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In Defense of Salaì

In Defense of Salaì

 Who was the ten-year-old child who went from living in his parent's house, to living with Leonardo da Vinci, as his apprentice, so many years ago?  To be accepted under da Vinci's tutelage was highly prestigious and was considered an honor. But what was it, really? And how did it affect that ten year old little boy?

On April 9th of 1476, Leonardo da Vinci was accused of sodomy in an anonymous report to the Florentine authorities. Leonardo, who was just shy of his 24th birthday, was one of four men said to have had sex with Jacopo Saltarelli, a 17 year old boy.  It was claimed that Saltarelli had been “a party to many wretched affairs and consents to please those persons who exact certain evil pleasures from him”. Saltarelli had apparently “served several dozen people”, but only four in particular were named, including Leonardo da Vinci, who was based at the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio.  As an anonymous accusation, however, the report was not accepted, and less than two months later the accusations were dropped on the condition that the men accused were not reported again.  It is often said that Leonardo could have been shamed into celibacy with these charges. 

Although five hundred years ago, the practice of young boys studying under, and belonging to maestros, was considered normal, I think it is safe to assume the child under Leonardo da Vinci's care could have been traumatized, homesick, and longing for his parents.  Historians and fiction writers alike have taken this innocent (and perhaps a naughty and unruly) child, and turned him into a demonized antagonist, who tormented the great artist Leonardo da Vinci to no end. Never have  allowances for his young age, or confusing circumstances; been made.  His name was Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno, and since he was ten years old these four words – ladro, bugiardo, ostinato, ghiotto: thief, liar, stubborn, glutton, have been used to describe him.

But what if we take a more nuanced look at Gian Giacomo?  

Giacomo was subject to craft apprenticeship (a form of indenture) and he belonged to Leonardo, who was to make a respectable artist of him.  It is documented that within forty-eight hours of arriving at Leonardo's home, Gian Giacomo stole four lire from Leonardo's purse, lied shamelessly when confronted about it, and made such a spectacle of himself at dinner that a shocked Leonardo wrote about it in his journal as follows:

"I went to sup with Giacomo Andrea (de Fererra, an architect friend)… and the said Giacomo (Salaì) supped for two and did mischief for four, for he brake three cruets and spilled the wine"…

Giacomo then nicked a fellow pupil’s silver stylus and hid it in his locker. He then emptied a footman’s purse, after which he casually stole a piece of costly Turkish leather, trading it for anise bonbon candies which he gobbled down all by himself. Then, he lifted another stylus from a different apprentice and was caught stealing once again…

Hence the label - Ladro, bugiardo, ostinato, ghiotto: thief, liar, stubborn, glutton.  Leonardo quickly gave Giacomo Andrea the nickname Salaì, meaning "Little Devil", and it has followed Gian Giacomo ever since...  

Why was Giacomo so poorly behaved from the moment he stepped foot in Leonardo's home?  Was he a difficult, but talented, child to begin with, and his family gave him up in the hopes of reform?  Was the pain of being torn away from his family the reason why he was such a "Little Devil"?  Or was he just a naughty boy from day one and the circumstances just made his behavior worse?

Firstly, I think it is important that we remember that there are MANY differences in "social norms" between now and 500 years ago.  Leonardo and Giacomo's relationship was considered normal then.  Although I can't fathom how a ten year old boy could be pawned off on a much older man, and nobody blinked, I will do my best to reserve judgments.  That being said, I believe Gian Giacomo's life deserves a closer, more compassionate look. 

In today's society, it is well known that abused children suffer from social withdrawal, anxiety and/or depression. They are likely to partake in dangerous behavior such as drinking alcohol, smoking, drugs, self harm, homelessness, prostitution, gang involvement, and early sexual activity.  Early childhood abuse is known to be a cause of narcissistic personality disorder (among others) and these traits serve as protective mechanisms against deep insecurity and shame that develop from such abuse.  I imagine that human nature has always been what it is, so I assume trauma has always produced the notorious narcissists we love to hate.  

Interestingly, the school of Leonardo da Vinci portrayed Giacomo Salaì as Narcissus in a painting by Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio:

Narcissus is a character from Greek mythology who falls in love with his own reflection and whose tale has given us the term "narcissist".  Could it be that the school of Leonardo labeled Giacomo as a narcissist... because he was one?  Being that he had been torn away from his family at the age of ten and then shared a bed with a much older man, this sounds like the childhood of a narcissist.  Children in today's world who are abused sexually and/or physically as a child often grow up to be narcissists and abusers themselves,  especially if they have abandonment wounds like runaways or foster children from separation from their family.  The more trauma occurs, the more likely a narcissistic individual could be created. 

Understanding the nuances of narcissism is vital in providing effective, compassionate support that can reduce the damage that people with narcissism have on today's society.  Rooted in shame and insecurity, narcissists project false confidence while seeking approval and validation and lacking consideration for other's feelings. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a formal diagnosis that usually features traits such as arrogance, entitlement, and a lack of empathy.

