Leonardo da Vinci
was an Italian painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, and scientist. He was one of the greatest minds of the Italian Renaissance, and his influence on the painting of the following generations was enormous. Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452, near the village of Vinci about 25 miles west of Florence. He was the illegitimate son of Ser Piero da Vinci, a prominent notary of Florence, who had no other children until much later. Ser Piero raised his son himself, a common practice at the time, arranging for Leonardo's mother to marry a villager. When Leonardo was 15, his father apprenticed him to Andrea del Verrocchio, the leading artist of Florence and a characteristic talent of the early Renaissance. Verrocchio, a sculptor, painter, and goldsmith, was a remarkable craftsman, and his great skill and passionate concern for
quality of execution, as well as his interest in expressing the vital mobility of the human figure, were important element. Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance architect, musician, anatomist, inventor, engineer, sculptor, geometer, and painter. He has been described as the archetype of the "Renaissance man" and as a universal genius. Leonardo is famous for his masterly paintings, such as The Last Supper and Mona Lisa. He is also known for designing many inventions that anticipated modern technology but were rarely constructed in his lifetime. In addition, he helped advance the study of anatomy, astronomy, and civil engineering.
Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452, in Anchiano, near Vinci, Italy. He was an illegitimate child. His father, Ser Piero da Vinci was a young lawyer and his mother,Caterina, was probably a peasant girl. It has also been suggested, albeit on scanty evidence, that she was a Middle Eastern slave owned by Piero. However, the lattertheory is unlikely to be true. As he was born before modern naming conventions developed in Europe, his full name was "Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci", which means"Leonardo, son of Mister Piero, from Vinci". Leonardo himself simply signed his works "Leonardo" or "Io, Leonardo" ("I, Leonardo"). Most authorities therefore refer to hisworks as "Leonardos", not "da Vincis". Presumably he did not use his father's name because of his illegitimate status.
Leonardo grew up with his father in Florence. Here, he started drawing and painting. His early sketches were of such quality that his father soon showed them to the painterAndrea del Verrocchio who subsequently took the fourteen-year old Leonardo on as an apprentice. Later, he became an independent painter in Florence. Modern criticscontend that Leonardo's love of boys was well-known even in the sixteenth century. Rocke reports that in a fictional dialogue on l'amore masculino (male love) written by the contemporary art critic and theorist Gian Paolo Lomazzo, Leonardo appears as one of the protagonists and declares, "Know that male love is exclusively the product ofvirtue which, joining men together with the diverse affections of friendship, makes it so that from a tender age they would enter into the manly one as more stalwart friends." In the dialogue, the interlocutor inquires of Leonardo about his relations with his assistant, Salai, "Did you play the game from behind which the Florentines love so much?"
From around 1482 to 1499 Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan employed Leonardo and permitted him to operate his own workshop complete with apprentices. It was here thatseventy tons of bronze that had been set aside for Leonardo's "Gran Cavallo" horse statue (see below) were cast into weapons for the Duke in an attempt to save Milan fromthe French under Charles VIII in 1495. When the French returned under Louis XII in 1498, Milan fell without a fight, overthrowing Sforza. Leonardo stayed in Milan for a time,until one morning when he found French archers using his life-size clay model of the "Gran Cavallo" for target practice. He left with Salai and his friend (and the first man todescribe double-entry bookkeeping) Luca Pacioli for Mantua, moving on after 2 months to Venice (where he was hired as a military engineer), then briefly returning toFlorence at the end of April 1500.
In Florence he entered the services of Cesare Borgia (also called "Duca Valentino", the son of Pope Alexander VI) as a military architect and engineer with whom he travelled throughout Italy. In 1506 he returned to Milan, now in the hands of Maximilian Sforza after Swiss mercenaries had driven out the French.
