The prodigies. Children who know too much. The old sixteenth-century proverb says “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” What makes a prodigy? It seems pretty evident that there is a genetic component to the form of genius or exceptional talent found in the prodigy. Whether the gift is generalized as in polymathical or focused, there is usually precedent for talent in the family which mean a generally higher level if intelligence or elite level. What is unknown or or known fragmentarily is whether prodigies are born with superior motor skills, or if these are honed with extensive practice that follows their interest in a given field.
F.W. Westaway:The mind’s undoubted power of detecting identity and difference, co-existence and succession, seems to be original and inborn. Still, the power is exercised only on a contemplation of actual things, from without or from within, and all such primitive judgments are individual. The mind compares two things and proclaims them to agree or disagree. The judgment is immediate, and it is felt to be necessary; it is irresistible and does not admit of doubt; it seems to be independent and to hang upon nothing else, and seems therefore to be primitive. But although the power is innate, this does not mean that the judgments themselves are innate.Read More:http://www.archive.org/stream/craftsmanshipint032576mbp/craftsmanshipint032576mbp_djvu.txt
In the arts, Leonardo and Caravaggio could be called prodigies; exceptional work. However, it appears in their cases that in there early work there is something profound, even noble they are reaching for even though the technical skills may have been fully developed.More interestingly, there is probably a sensorial memory at work that builds slivers of truth in memory into visual forms or a visual language. The integration of the complex and abstact, the illogical and non-linear compressed into a form of “simplicity as the ultimate sophistication” as DaVinci said
…The other Leonardo portrait is the first of the three, and, to my way of thinking, the least attractive of the trio. It was painted in 1474 and is said to depict Ginevra de’ Benci. Of the three, it’s the only one I’ve seen and the only Leonardo in the U.S. It’s the proud possession of the National Gallery of Art in Washington (also probably it’s most valuable possession). In the Mona Lisa, Leonardo seems to have been experimenting with circles and ovals but he at least kept his geometric interests subtle. In his portrait of Ginevra De’ Benci, his fascination with the circle almost literally leaps off the canvas, the roundness of her head and hair perhaps the first thing that strikes you in seeing the work. So help me, the effect is uncomfortably close to a “smiley face” except, unfortunately, she’s not smiling (perhaps with good reason). Her skin is ivory and cold, the face is colorless and bland, the mouth tight and too tiny, the curls in her hair, tight and labored. Added together, I find it stiff and unattractive. Of the three, it is the least successful portrait, though Vasari and a number of other experts disagree with me on this. But, it was an early effort (Leonardo would have been 22 at the time), and it appears that he learned from it. Even of Leonardo, what more could you ask. Read More:http://art-now-and-then.blogspot.com/2011/03/leos-ladies.html
But, teaching still has a value.Da Vinci and Caravaggio apprenticed to learn their art. In the bygone era of our grandparents, teachers were to a large extent content to regard their pupils as so many pails into which they were satisfied simply to pour a prescribed ration of intellectual content; raw material into the production process. A Da Vinci or say a Bobby Fischer knew they were not a finished structure; there had to be some perception of organic growth, changing, adjusting, experimenting since their gift was new methods – for old madness- and a deliberate casting aside of previous approaches that were incomplete or obsolete.
The prodigal life is similar to the European folk tale about a young man embarking on a long journey. After arriving at the destination what he found there was what he had brought with him from home. The pilgrimage of a Poussin to study in Rome or Da Vinci forced on them the disconcerting question as to the inherent purpose and value of a pilgrimage. Their art in a sense, seeks to answer why we seek out pilgrimages: the locus of the answer being we seek out pilgrimages because inner and outer are not two separate realities and that art is an integration of seeming contradictions,
Pesenti and colleagues have now used functional brain imaging to examine the calculating prodigy Rüdiger Gamm, and to compare his brain activity with that of normal control subjects as they perform mental arithmetical calculations. Gamm is remarkable in that he is able (for example) to calculate 9th powers and 5th roots with great accuracy, and he can find the quotient of 2 primes to 60 decimal places. The authors found that Gamm’s calculation processes recruited a system of brain areas implicated in episodic memory, including right medial frontal and parahippocampal gyri, whereas those of control subjects did not. They suggest that experts develop a way of exploiting the unlimited storage capacity of long-term memory to maintain task relevant information, such as the sequence of steps and intermediate results needed for complex calculation, whereas the rest of us rely on the very limited span of working memory.Read More:http://www.mathematicalbrain.com/pdf/PRODIGY.PDF
Art, for example, is one area where young prodigies are uncommon, and child authors are rarer still. One of the prodigies in Feldman’s study was a boy named Randy, who began writing plays at the age of five. Though he was wise beyond his years, Randy’s dramas still tended to revolve around superheroes, and his language would not be mistaken as the work of an adult. This is in contrast to musical prodigies like the violinist Mi Dori or athletic prodigies like figure skater Tara Lipinski, both of whom were able to compete successfully with adults in their fields at the tender age of thirteen. Feldman proposed that children are most likely to be able to compete at an adult level in fields that are highly structured, with a clear set of established rules. Children seem especially drawn to domains like music or chess, which rely on symbolic representation that relate to each other in fixed patterns. Fields that have more open-ended goals, such as writing or scientific research, often require a depth of experience and abstract thinking that make them difficult for children to master.Read More:http://brainconnection.positscience.com/topics/?main=fa/child-prodigies3a