Besides the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and the Vitruvian Man, it seems we also have Leonardo da Vinci to thank for this penis doodle.
Yes, the same genius who is credited as the archetype of the “Renaissance man” also seems to have had a thing for the men of the Renaissance.
Here’s the drawing that was uncovered in Leonardos’s notebook, which was actually drawn by his apprentice Salai (who was very likely also his lover):
The drawing shows two crudely drawn penises marching towards a mysterious hole. The hole, consequently, is labeled “Salai.” So either he picked an interesting place to sign his masterpiece, or there is much to be read from this historic piece of art.
If you have kids and ever find questionable doodles among their schoolwork, rest assured that some of history’s greatest minds operated the same way.
Here’s some background on Leonardo’s sexuality from author and historian Ross King’s Leonardo and the Last Supper:
According to Lomazzo’s account, Leonardo’s passion for the beautiful Salai therefore reached its peak at about the time work began on The Last Supper in Santa Maria delle Grazie.
In the fifteenth century, Florentines were so well-known for homosexuality that the German word for sodomite was Florenzer. By 1415 the sexual behavior of young Florentine men had caused the city fathers such concern that “desiring to eliminate a worse evil by means of a lesser one” they licensed two more public brothels to go with the one they had opened with similar aspirations a dozen years earlier.
When these establishments failed to produce the desired results, and still “desiring to extirpate that vice of Sodom and Gomorrah, so contrary to nature,” the city fathers took further action. In 1432, a special authority, the Ufficiali di Notte e Conservatori dei Monasteri, or Officers of the Night and Preservers of Morality in the Monasteries, was formed to catch and prosecute sodomites. Over the next seven decades, more than ten thousand men were apprehended by this night watch.
According to Vasari, Salai was “a very attractive youth of unusual grace and looks, with very beautiful hair which he wore curled in ringlets and which delighted his master.” Giacomo seems to have served as a model for Leonardo. No definitive image of him exists, but art historians refer to a distinctive face that appears repeatedly in his drawings—that of a beautiful youth with a Greek nose, a mass of curls and a dreamy pout—as a “Salai-type profile.”
Leonardo was almost certainly homosexual by the standards of later centuries. Freud was no doubt correct when he stated that it was doubtful whether Leonardo ever embraced a woman in passion. Two years after the Saltarelli affair, Leonardo wrote a partially legible declaration in his notebook: “Fioravante di Domenico at Florence is my most beloved friend, as though he were my….” A nineteenth-century editor of Leonardo’s writings hopefully filled in “brother,” but the relationship may well have been more intimate.
Here is a video of King discussing the matter more:
via Dangerous Minds