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The Life and Brilliance of Leonardo da Vinci

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Leonardo da Vinci: The Genius

Genius and artist, Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452 in Anchiano, Tuscany (now Italy). This town was close to the town of Vinci, Italy so that is how he got his surname. His parents’ names were Ser Piero, an attorney and Caternia, a peasant woman (Biography.com). According to the History.com Staff, da Vinci’s parents were never married to each other. At a young age of Leonardo’s life, both of his parents began new lives with other partners. He had a total of 17 half-siblings. Leonardo received little education besides basic reading, math, and writing. Anyone could see his artistic ability starting at an early age.

At just the age of 14 Leonardo began an apprenticeship with Andrea del Verrocchio, an artist from Florence, Italy. In this apprenticeship, he learned a lot of different technical skills that helped him with his later works. These skills included metalworking, leather arts, carpentry, drawing, painting and sculpting. 1473 is the year of his earliest known work. This was a “pen-and-ink drawing of a landscape in the Arno Valley” (Biography.com).

At the age of 20 Leonardo was offered a membership in Florence’s Guild of Saint Luke by the painters. Even though this was a great opportunity for him he declined the offer to continue to work with Verrocchio for five more years. Around the year of 1482 da Vinci started his first piece that was going to be for sale. This work was called the “Adoration of the Magi.” It was for the Augustinian monks of Florence’s San Donato, which was a Scopeto monastery (Biography.com). According to the History.com Staff, Leonardo never finished that piece because Lorenzo de’ Medici—the Florentine ruler, told him to “create a silver lyre and bring it as a peace gesture” to the ruler of Milan. Shortly after this, he relocated there to work for the Sforza clan. He worked mostly as an engineer and designer while sketching war machines for them. He stayed to work in Milan for 17 years.

While still in Milan during the 1480s Leonardo not only studied art but also science. According to Biography.com, he is not the only artist who did this and “did not see a divide between science and art. He viewed the two as intertwined disciplines rather than separate ones. He believed studying science made him a better artist.” Da Vinci believed that the eyes are a human’s most important organ because sight is the most important sense. According to the History.com Staff, he did not finish a lot of his works because he would spend more time studying “nature, testing scientific laws, and dissecting bodies (human and animal).” While studying these subjects he would write in notebooks about his observations. There were four different notebooks that he filled with information that he discovered. The topics were on painting, architecture, mechanics and human anatomy. According to Biography.com, Leonardo’s drawings on human anatomy are among the first on record. One of his most famous works that is well known is his sketch of a man with his arms and legs spread apart inside a circle and a square, this is called the “Vitruvian Man.” This piece of work is an example of when art and science intertwine perfectly.

Another two of the world’s most known artworks were created by da Vinci during the years of 1495 to about 1506. These paintings are known as “The Last Supper” and the “Mona Lisa.” In Milan during the years of 1495 to about 1498 is when “The Last Supper” was worked on. It was created for the dining hall in the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, otherwise known as “The Cenacle.” This work of art is a depiction of the “Passover dinner during which Jesus Christ addresses the Apostles” (History.com Staff). In the depiction, Jesus is centered with the 12 Apostles surrounding him. Leonardo returned to Florence during the year of 1503, from this year to about 1506 is when the “Mona Lisa” was worked on. Still to this day, the “Mona Lisa” is a mysterious subject. No one truly knows who she really is. “In the past, she was often thought to be Mona Lisa Gherardini, a courtesan, but current scholarship indicates that she was Lisa del Giocondo, wife of Florentine merchant Francisco del Giocondo” (History.com Staff). People have come up with this latest theory because the original Italian name of the painting is “La Gioconda” (Biography.com). Today, the “Mona Lisa” is the only portrait painted by Leonard da Vinci himself that has survived. It is being held at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France (History.com Staff).

After completing the “Mona Lisa” in 1506 Leonardo da Vinci returned to Milan to work for the French rulers. A young aristocrat named Francesco Melzi who was one of da Vinci’s students became his companion for the rest of his life. 1513 is the year when he ended up by leaving the city of Milan again to move to Rome. In Rome, da Vinci spent little time doing artwork and more time studying mathematics and science. After Leonardo received an offer from King Francis I to have the title “Premier Painter and Engineer and Architect to the King,” he left Italy for good in the year 1516 and moved to France. In France, da Vinci lived in the Château de Cloux. Leonardo’s last recorded work was a mechanical lion. This artwork was special because it could move, it walked and the chest was able to open. Inside its chest there was a bouquet of lilies that could be revealed. Some suggest that his final years were not happy years because of how bitter he was with some situations. Leonardo da Vinci died at the young age of 67 on the 2nd of May in the year 1519. His best companion, Francesco Melzi, inherited his estate in France (Biography.com). According to the History.com Staff, Leonardo was buried near the church of Saint-Florentin. Still, to this day, Leonardo da Vinci is not only known as an artist but also a genius for his astonishing works such as “The Last Supper” and the “Mona Lisa” and for his amazing findings in human anatomy, engineering, mathematics, mechanics, painting, and architecture.

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