NPD is a rare condition, impacting less than 1% of the population (about 1 out of 200 people), most of which are males. It is very likely that this number is higher, however, as NPD often goes undiagnosed and untreated due to the nature of the disorder.  If you take a look online, there are entire threads, support groups, and accounts dedicated to surviving narcissistic abuse.  While people with NPD appear self-absorbed, their self-love is directed at APPEARING lovable and ideal, concealing deep-seated self loathing, insecurities, and fears that if anyone found out what happened to them, nobody would EVER love them. Maintaining this facade requires constant effort, leading to the dysfunctional/toxic traits associated with narcissism.

And sadly, once people find out that someone has been subjected to trauma, they are often judged, shamed, and blamed for being victims. (E.g. rape culture, systemic gaslighting, victim shaming/blaming)  Case in point:  In 2021, the television series about da Vinci, titled, Leonardo, depicts Gian Giacomo as an opportunistic, conniving, sex worker while glossing over the age difference between he and Leonardo.  The television series paints him as a devious, gold digging prostitute, as opposed to a CHILD given to Leonardo for fosterage. Stealing Giacomo's virtue to preserve Leonardo’s is a wildly unfair and damaging narrative.  Why does the child have to be shamed and called a whore, so that the other can be the hero? This smearing of the child's reputation leads to the deepening of his shame and insecurity as they are seen as "trash" who deserved to be called a "Little Devil".  The problem with this kind of thing is it demonizes a child's behavior like throwing tantrums, playing pranks, pestering fellow pupils, stealing and lying about, it when it really just speaks heavily to their inner turmoil.

I have not been able to adequately reconcile in my mind what a middle-aged Leonardo da Vinci was doing with a boy twenty-eight years younger than him, especially a child he raised from the age of ten.  From my modern day moral perspective, the whole thing is problematic to say the very least.  But was it abusive, exploitive, coercive? Was it a power trip, or were they equal partners? Was it forced upon Giacomo from day one, or did it evolve over time more gradually?  

A detail I have always found interesting is that four years after Leonardo's death, Giacomo married a woman named Bianca.  This leads me to believe that Giacomo may have been straight by nature, preferring women, but was forced into a homosexual dynamic with da Vinci.  If that was the case, I imagine that Giacomo might have had deep resentment and shame about his life with da Vinci, and that truly breaks my heart.  No child deserves to be groomed, molested and/or raped EVER, under ANY circumstances.  PERIOD.  We have so many souls repeating cycles of abuse, it is time this comes to an end.  It all starts with each of us looking WITHIN, and nowhere else.

Just because you were abused and traumatized (every human on earth probably has some PTSD, let's be real), doesn't mean that you have to become the next abuser. We all have free will, and can all take personal accountability for our actions.  When we stop projecting our core wounds, shame, insecurities, and judgments on those around us, and no longer carry on like narcissists, then we can end these cycles of abuse.  When we stop lying, gaslighting, projecting, judging and shaming everyone around us, then we have begun to learn the art of self mastery, love, and the art of alchemy...  Alchemizing our pain into our power, our lower nature into our highest nature, our lead into gold. 

This all begins when take a look in the mirror.  If we do not begin to do this, we don't learn our lessons, and repeat them again and again, sometimes over many lifetimes.  As long as we play the blame game and fail to see that our judgments we place on others are the things we are ashamed of or unaware of about in ourselves, then we till be stuck in the same toxic loop of self induced suffering. 

The good news is, nobody but ourselves can save us from ourselves.  Christ Consciousness will save humanity and it truly begins WITHIN.  This is hugely empowering.  But it does take honest self reflection and self awareness, and both take courage.  Growing and evolving is not for the faint of heart, but it is worth it, and the keys to self mastery are available to us if we only seek them.   

As we enter into 2024, truths are continuing to be revealed.  2024 marks a year of disclosure.  Disclosure between the Self and the Spirit, between citizens and governments, on a micro-scale and a macro-scale.  Much will be revealed this year, breaking down the hold separation consciousness has on human society.  Full disclosure is just the beginning of our collective awakening and will continue to unlock more and more as time progresses. Not everything will be revealed all at once, so no need to panic!  This is all part of an awakening process that is called the Remembrance process.  In order to break down these limiting 3D systems, and their social constructs, the truth of why they aren’t working is become more known.

The 3D systems upheld by the patriarchy are collapsing. In the coming year, more and more souls will awaken as the Divine Feminine rises along with heart/brain coherence.   As in the year 2020, 2024 holds the same groundbreaking changes in consciousness on a worldwide scale.

The only thing we can control to these changes is our response to them.  We can consciously choose unconditional love over "being right,"  We are far more equipped to handle these changes without responding with fear, but with love. Our capacity to alchemize all things with love and compassion is limitless, if we can just remember who we REALLY are!  Because we, beautiful souls, are made of MAGIC!  It is never to late to learn our lessons and become better people.  In fact, that is what we are here for!  Cheers to becoming the changes we wish to see in the world beautiful souls!  I love you all so much!

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