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"Why would I spend my time at the workshop when I can go out and have fun?"
―Salaì, 1506.[src]

Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno (1480 – 1524), commonly known as Salaì, was Leonardo da Vinci's most famous apprentice and most likely his lover.


Early life[]

Around 1490, at the young age of ten, Gian was apprenticed to Leonardo da Vinci. The master was drawn to him almost immediately, and on the second day of the apprenticeship, Leonardo had already decided to commission two shirts, a pair of hose and a jerkin for Gian.[1]

Despite this generosity, Gian stole the money that Leonardo had set aside to pay for the clothing and refused to confess—though Leonardo was quite certain that he was guilty. On a different occasion, when Leonardo brought Gian with him to dine with Giacomo Andrea, Gian "supped for two and did mischief for four, for he broke three cruets and spilled the wine".[1]

This misbehavior eventually led to Leonardo bestowing on him the nickname "Salaì", after a little devil from the Romantic epic Morgante. Salaì became quite attached to the moniker and began refusing to answer to his given name.[1]

The two remained close companions nonetheless, and Leonardo would always aid Salaì in his painting compositions,and would frequently bail him out of jail.[1] In turn, Salaì modelled for several of Leonardo's paintings, including his St. John the Baptist.[2]

Apprenticeship in Rome[]

Leonardo: "I intended to accompany you to the docks, but we cannot leave my workshop without my assistant."
Ezio: "Bene. An easy task."
Leonardo: "I am afraid you underestimate Salaì!"
—Leonardo and Ezio discussing Salaì, 1499 CE.[src]

Throughout Leonardo's stay at the Villa Auditore in Monteriggioni, to which he had been invited by Mario and Ezio Auditore, he researched the studies of Pythagoras. Upon coming across the location of the catacombs that contained the Temple of Pythagoras around 1499, he and Salaì relocated to Rome.[2]

There, Leonardo explored the catacombs for years, until he discovered the entrance to the temple. Salaì was meant to watch Leonardo's workshop whenever his master was away, but he could more often be found gambling at the local inn La Volpe Addormentata with rounds of Hazard.[2]

Around this time, Leonardo would speak openly to Salaì about the Temple, the Pieces of Eden, and details about the Assassins he was allied to—a carelessness that irritated Ezio when he found out and one that eventually called undue attention from the Cult of Hermes.[2]

Master's disappearance[]

Ezio: "Here! The entrance to the catacombs!"
Salaì: "Go. Bring him back to me."
—Ezio and Salaì discovering Leonardo's location.[src]

In 1506, Ezio visited Leonardo to ask for his help in chartering a ship, and since the artist could not leave the workshop unattended, Ezio left to retrieve Salaì for him.[3]

Though it took some prompting, Salaì abandoned his Hazard game to accompany Ezio, brushing off his gambling partners' insistence for him to stay. However, the hooded disciples he had been playing with were actually Hermeticists intent on keeping him out of the workshop and away from Leonardo. They wished to kidnap him to discover the entrance to the Temple of Pythagoras.[3]

A Roll of the Dice 9

Ezio and Salaì arriving at the ransacked workshop

Upon failing to stop Salaì from leaving, the Hermeticists attacked both him and Ezio though the two were able to repel them. Ezio realized the danger to Leonardo, and Salaì therefore led the way through the Centro District using the fastest route back to the workshop, but they arrived too late.[3]

Salaì panicked when he found his master missing and began calling for him, convinced that he was still in the workshop. Ezio managed to calm him and asked where Leonardo's discovered catacombs were, but Salaì did not know. After searching the ransacked workshop, they found a clue that Leonardo had left them inscribed on the floor, "Dipinti Della Villa" ('Villa Paintings').[3]

Salaì directed Ezio to Lucrezia Borgia's residence, where he knew the villa paintings were, and waited in the workshop until the Assassin had recovered them all.[4] Though they could not find any map hidden in the frame, Salaì recalled that Leonardo had been experimenting with a vanishing ink and suggested that Ezio use his "gift" to see any hidden writings.[5]

The Assassin copied down the pieces of the map concealed in the paintings and pinpointed the location of the temple. As Ezio left, Salaì anxiously bade him to bring Leonardo back to him. In turn, as soon as he was rescued from the Hermeticists, Leonardo also asked about Salaì and was relieved to hear he was "safe at home".[6]

Personality and traits[]

Salaì: "Nice hood. Are you one of Julius' monks?"
Ezio: "My church is not of God."
Salaì: "Outside the kingdom of God is the realm of men. You worship there, messere?"
—Salaì meeting Ezio.[src]
A Roll of the Dice 5

Salaì walking with Ezio

Though apprenticed under Leonardo, Salaì was carefree and wasteful with money, once even convincing an art merchant that one of his own paintings was by Leonardo in order to earn enough for a new doublet. He also spent much of his time outside the workshop and blatantly refused to leave his gambling game even upon being told by Ezio that his master was calling for him.[3]

Salaì was also light-hearted and mischievous, purposefully goading Ezio upon first meeting him and insisting on trying to make conversation with him even if the Assassin was unresponsive.[3]

Though Salaì constantly stole his master's coin and spent it on fashionable clothing, he also doted on Leonardo and grew greatly distressed after he was kidnapped. The two remained devoted to each other, with Leonardo gradually teaching him how to read. Following Leonardo's death in 1519, he left his apprentice half of his vineyard and what would later become his most famous painting, the Mona Lisa.[2]

Salaì was an adept fighter with a dagger and could also free-run quite well, often using the rooftops to reach home more quickly after the taverns closed.[2]

Behind the scenes[]

Salaì is a historical figure first introduced in the novelization of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. He later made his debut in the 2011 Brotherhood DLC campaign The Da Vinci Disappearance, where he is voiced by the Canadian actor David Kaye.

His name is a diminutive contraction of the childhood nickname "Saladino" given by Leonardo, who first described him as having a dangerous temper matching that of Saladin, the 12th-century Muslim sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty whom contemporary Christians of the First Crusade viewed as a devil for following a different faith.[7]




  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Assassin's Creed: BrotherhoodThe Da Vinci DisappearanceDatabase: Salai
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood – The Da Vinci Disappearance
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood – The Da Vinci DisappearanceA Roll of the Dice
  4. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood – The Da Vinci DisappearanceThe One Who Got Away
  5. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood – The Da Vinci DisappearanceDecoding Da Vinci
  6. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood – The Da Vinci DisappearanceThe Temple of Pythagoras
  7. Wikipedia-W-visual-balanced Salaì on Wikipedia