|Famous Paintings by da Vinci|
|The Last Supper|
|The Baptism of Christ|
|Lady with an Ermine|
|Ginevra de’ Benci|
|Adoration of the Magi|
|St. Jerome in the Wilderness|
|View Complete Works|
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci is known to the world as an inventor, scientist, mathematician, and most of all, an artist. Da Vinci is considered to be a true Renaissance man. He was skilled in many subjects, and is respected because of his achievements. He helped pioneer the sciences, developed new art techniques, and was one of the first people to dissect the human body.
Da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452 in Vinci, Italy. His father was a public notary in Milan, and his mother, a simple maiden. When Leonardo was little, he would always try to invent new things, he was very intelligent. At the age of 14, he became an apprentice to one of the best painters at the time, Andrea del Verrocchio. Under Verrocchio, he learned how to paint and sculpt. He also learned skills in metallurgy, drafting, chemistry, and carpentry. Out of all these, Da Vinci chose art as his main profession, but used all that he learned throughout his life.
Da Vinci collaborated with Verrocchio on a few pieces. There is a legend that says when Leonardo painted Gabriel in The Baptism of Christ (1472), Verrocchio never painted again, because his skills could not compare to those of Da Vinci. But, this is not a certain fact.
There are only 15 paintings of Da Vinci that survive. The most famous of which is the Mona Lisa that was painted between 1503-1507. The model who posed for the painting was said to be a young merchant’s wife, but who knows. In this painting, Da Vinci used a new technique called “sfumato”, which is the hazy atmosphere in the picture. The Mona Lisa is one of the most analyzed paintings of all time, because Da Vinci’s face also fits that of Mona’s, which is unusual for any painting.
There are many drawings by Da Vinci that still exist, the most famous is the Vitruvian Man. The drawing represents the proportions of man according to the work of Vitruvius, an ancient Roman architect. Along with the Mona Lisa, it is one of the most recognized and most reproduced image of all time.
Though Da Vinci was talented, he did not work on any sculptures. He had plans for an equestrian statue in 1492 but he never got started. The bronze he was use for the statue was instead used for cannons to protect the city of Milan from the invasion of Charles V, King of France at the time.
Da Vinci wrote several books throughout his lifetime. He collaborated with another mathematician to write a treatise on Mathematics, and then by himself, the Codex on the Flight of Birds (1505). After his death, his Treatise on Painting was printed in 1680, it included many drawings on anatomy.
He had many inventions. He was obsessed with flight and had plans for something similar to a helicopter. He also created musical instruments and hydraulic water pumps, most of which were never built. He was commissioned to make a mechanical lion for the King of France. It walked forward and the chest would open to reveal a bunch of lilies.
Throughout his life, Da Vinci never married, nor was he linked to anyone. In 1476, when he was 24 years old, he and three other guys were charged with sodomy, which was illegal in Florence where he was living. Records show they were acquitted.
Unlike most other artists, Da Vinci was famous during his lifetime and only became even more so after his death. He was called upon by important church officials and royals to paint for them, or invent things for them. For instance, The Last Supper, which was painted on a convent wall in 1498 was one such commission. It has deteriorated badly over the years due to Da Vinci trying tempera on plaster instead of a fresco. (Tempera is egg whites mixed with paint, and it makes the paint shiny; a fresco is paint mixed with plaster, making it more durable against the ravages of time) During war, he was employed as a military architect, to design a siege against the invading enemies, like during the Second Italian War. He was employed as a naval architect in Venice. He was a favorite of the Governor of Milan, Ludovic, and King Francois I of France.
Leonardo had two apprentices, which lived with him for most of his life. One was Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno, nicknamed Salaì, and the other was Count Francesco Melzi. Salaì became an apprentice in 1490, and Melzi in 1506. Neither of them ever became distinguished artists, but they worked with their master until he died.
Da Vinci died on May 2, 1519 in France. Stories say he died in King Francois’s arms. He spent the last two years of his life in France, with his apprentices, and they had lived at the King’s personal Château. Before his death, Da Vinci requested that 60 beggars walk behind his coffin through the streets to the graveyard. So they did. Most of his belongings were left to Melzi, his favorite apprentice and only his drawings, were divided up among his friends.