From 1513 to 1516 he lived in Rome, where painters like Raphael and Michelangelo were active at the time, though he did not have much contact with these artists. However, he was probably of pivotal importance in relocation of 'David', one of Michelangelo's masterpieces, against the artist's will. In 1515 Francis I of France retook Milan, and Leonardo was commissioned to make a centrepiece (a mechanical lion) for the peace talks between the French King and Pope Leo X in Bologna, where he must have first met the King. In 1516, he entered Francis' service, being given the use of the manor house Clos Lucé next to the king's residence at the Royal Chateau at Amboise The King granted Leonardo and his entourage generous pensions: the surviving document lists 1000 ecus for the artist, 400 for Melzi (named "apprentice") and 100 for Salai
(named "servant"). In 1518 Salai left Leonardo and returned to Milan, where he eventually perished in a duel. Francis became a close friend.
Leonardo da Vinci died in Cloux, France on 2nd May, 1519, in the arms of King Francis. According to his wish, 60 beggars followed his casket. He was buried in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert in the castle of Amboise. Melzi was his principal heir and executor, but Salai was not forgotten: he received half of Leonardo's vineyard. Leonardo is well known for his artistry and paintings, such as Last Supper (Ultima Cena or Cenacolo, in Milan) 1498, and the Mona Lisa (also known as La Gioconda, now at the Louvre in Paris), 1503-1506. Though there is significant debate whether Leonardo himself painted the Mona Lisa, or whether it was the work of his students, it is known that it was probably his favorite piece. He most likely kept it with him at all times, and not travelling without it. Thousands of people see it each year in the Louvre, perhaps drawing their own interpretation on what is known as the Mona Lisa's most infamous and enigmatic feature - her smile. Leonardo often planned grandiose paintings with many drawings and sketches, only to leave the projects unfinished. For example, in 1481 he was commissioned to paint the altarpiece "The Adoration of the Magi". After extensive, bitious plans and many drawings, the painting was left unfinished and Leonardo left for Milan. Only seventeen of his paintings and none of his statues survived.
In Milan he spent 17 years making plans and models for a monumental seven-metre (24-foot) high horse statue in bronze ("Gran Cavallo". Because of war with France, the project was never finished. Based on private initiative, a similar statue was completed according to some of his plans in 1999 in New York, given to Milan and erected there. The Hunt Museum in Limerick, Ireland has a small bronze horse, thought to be the work of an apprentice from Leonardo's original design. After returning to Florence, he was commissioned for a large public mural, the "Battle of Anghiari"; his rival Michelangelo was to paint the opposite wall. After producing a fantastic variety of studies in preparation for the work, he left the city, with the mural unfinished due to technical difficulties.
Leonardo pioneered new painting techniques in many of his pieces. One of them, a colour shading technique called "Sfumato", used a series of custom-made glazes by Leonardo. It is characterized by subtle, almost infinitesimal, transitions between color areas, creating a atmospheric haze or smoky effect. "Chiaroscuro" is the technique of modelling and defining forms through contrasts of light and shadow.
List of Paintings
Annunciation (1475-1480) - Uffizi, Florence, Italy
Ginevra de' Benci (~1475) - National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, U.S.
The Benois Madonna (1478-1480) - Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia
The Virgin with Flowers (1478-1481) - Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany
Adoration of the Magi (1481) - Uffizi, Florence, Italy
Cecilia Gallerani with an Ermine (1488-90) - Czartoryski Museum, Krakow, Poland
A Musician (~1490) - Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan, Italy
Madonna Litta (1490-91) - Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
La Belle Ferronière (1495-1498) - Louvre, Paris, France
Last Supper - (1498) Convent of Sta. Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy
The Madonna of the Rocks (1483-86) - Louvre, Paris, France
Mona Lisa or La Gioconda (1503-1505/1506) - Louvre, Paris, France
The Madonna of the Rocks or The Virgin of the Rocks (1508) - National Gallery, London, England
Leda and the Swan (1508) - (Only copies survive) Galleria Borghese, Rome, Italy
The Virgin and Child with St. Anne (~1510) - Louvre, Paris, France
St. John the Baptist (~1514) - Louvre, Paris, France
Bacchus (1515) - Louvre, Paris, France
Name: Leonardo da Vinci
Birth Date: April 15, 1452
Death Date: May 2, 1519
Place of Birth: Vinci, Italy
Place of Death: Amboise, France
Occupations: artist, painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, scientist
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