzi, and the aptly named troublemaker "Salai" ("Offspring of Satan") were both protégés of Leonardo - regardless of their respective artistic talents or lack thereof - has caused speculation over the years. We all know how tongues love to wag. Were they apprentices or something more? Honestly, no one knows this except the above men, all long dead, never uttering a peep while they lived and leaving no tell-all diaries. I have gathered a few thoughts about Leonardo's potential homosexuality here, though, and offer further sources for the truly curious.
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