Artist

Leonardo Da Vinci

Biography of Leonardo Da Vinci
Web Gallery of Art - Public Domain

Leonardo Da Vinci Biography

Leonardo Di Ser Piero Da Vinci, or as he is mostly known, Leonardo Da Vinci was an exponent of the Renaissance, who had a deep passion for science and art, and for that reason, he stood out as a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, and scientist. This man of unattainable personality, curious and passionate innovated in the field of painting giving rise to the evolution of art. He also did in the field of science, his research in the areas of anatomy, optics, and hydraulics, was the prelude to many advances in modern science.

Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452, in Vinci, an Italian town in the province of Florence, belonging to the region of Tuscany. Natural son of a peasant, Caterina and Ser Piero Da Vinci, a wealthy Florentine notary. During his childhood, the political and social uncertainty was evident due to the tensions and conflicts coming from the invasion and conquest of the Roman Empire of the East in 1453 at the hands of the Turks.

Da Vinci showed great artistic skill as well as a remarkable skill in mathematics. In his youth, he entered the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio in Florence to be trained as an artist. This moment of his life was very important because he met influential artists such as Sandro Botticelli and Pietro Perugino. Years later in 1482, Da Vinci moved to Milan in order to seek the patronage of Duke Ludovico Sforza, who invested significant amounts of tribute money to embellish the city with sumptuary works and fortifications. Ludovico accepted him in his court and spent seventeen years as a painter and military engineer. His projects were dense and ranged from mechanics and hydraulics to painting and sculpture, in regard to the painting made two essential works in this period: The Virgin of the rocks and The Last Supper.

“Who really knows what is talking about, does not find reasons to raise the voice” Leonardo da Vinci

Lorenzo de Médici, called Lorenzo The Magnificent, was a man who financially sponsored Leonardo da Vinci in his development as an artist. In fact, the time when Lorenzo supported art, it is historically known as the golden age, thanks to the artistic grandeur obtained in Florence at the end of the 15th century.

In 1483, Leonardo is hired by the brotherhood of the Immaculate Conception to execute a painting for the church of San Francisco. Leonardo began working on the painting of what would be the celebrated Virgin of the Rocks, whose result, would not be eight months that marked the agreement, but twenty years later. Both versions speak of an aesthetic revolution due to the triangular structure of the work, the elegance of the figures and the appropriate use of the famous technique of sfumato to exalt the visionary sense of the scene.

From Leonardo’s artistic production stand out the Annunciation, The Virgin and Child with St. Anne, The Virgin of the Rocks, The Last Supper, The Adoration of the Magi and the Portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci. The most famous is undoubtedly The Mona Lisa or La Gioconda, a portrait that apparently had as a model Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francisco Giocondo. This work was famous from the moment of its creation because it became a model of portraiture and had a surprising influence in the world of painting. As a character and as a painting, the mythical Gioconda has given life to countless stories and books. This work was sold in France to King Francisco I.

Leonardo da Vinci built a strong friendship with the mathematician Luca Pacioli while they were under the patronage of the Duke. In 1496, Da Vinci helped him to conclude the treaty of divine proportion. From the collaboration in this written work, Leonardo argued that by means of judicious observation objects should be recognized in their form and structure to represent them in the painting in the most accurate way. In this way, the drawing became the fundamental instrument of his didactic method. This is the reason why Leonardo da Vinci theorized his conception of pictorial art as “imitation of nature” in a painting treatise that would only be published in the seventeenth century and has been recognized as the creator of modern scientific illustration.

In this sense, according to his criterion, there should be no separation between art and science, as there was not in his research, preferentially directed towards topics such as human anatomy, zoology, geology, physics, engineering, and astronomy.

The intellectual creation of Da Vinci and Luca Pacioli could have been greater but the fall of the Duke in 1499 hindered this exercise because each one took different courses, at that time Leonardo moved to Rome.

Again in Milan (1506-1513), Leonardo’s interest in scientific studies was increasing. He went to dissections of corpses, on which he drew sketches to detail the structure and functioning of the human body. At the same time, he created systematic observations on the flight of the birds, with the conviction that also the man could fly if he knew the laws of the resistance of the air.

Unfortunately, the Battle of Novara in 1513 generated a new situation of political instability, impelling to Da Vinci to leave Milan and to go to Rome, where he was housed in the Belvedere of Giuliano de Médicis. He lived a quiet period: he studied ancient Roman monuments, drew maps, projected a large residence for the Medici in Florence and, also, resumed his friendship with the great architect Donato Bramante, until his death in 1514. Three years later he suffered an affectation in his hands due to a paralysis and at the same time his protector Giuliano de ‘Medici died, who took him to live in the palace of Cloux located in France under the protection of King Francisco I. From 1517 his health continued to decline.

Da Vinci died on May 2, 1519, in Cloux. His life and work are supported by his deep connection with nature, his curiosity and willingness to understand the complexity of life in all its forms. His testament transferred to his pupil Francesco Melzi all his books, drawings, and manuscripts, which the disciple was commissioned to return to Italy.

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