His one attempt at something lasting and challenging, a giant bronze statue of his employer's father on a horse, was delayed many times, lying unfinished for years, and finally put to rest by the French invasion. The seventy tons of bronze set aside for it were appropriated for cannons, and the clay model was used as target practice by the victorious French.
The guy had professional ADD but despite this was one of the best artist and engineer of his time.
Plus, the Last Supper is a huge fresco, not just "a painting", which from concept to execution took several years.
He didn't build the canals, but he did make several observations and proposals for improvements which were taken up by other engineers after his death. These attempts were riddled with problems, though, and the work eventually terminated (I inferred unsuccessfully).
1. I know as you do that there are many who claim to be able to bring you new stuff, but as we both know, they are almost all just rebranding the same old stuff we already have
2. I can do the following important things for you:
3. If you are skeptical of my seemingly optimistic claims, I'd be happy to come and show you test versions which I'm sure will convince you of their worth.
I wonder what a modern tech version of this letter would look like?
As an employee you're still an entrepreneur in a sense, selling your services, and your prospective employer is your potential client.
"Most Illustrious Proprietor, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled developers of applications of business, and that the invention and operation of the said programs are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Company, showing your Management my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below.
1. I have a sort of extremely light and strong functions and modules, adapted to be most easily ftp'd, and with them you may pursue, and at any time combine them with others, secure and indestructible by standard mean time to failure of hardware and denial of service, easy and convenient to compile and catalog. Also methods of unzipping and storing the data of the customers.
2. I know how, when a website is besieged, to shard data onto the cloud, and make endless variety of mirrors, and fault tolerant disks and RAIDs, and other machines pertaining to such concerns.
3. If, by reason of the volume of the data, or the structure of the btrees and its indexes, it is impossible, when conducting a search, to avail oneself of sub-second response time, I have methods for benchmarking every process or other function, even if it were interpreted, etc.
4. Again, I have kinds of functions; most convenient and easy to ftp; and with these I can spawn lots of data almost resembling a torrent; and with the download of these cause great terror to the competitor, to his great detriment and confusion.
5. And if the processing should be on the desktop I have apps of many machines most efficient for data entry and reporting; and utilities which will satisfy the needs of the most demanding customers and users and consumers.
6. I have means by secret and tortuous scripts and modules, made without leaving tracks, to generate source code, even if it were needed to run on a client or a server.
7. I will make secure firewalls, safe and unattackable, which, entering among the hackers with their utilities, there is no body of crackers so great but they would break them. And behind these, software could run quite unhurt and without any hindrance.
8. In case of need I will make big properties, methods, and collections and useful forms, out of the common type.
9. Where the operation of compiling might fail, I would contrive scripts, functions, routines, and other parameter driven processes of marvellous efficacy and not in common use. And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of data entry, reporting, and storage.
10. In times of low revenue I believe I can give perfect satisfaction and to the equal of any other in maintenance and the refactoring of code public and private; and in guiding data from one warehouse to another.
Again, the intranet app may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honor of all your customers of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Google.
And if any of the above-named things seem to anyone to be impossible or not feasible, I am most ready to make the experiment in your data center, or in whatever place may please your Businessperson - to whom I comment myself with the utmost humility, etc."
Da Vinci: Well, my boss was captured by the French.
Da Vinci: Uh ... What I mean is I was looking for new growth opportunities, and Venice is obviously the employer of choice in this industry.
That's boss. If you're the Duke, you're getting pretty excited about taking the meeting.
Most illustrious lord, seen and considering the experiments of all those who pose as masters in the art of inventing instruments of technology..
1. I can construct delivery systems that are as beautiful as functional, with which to pursue your business while being assured they'll equally resist the largest loads or the relentless attacks from malicious characters from cyberspace.
2. I can show you how to improve the craft..
And if any of the aforesaid things should seem to anyone impossible or impracticable, I offer myself as ready to make trial of them in your park or in whatever place shall please your Excellency, to whom I commend myself with all possible humility.
Best link I could find at short notice, unfortunately, the letter excerpt is two paragraphs in.
I have seen that letter many times around the Net, but never a link to anything that could prove the veracity of it.
one of the sites citing the original text and the modern Italian "translation"
He's saying he can paint as well as even the best painters. (Which was true.)
"No matter who you put in the wrestling wring, he's at best an even match for me."
See Wikipedia for more information.
Ludovico Sforza, Leonardo's employer, was actually a regent ruling in the stead of the rightful Duke of Milan. When the young Duke came of age, Ludovico refused to hand over power, so the rightful Duke got the King of Naples to support him.
In an unfavourable position, Ludovico panicked and appealed for help from outside Italy, inviting the French in with promises of support for their King's claim on Naples. In the ensuing chaos (which included him turning against the large French army), his challenger (the real Duke) was poisoned and the King of Naples (the real duke's sponsor) died. It looked good briefly, until the French king died. His successor, Louis XII, turned out to be related to the recently-assassinated young Duke (which importantly meant he had a hereditary claim to Ludovico's position).
Ludovico had by now irritated almost everyone. He had set a precedent for French inclusion in Italian warfare, irritated most of his neighbours (including the Pope) and betrayed the French army he had promised to support.
When the French -- already a dominant military power -- came for Milan, they had the backing of both Venice and the Pope. Ludovico just fled, Milan barely attempted to defend itself.
Leonardo stayed in French-occupied Milan for a while, before fleeing to Venice to take on some work there. Ludovico would be captured later, during an attempt to re-take Milan from the French with mercenaries.
Edit: The point involving Leonardo is that even if he had been capable of coming up with something crazy that made Ludovico more likely to win a few battles, the political situation was just too poor for victory to seem plausible. Ludovico sensibly fled rather than struggle against poor odds, Leonardo was never called on to help him fight the French.
If anything he was really applying to be a defense contractor.
Regardless, I'm sure Leonardo would be proud of the comparison.