SUMMARY: Leonardo da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519) Italian Renaissance scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor
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Many refer to Leonard di Vinci as a “universal genius”. Di Vinci is considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Leonardo di Vinci paintings can be found all over the world in re-prints and some originals in museums. Perhaps two of Leonard di Vinci’s greatest accomplishments include the “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper.”
Leonardo di Vinci’s Childhood
Leonardo di Vinci was born on April 15, 1452 in Vinci, Italy. At the time he was born without a surname and was given the last name di Vinci to represent where he was born. Not much is known about Leonardo’s childhood other than he had 17 half brothers and sisters. He grew up in his father’s home and was exposed to a wonderful world of literature and painting. When Leonard was 14, he was apprenticed to Andrea di Cione, better known as Verrocchio. While there, Leonard learned much about painting and sculpting. He even posed as “David” for Verrocchio’s famous sculpture. While apprenticing Leonardo also helped paint the “Baptism of Christ” by Verrocchio.
In 1478, di Vinci became an independent master and received his first commission to paint an altarpiece for the chapel of Palazzo Vecchio, it was never executed. He later began work on his first painting “The Adoration of the Magi”, this too was left unfinished.
The Last Supper
In 1482 Leonardo began a commission for the Duke of Milan. He spent 17 years with the Duke and not only sculpted and painted but designed weapons, buildings and machinery. During this time, he produced numerous studies on nature, machinery, mathematics, architecture and designs for advanced weapons. It has been said that Leonardo designed helicopters, tanks, solar power, calculators and other inventions that were well above his time frame. Although none of these inventions came to be until later, he is still credited toward their original thought. Evidence has shown that Leonardo di Vinci recorded his studies in illustrated notebooks. He had several apprentices and pupils and often wrote texts that were later complied as Treatise on Painting. From 1495 to 1497, Leonardo worked on his masterpiece “The Last Supper”, a commission for the monastery of Santa Maria della Grazie. Sadly, he was experimenting with oil paint on dry plaster and the painting started to deteriorate by 1500. Much of the original surface of this world-renowned masterpiece is lost. Leonardo also painted another masterpiece at the same time as “The Last Supper” the “Virgin of the Rocks” for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception.
Leonardo di Vinci was often compelled to learn new subjects; this lead to him leaving many of his art pieces unfinished. During the 17 years he spent with the Duke, only 6 works were completed. In 1499, Leonardo began work for Cesare Borgia, in which he traveled for a year with the army as a military engineer. During this time, he designed a bridge to span the “golden horn” in Constantinople and he also received a commission to paint “The Battle of Anghiari.”
It is reported that in 1503, Leonardo di Vinci began work on another masterpiece the “Mona Lisa.” From 1513 to 1516 he worked for the Pope where he studied human anatomy and physiology. King Francis I offered Leonardo the title of Premier Painter and Engineer and Architect of the King. Francis I and Leonardo spent the last years of his life together as he produced studies for the Virgin Mary from “The Virgin Child and St. Anne.” During this time, he suffered paralysis in his right hand. He ended up dying on May 2, 1519 in Cloux, France. To this day, Leonardo di Vinci is considered a “renaissance man” as his accomplishments were so great. Leonardo was considered to be a Tuscan polymath, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer.