Bülent Atalay’s Math and the Mona Lisa, released on Leonardo's birthday on April 15, 2004, is a book by a modern Renaissance man about the paragon Renaissance man. In a masterfully crafted approach, the author seeks the consilience of science and art—painting, architecture, sculpture, music, mathematics, physics, biology, astronomy, and engineering—by employing 'Leonardo's model,' a scheme he identifies as the modus operandi of Leonardo.Leonardo, the father figure of the Italian Renaissance, produced no more than twenty paintings, only a dozen or so which have survived. This part-time artist, however, produced the two most famous paintings in all of history. The Last Supper was described by the legendary Oxford art historian, Kenneth Clark, as the "keystone of Western art," and recently inspired the compelling best seller, The Da Vinci Code. And an unremarkable woman, the wife of a Florentine merchant, was immortalized as the Mona Lisa, now the crown jewel of the greatest art gallery in the world. Her enigmatic smile in the psychological portrait has inspired endless curious theories: "She is pregnant," "She is suffering from a tooth ache," "It's a self-portrait [of its creator],…"
For Leonardo his varied interests were knots of a magnificent tapestry. Uncovering the internal dynamics of each of these interests and establishing the connections between them were his quest, and systematic experimentation his method. Ultimately, in every aspect of his life—while doing science and engineering, or on the infrequent occasions while creating art—he was operating as the consummate scientist. And it was the cross-fertilization of ideas and their seamless integration that led to many of his astonishing achievements. The transcendent unity of science and art and the expansive cross-semination are the essence of Leonardo’s model.
The author presents science through art, and art through science, and approaches the larger goal of achieving a synthesis of the two fields. The qualities of timelessness and universality in Leonardo's miraculous works speak eloquently for themselves. With Leonardo's model providing the unifying thread, however, it becomes possible, first, to glimpse Leonardo's restless intellect, that extraordinary psyche; second, to see whence the ideas for his works of art came; and ultimately to appreciate his art at a different level. What also emerges is a timeless message: Leonardo's model can assist in bridging the cultural divide prevailing in our age of specialization, and it can help make us all more creative.Preeminent authorities in the sciences and arts have described the book in the following terms: