Today, Leonardo da Vinci is renowned for being one of the Renaissance's most illustrious polymaths – but back in the late 15th Century, the artist, inventor and all-around genius still had to job hunt like the rest of us. And yes, his resume was... intimidating.
"Before he was famous... Leonardo da Vinci was an artificer, an armorer, a maker of things that go 'boom'," writes Marc Cenedella, on his blog devoted to job searching and recruiting advice.
"And, like you, he had to put together a resume to get his next gig. So in 1482, at the age of 30, he wrote out a letter and a list of his capabilities and sent it off to [Ludovico Sforza, regent, and later
Duke,] of Milan." (The letter, it seems, made a lasting impression; Ludovico would become a longtime patron of da Vinci's, and is remembered especially for commissioning The Last Supper.)
Included with daVinci's letter was a silver lyre of his own creation, sculpted in the shape of a horse's head. He references the lyre in item eleven of his missive, the translation of which appears below (a digitized copy of the original letter, at the end of the post:
Most Illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said
instruments are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship 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 bridges,
adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at
any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by
fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of
burning and destroying those of the enemy.
2. I know how, when a
place is besieged, to take the water out of the trenches, and make
endless variety of bridges, and covered ways and ladders, and other
machines pertaining to such expeditions.
3. If, by reason of the
height of the banks, or the strength of the place and its position, it
is impossible, when besieging a place, to avail oneself of the plan of
bombardment, I have methods for destroying every rock or other fortress,
even if it were founded on a rock, etc.
4. Again, I have kinds of
mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; and with these I can fling
small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these
cause great terror to the enemy, to his great detriment and confusion.
And if the fight should be at sea I have kinds of many machines most
efficient for offense and defense; and vessels which will resist the
attack of the largest guns and powder and fumes.
6. I have means
by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise, to reach a
designated spot, even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a
7. I will make covered chariots, safe and unattackable,
which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body
of men so great but they would break them. And behind these, infantry
could follow quite unhurt and without any hindrance.
8. In case of need I will make big guns, mortars, and light ordnance of fine and useful forms, out of the common type.
Where the operation of bombardment might fail, I would contrive
catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other machines 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 offense and
10. In times of peace I believe I can give perfect
satisfaction and to the equal of any other in architecture and the
composition of buildings public and private; and in guiding water from
one place to another.
11. I can carry out sculpture in marble,
bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as
well as any other, be he who he may.
Again, the bronze horse may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honor
of the prince your father of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.
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 park, or in whatever place may please your Excellency – to whom I
comment myself with the utmost humility, etc. Humble, indeed. No, really. As Cenedella notes:
You'll notice [da Vinci] doesn't recite past achievements. He doesn't mention the painting of the altarpiece for the Chapel of St Bernard; he doesn't provide a laundry list of past bombs he's built; he doesn't
cite his prior employment in artist Andrea di Cione's studio. No, he does none of these things, because those are about his achievements, and not about the Duke's needs.
Cenedella via Open Culture, h/t David Grann