By simply applying science to every sphere of life, Leonardo da Vinci left a legacy that has survived several centuries of inventions. Despite being a self-taught artist, Leonardo da Vinci’s creativity has made him one of history’s most inventive men.
Though he completed only a few of his paintings, the iconic artist is best recognized for his expressive artwork. Discover more about the influential life of the talented artist, scientist, and inventor.
Da Vinci’s Early Life
The iconic artist was born Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, which means Leonardo, son of Messer Piero from Vinci, on April 15, 1452, in the Tuscan hill town of Vinci. He is the illegitimate son of Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci, a Florentine notary, and a peasant girl Caterina. His father and mother were never married and Leonardo was their only child together. However, he had other half-siblings from each of his parent’s marriage with other partners.
Not much is known about Leonardo’s early life. He spent his toddler years in Anchiano before living the rest of his formative years on his father’s estate in Vinci. Da Vinci had no formal education but that did not leave him handicapped. In his teenage years, Leonardo was apprenticed under one of the most successful sculptors and painters of his time, Andrea del Verrocchio in Florence before gaining his independence in 1478. He later moved to Milan to work as an engineer, sculptor, painter, and architect for the ruling Sforza family.
Works and Legacy
A multi-talented personality, Leonardo Da Vinci is undisputedly one of the greatest painters to date. His earliest known drawing can be dated back to the early 1470’s. Da Vinci’s total output was quite small as just a few of his paintings and sculptures are still surviving, nonetheless, two of his works continue to leave the world in awe and admiration. The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper are uniquely the most famous and reproduced portraits of all time.
A Milan inspired artwork, Da Vinci’s The Last Supper was painted between 1495 to 1498. La Gioconda popularly known as Mona Lisa which depicts a woman with a mysterious slight smile was painted around 1503 and 1506. The rare drawing is currently housed at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France, where it attracts millions of visitors from around the world each year.
Though regarded primarily as an artist given the fame of his surviving paintings, Da Vinci was a brilliant mind whose interests were so broad, that he achieved new heights in both arts and science. He expressed science through art – in his drawings and diagrams. His painting was scientific, with a deep understanding of the physics of light and shade as well as anatomy, the workings of the human body. Da Vinci worked and greatly advanced the state of knowledge in a range of scientific fields.
His engineering ideas were vastly ahead of his time, as his designs were barely feasible during his lifetime. Da Vinci failed to complete a good number of his paintings and projects, a situation which many attributes to his numerous diverse interests. He would have undeniably been regarded as a pioneering scientist if all his work had been completed and published.
Notebooks and Collections
In the early 1490s, Leonardo Da Vinci began documenting his ideas covering themes that ranged from nature to mechanics in meticulously illustrated notebooks. His illustrations were mostly written in codes (left-handed mirror scripts) which cannot be easily deciphered by others.
After da Vinci’s death, the different codices and manuscripts were scattered but thankfully, they are now safely stashed away in museum collections. Bill Gates reportedly once paid $30 million for one of the collections – the Codex Leicester.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s Sexuality
The man had an ambivalent attitude toward sex. He is known to be vegetarian, gay, and flamboyant in his dress sense (he had a preference for pink). In 1476, Leonardo and three other young men, including a 17-year-old were charged with sodomy. Luckily for the artist, one of the young men with whom he was accused had connections with the Medici family, the case was dropped and all four men acquitted. Moreover, in Leonardo’s works, it is apparent that his depictions of men are more erotic than those of women.
Da Vinci returned to Milan in the early 1500’s and remained there until 1513. In the next three years thereafter, he lived in Belvedere in the Vatican, Rome. Vinci spent his final years living in France in the company of his bosom friend and apprentice, Count Francesco Melzi whom he left his entire estate to. The legendary artist died on 2 May 1519 and was laid to rest in the palace church of Saint-Florentin.