The Italian Almanac

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Leonardo Da Vinci

Italian Television - August 17

The name Leonardo da Vinci probably conjures up the image of an elderly man with a flowing beard for most people, but a new cartoon for kids paints the Renaissance genius as an excitable and charismatic child. The series, which will appear on Italian TV screens late next year, is a fictionalized account of Leonardo's early life, set against the colourful backdrop of his Tuscan home-town of Vinci.

Comprising 26 episodes in total, it depicts Leonardo as an energetic boy, engaging in pranks and getting into trouble like any other child his age. But the makers of the cartoon, which is being filmed at the moment, are creating a character with an "extra spark", hinting at the man he will one day become.

Although the program-makers are incorporating some facts from the genius's early life into the series, much of the background is pure fantasy. The series sets Leonardo's childhood in Vinci but he actually spent most of his formative years with his father in Florence, where he started school at the age of five. However, the inventor's precocious talents, depicted in the cartoon, are based on evidence from his life.

Born in 1452, Leonardo was the illegitimate son of a Florentine notary called Piero da Vinci. Until recently, his mother, Caterina, was thought to have been a local peasant woman although some evidence now suggests she may have been a Middle Eastern slave.