Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

Born: 15 April 1452, Anchiano
Died: 2 May 1519, Clos Lucé, Amboise, France
Siblings: Bartolomeo da Vinci, Giovanni Ser Piero, more
Structures: Milan Cathedral
Known for: Art, science
Works: Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, The Vitruvian Man, Lady with an Ermine
Movement: High Renaissance

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.

 

  • The illegitimate son of a 25-year-old notary, Ser Piero, and a peasant girl, Caterina, Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452, in Vinci, Italy, just outside Florence.
  • Growing up in his father’s Vinci home, Leonardo had access to scholarly texts owned by family and friends.
  • He was also exposed to Vinci’s longstanding painting tradition, and when he was about 15 his father apprenticed him to the renowned workshop of Andrea del Verrochio in Florence.
  • Even as an apprentice, Leonardo demonstrated his colossal talent.
  • Indeed, his genius seems to have seeped into a number of pieces produced by the Verrocchio’s workshop from the period 1470 to 1475.
  • For example, one of Leonardo’s first big breaks was to paint an angel in Verrochio’s “Baptism of Christ,” and Leonardo was so much better than his master’s that Verrochio allegedly resolved never to paint again.
  • In search of new challenges and the big bucks, he entered the service of the Duke of Milan in 1482, abandoning his first commission in Florence, “The Adoration of the Magi”.
  • He spent 17 years in Milan, leaving only after Duke Ludovico Sforza’s fall  from power in 1499. It was during these years that Leonardo hit his stride, reaching new heights of scientific and artistic achievement.
  • The Duke kept Leonardo busy painting and sculpting and designing elaborate court festivals, but he also put Leonardo to work designing weapons, buildings and machinery.
  • From 1485 to 1490, Leonardo produced a studies on loads of subjects, including nature, flying machines, geometry, mechanics, municipal construction, canals and architecture.
  • His studies from this period contain designs for advanced weapons, including a tank and other war vehicles, various combat devices, and submarines.
  • Also during this period, Leonardo produced his first anatomical studies. His Milan workshop was  veritable hive of activity, buzzing with apprentices and students.
  • Leonardo’s interests were so broad, and he was so often compelled by new subjects, that he usually failed to finish what he started.
  • This lack of “stick-to-it-ness” resulted in his completing only about six works in these 17 years, including “The Last Supper” and “The Virgin on the Rocks,” and he left dozens of paintings and projects unfinished or unrealized.
  • He spent most of his time studying science, either by going out into nature and observing things or by locking himself away in his workshop cutting up bodies or pondering universal truths.
  • Between 1490 to 1495 he developed his habit of recording his studies in meticulously illustrated notebooks.
  • His work covered four main themes-painting, architecture, the elements of mechanics, and human anatomy.
  • Back to Milan………. after the invasion by the French and Ludovico Sforza’s fall from power in 1499, Leonardo was left to search for a new patron.
  • Over the next 16 years, Leonardo worked and traveled throughout Italy for a number of employers, including the dastardly Cesare Borgia.
  • He traveled for a year with Borgia’s army as a military engineer and even met Niccolo Machiavelli, author of “The Prince.” Leonardo also designed a bridge to span the “golden horn” in Constantinple during this period and received commission, with the help of Machiavelli, to paint the “Battle of Anghiari.” About 1503, Leonardo reportedly began work on the “Mona Lisa”.
  • On July 9, 1504, he received notice of the death of his father, Ser Piero. Through the contrivances of his meddling half brothers and sisters, Leonardo was deprived of any inheritance.
  • From 1513 to 1516, he worked in Rome, maintaining a workshop and undertaking a variety of projects for the Pope.
  • He continued his studies of human anatomy and physiology, but the Pope forbade him from dissecting cadavers,, which truly cramped his style.
  • Following the death of his patron Giuliano de’ Medici in March of 1516, he was offered the title of Premier Painter and Engineer and Architect of the King by Francis I in France.
  • Although suffering from a paralysis of the right hand, Leonardo was still able to draw and teach. He produced studies for the Virgin Mary from “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne”, studies of cats, horses, dragons, St. George, anatomical studies, studies on the nature of water, drawings of the Deluge, and of various machines.

Leonardo died on May 2, 1519 in Cloux, France.  Ledend has it King Francis was at his side when he died, cradling Leonardo’s head in his arms.

 

Leonardo Da Vinci

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