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Da Vinci and Michelangelo – Geniuses from The Italian Renaissance

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Though “notion of genius” can be defined as many things in various ways, two of the most influential Renaissance artists Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni are still well recognized as the genius of art today. Both Leonardo, whose worldly famous for his masterpiece “The Last Supper” and “The Mona Lisa”, and Michelangelo whose also significantly well known for his work “The sculpture David” share some similarities. Behind their historical pieces of work, it is apparent that their natural talent, attractive structure and a difference in the painting style which relates to their preferences of the subjects played major roles in spreading popularity and fame of these artists.

Natural talent which includes acute sensitivity is one of the significant factors when it comes to something that has no rules such as art. It is apparent that Leonardo da Vinci had a transcended tallent in art, since the young age. After his father discovered his talented artwork, he was apprenticed to a well-known artist at the time around the age of 15. The fact that he never received above basic formal education but was transcended to train in mechanical arts at Andrea’s workshop clearly shows how significantly talented he was already, even before receiving special training in art. It has even been stated that his angel drawn on the panel which Andrea was working on looked better than hers. In addition, it has been stated that he had an estimated IQ of 200 and showed his talent in various fields outside of art, as a mathematician, inventor and natural sciences. Among all, natural science is another critical principle of his life that cannot be ignored, as he implemented a logical approach in solving problems in daily life. His achievements in studies outside of art has given him a name of “Uomo Universale”, according to Devoldere. It can perhaps be said that his discoveries in sciences such as neuroanatomy and neurophysiology have played a major role in the modern development of science in history. On the other hand, it seems likely that Michelangelo’s talent was flourished when he was surrounded by the environment with countless stone quarries. Though his father did not appreciate his wish to become an artist, his talent was soon to be appreciated by many of leading art patron and citizens of Florence. The fact that he was commissioned to complete historical works for Pope Julius II which concludes his free-standing tomb clearly shows that his talent stood out from the others, and was unique (Krén and Marx). Similarly to Leonardo, he also had an extremely high IQ which was estimated to be 177, and also that extended his study in other fields such as politics and philosophy. However, it is clear that they both also valued the study outside of art to create in order to create their masterpieces, which can perhaps he supported with the quote by Michelangelo, “Genius is eternal patience”.

How a piece of artwork catches people’s eyes and attract the audience usually cannot be explained with scientific studies and evidence, as every individual have their sensitivity. However, it was apparent that their masterpieces shared some similarities in the structure and design, though it is still unknown whether they intentionally implemented it or not. Which is the usage of the golden ratio, the divine proportion in another name which helps art to be structured in the “most aesthetically pleasing way”, according to Esaak. Leonardo has implemented this ratio in many of his worldly famous paintings such as “The Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper”. The fact that each of both these paintings is located at the world’s greatest museum and a church and were traded for an enormous amount of money proves that people nowadays still see the special value in those paintings. Michelangelo however, it has been stated that he has also used the golden ratio for works such as “The creation of Adam”, and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (Meisner). Though the intention of purposely usage of the ratio has not been proven, it can be predicted that this has played a role in many audiences seeing the significant value in them considering that those masterpieces created by those two geniuses of art have features of the golden ratio.

Despite the similar characteristics in their artworks they share discussed above, and the fact that they are both known as geniuses, they certainly have a difference which can be seen from the previous works created by Leonardo and Michelangelo. The first difference is their strong points in art. It is apparent that Leonardo passionately drew women in his paintings and has left works such as “Lady with Ermine”, “Mona Lisa” and “Leda and the swan” according to Jones. The figures of the woman painted by Leonardo in the “Lady with Ermine” was soft and glamorous, which even looks like airbrush technique was being used to paint, though it did not exist at the time when the painting was completed. On the other hand, Michelangelo is known for artworks which involve men or men as female models, such as “The sculpture of David”, “The last judgement” and “Leda and the swan”. Though Michelangelo has painted the same painting as Leonardo about a decay later, the completed piece of art was totally different. As Michelangelo was better at painting figures of men, it is apparent that he has used male models when painting women figures, which has been stated as “cross-gender images”, according to Garrard (qtd. In Even). It can be said that this made his paintings of women look more musicalized and though as a consequence. However, it is apparent that his “The sculpture of David” has been attracting people for over centuries with the standout beauty of its figure representing strength and youth. Though Leonardo and Michelangelo are often put and categorized together as geniuses of art representing the Italian Renaissance, it is clear that they were two completely different artists who had an almost opposite style in paintings.

The definition of genius could differ within individuals and can be over-generalized. However, the two most influential and remembered geniuses of art from the Italian Renaissance expresses strong characters in every piece of art they have created in their lifetime. It is apparent that their natural talent which covered a wide range of subjects other than art, the usage of the most attractive ratio structure and their opposite characters made their pieces unique, and them the genius of art which has been handed down even now. Their art-work has hugely influenced our modern lives and it makes our generation curious who will be recognized as a genius in the time in the future. 

Works cited 

  • Gary Meisner, “Michelangelo and the Art of the Golden Ratio in Design and Composition”, 1/18/2016, Web. 1/8/2019
  • “Three features of the Renaissance arts and four innovations”, 10/15/2019, Web. 1/8/2019,
  • “Acticity: golden ratio Using The Golden Ratio”, Museum of Science, web. 1/8/2019
  • Louie Andre, “13 Most Intelligent People In The History Of The World”, Finances online, Web. 1/8/2019
  • “Michelangelo”, HISTORY, 10/18/2010, web. 1/8/2019
  • Emil Krén and Daniel Marx, “Tomb of Pope Julius II”, WEB GALLERY OF ART, Web. 1/8/2019
  • Pevsner J, “Leonardo da Vinci’s contributions to neuroscience”, 4/25/2002, Web. 1/8/2019
  • “Leonardo da Vinci”, HISTORY, 12/2/2009, Web. 1/8/2019
  • Luc Devoldere, “Leonardo da Vinci: The One and Only ‘Uomo Universale’, the low countries, 8/5/2019, Web. 1/8/2019
  • Shelley Esaak, “How Does the Golden Ratio Relate to Art?”, ThoughtCo, 7/3/2019, Web. 1/8/2019,
  • Jonathan Jones, “Leonardo’s love of women”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 8/20/2012, Web. 1/8/2019,
  • “Genius is eternal patience – Michelangelo”, philosiblog, 3/6/2012, Web. 1/8/2019

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