Leonardo da Vinci
BIRTHDAY: April 15, 1452
DEATH DATE: May 2, 1519 (age 67)
Renaissance artist, inventor, polymath, musician, and architect who painted the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper and drew the iconic Vitruvian Man. He also devised such futuristic technology as tanks, concentrated solar power, and adding machines, and spearheaded some vital breakthroughs in anatomy, civil engineering, optics, and hydrodynamics. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.
He became an apprentice of the artist, Andrea di Cione or Verrocchio, at the age of 14, who at the time was known as one of the greatest artists of the age. He was classified a master by the Guild of St. Luke when he was 20.
His sketches of flying machines, while nonfunctional, stand as examples of scientific thought and creativity, making da Vinci the ideal Renaissance Man.
His parents, the peasant Caterina and the notary Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci, had him out of wedlock. He was charged with sodomy in 1476, leading to long-held rumors about his sexual orientation.
He and Michelangelo Buonarroti both defined Renaissance art.
Leonardo was, and is, renowned primarily as a painter. Among his works, the Mona Lisa is the most famous and most parodied portrait and The Last Supper the most reproduced religious painting of all time, with their fame approached only by Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. Leonardo’s drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also regarded as a cultural icon, being reproduced on items as varied as the euro coin, textbooks, and T-shirts. Perhaps fifteen of his paintings have survived, the small number because of his constant, and frequently disastrous, experimentation with new techniques, and his chronic procrastination. Nevertheless, these few works, together with his notebooks, which contain drawings, scientific diagrams, and his thoughts on the nature of painting, compose a contribution to later generations of artists rivalled only by that of his contemporary, Michelangelo.
Leonardo is revered for his technological ingenuity. He conceptualised flying machines, a tank, concentrated solar power, an adding machine, and the double hull, also outlining a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics. Relatively few of his designs were constructed or were even feasible during his lifetime, but some of his smaller inventions, such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire, entered the world of manufacturing unheralded. He made important discoveries in anatomy, civil engineering, optics, andhydrodynamics, but he did not publish his findings and they had no direct influence on later science.