Leonardo da Vinci was a true genius who graced this world with his presence from April 15, 1452 to May 2, 1519. Like Athens in the age of Pericles, Renaissance Italy is a summit in human history. Today, no name better seems to symbolize that age than Leonardo da Vinci.
Leonardo was born on April 15, 1942, in the Vinci, which is found in the Arno River's lower valley. His hometown was within the territory of the Republic of Florence under the rule of the Medici. He was born out of wedlock, and his parents were Caterina (a peasant) and Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci (notary).
There were few documentations on the early years of Leonardo. It was noted that he remained in his mother's home until he was 5 years old, but he moved to his father's household beginning 1457. His father married four times, and his first to third marriages were not quite successful.
During his childhood, he received informal education in mathematics, geometry and Latin. It was only when he was 14 years old that he took up art training, under the guidance of Andrea di Cione, who was popularly called as Verrocchio. Several other artists were trained by this master including Perugino, Lorenzo di Credi, Botticelli and Domenico Ghirlandaio.
As an apprentice, Leonardo was taught a wide range of areas including metallurgy, plaster casting, carpentry, chemistry, metal working, leather working, and mechanics. He also refined his artistic skills in modelling, sculpting, and painting.
Leonardo worked closely with Verrocchio on the painting entitled The Baptism of Christ, which depicted an angel holding the robe of Jesus. The young artist's work was quite superior, that it greatly impressed Verrocchio. Based on scholars, the painting showed that it employed a new technique of using oil paint. This proved to show Leonardo's ingenuity and his skills that were rather ahead of his time.
When Leonardo turned 20, he was able to qualify in the Guild of St. Luke, which was an association of doctors of medicine and artists. However, he was more interested to maintain his collaboration with Verrocchio even if his father has already set up his very own workshop.
During the years 1482 until about 1499, Leonardo was able to make a living for his artistic skills while in Milan. It was there that he was able to prove his superb talent as a painter, as he was commissioned to complete two significant paintings. These artworks included The Virgin of the Rocks, which he painted for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception. Another painting that he made was The Last Supper, intended for the Santa Maria delle Grazie Monastery. In 1485, Leonardo decided to visit Hungary, where he met the artist Matthias Corvinus. This man was believed to be the painter behind the masterpiece "Holy Family".
Between the years 1513 and 1516, Leonardo spent a huge amount of his time in the Belvedere, situated in Vatican, in Rome. Two other artists were quite popular at that time including Michelangelo and Raphael. Leonardo, along with these two artists, were under the guidance of Pope Leo X.
In 1515, Milan was recaptured by Francis I. In a meeting of the Pope and Francis I, Leonardo was among those who were present at that time. The said meeting was held in Bologna. After knowing about Leonardo's exceptional skills, he was commissioned by Franci to create a mechanical lion that had a capability of moving forward and opening its chest filled with lilies.
During the year 1516, Leonardo became a part of Francis' service, and he was given a permanent residence at the Clos Luce, which was the manor house locted ner the Chateau d'Amboise or the king's royal residence. Leonardo lived the final three years of his well-lived life. Alongside him was an apprentice and friend by the name of Count Francesco Melzi. Furthermore, Leonardo obtained a pension that amounted up to 10,000 scudi.
On May 2, 1519, Leonardo died at his residence at the Clos Luce. It was also noted that during his last years, Francis I had become one of his closest friends. In fact, the king held the head of Leonardo in his death. However, there were accounts that this story may be more of fictitious. Nevertheless, Francis and Leonardo developed a professional relationship that has led to their strong friendship even up to the artists death.
Leonardo was best known for his painting of The Mona Lisa. The painting's focal point was the Mona Lisa's rather elusive smile, as well as the mysterious quality of the woman as depicted in her eyes and corners of the mouth. There was also quite a shadowy feature in this painting, which was obtained from Leonardo's smoke or sfumato.
Aside from being a great painter, Leonardo was also a gifted draftsman. He kept a journal of sketches and drawings that he made throughout his life. These sketches served as the preparation for his works including The Virgin of the Rocks, The Last Supper and The Adoration of the Magi. His earlist drawing, Landscape Drawing for Santa Maria Della Neve, dated back to August 5, 1473, featured in detail the farmlands, Montelupo Castle and the mountains around it. Leonardo's drawing of The Vitruvian Man is one of the most popular world icons. There have been countless attempts over the years to understand the composition of Leonardo's illustration of Vitruvius' principles.
"There is no certainty in science where mathematics cannot be applied," Leonardo once wrote. After his meeting with Fra Luca Pacioli, a professor of mathematics, Leonardo eagerly plunged into a study of the subject. But this was only one of a thousand interests of an exceptionally versatile man who richly deserved to be called a "universal man". He was looked upon by his contemporaries as a "greatest philosopher". Today we know that he was something more: a scientist attracted by all branches of knowledge.
The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.” - Leonardo da Vinci
Throughout his life, Leonardo da Vinci avoided the intrigues of worldly ambitions and vanity. He was a reserved and withdrawn man, not concerned with glory, and yet absolutely sure of the value of his abilities. A consummate intellectual endowed with an extraordinary imagination, he remains the most outstanding figure of the Renaissance.