Living with Leonardo Fifty Years of Sanity and Insanity in the Art World and Beyond

Martin Kemp

Approaching the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death, the world- renowned da Vinci expert recounts his fifty- year journey with the work of the world’s most famous artist

A personal memoir interwoven with original research, Living with Leonardo takes us deep inside Leonardo da Vinci scholar Martin Kemp’s lifelong passion for the genius who has helped define our culture.

Each chapter considers a specific work as Kemp offers insight into his encounters with academics, collectors, curators, devious dealers, auctioneers, and authors— as well as how he has grappled with legions of “Leonardo loonies,” treaded vested interests in academia and museums, and fended off fusillades of non- Leonardos. Kemp explains his thinking on the Last Supper and the Mona Lisa, retells his part in the identification of the stolen Buccleuch Madonna, and explains his involvement on the two major Leonardo discoveries of the last 100 years: La Bella Principessa and Salvator Mundi. His engaging narrative elucidates the issues surrounding attribution,the scientific analyses that support experts’ interpretations, and the continuing importance of connoisseurship.

Illustrated with the works being discussed, Living with Leonardo explores the artist’s genius from every angle, including technical analysis and the pop culture works he inspired, such as The Da Vinci Code, and his enduring influence 500 years after his death.


A scholar looks back on a long career studying Leonardo da Vinci's life and works [and] offers a wide-ranging and insightful account of his 'personal relationship' with Leonardo over the past 50 years. The author is excellent in his analyses of Leonardo's artistic 'intention of the mind.' Sign up for these informative, witty, and opinionated art history classes.

— Kirkus Reviews

Kemp has spent a lifetime studying and writing about the most famous and enigmatic figure in the history of Western art [and] now presents 'an account of [his] personal relationship with Leonardo da Vinci,' skillfully combining that story with assessments and analyses of several of the artist's most iconic works, including The Last Supper, Mona Lisa, and the recently sold Salvator Mundi… As Kemp writes, 'Leonardo inspires studious devotion and untrammeled fantasy in equal measure.' Devotees, including 'Leonardo loonies,' will appreciate this fascinating account.

— Booklist


Martin Kemp


Martin Kemp is emeritus research professor in the history of art at Oxford University. He is a leading authority on Leonardo da Vinci and his bibliography on the artist includes Leonardo; Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment, Design; and La Bella Principessa: The Story of the New Masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci.