I am in love with the story Robin Maxwell tells in “Signora da Vinci.” The book follows the life of Caterina, the mother of the great (you guessed it!), Leonardo da Vinci. Since there is very little known about the woman, Maxwell had plenty of artistic license and created a wonderful narrative about a brave woman keeping an eye on her son, who was born out of wedlock.
Although the life of Caterina is mostly fiction, Maxwell carefully outlines what life was like in 15th century Florence. She utilizes historical documents and research to introduce historical figures and events that are as close to the truth as possible. Through Caterina we meet Lorenzo the Magnificent , Botticelli and Savonarola. Maxwell uses Caterina’s character to follow Leonardo and explain his habits, such as finding him dissecting bodies in the hospital basement in Florence like he did with insects as a child, or creating an equestrian statue for the Duke of Milan.
Besides being truly entertaining, “Signora da Vinci” really gave me the feeling that I was there in Florence with Caterina. For those interested in the Italian Renaissance (as I clearly am), I definitely recommend this book!