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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

A Portrait of Leonardo by Donovan Bixley

The life and times of Leonardo da Vinci are vividly imagined by award-winning New Zealand author and illustrator Donovan Bixley.

This stunning literary picture book strips back the varnish to discover the man behind the masterpieces.

Da Vinci has long been an inspiration for Bixley and his love for the artist is clear. Bixley has created similar books, biographies of Mozart and Shakespeare, before working up the courage to tackle one of his greatest heroes.

Bixley's extensive research shines - revealing different parts of da Vinci's personality that I for one had no idea about. Bixley showcases da Vinci's colourful character, and flamboyant and gregarious nature.

Rather than replicating da Vinci's famous works, Bixley shows his paintings from obscure angles. Mona Lisa peeks out from behind layers of newspaper while Saint John the Baptist appears distorted through a lens.

It's a wonderful resource that will appeal to readers of all learning styles. It is, of course, a visual feast for the eyes with Bixley's fantastic illustrations. But his writing also stands out. It's easy to read and breaks the stereotype of a 'history' book. It's fresh and easy to read, with plenty of humour. Bixley also includes more information on each of the artworks included in the book inside the cover. A map documenting da Vinci's travels is also included alongside an illustrated timeline.

This labour of love from Bixley, one that has taken him decades to complete, is a beautiful homage he should be proud of. Prepare to be utterly spellbound by the breathtaking brilliance of both da Vinci and Bixley.

Reviewed by Rebekah Lyell

Upstart Press, RRP $34.99

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