You may know him, as the artist who created the world-famous Mona Lisa.
He was but, more than just a painter.
He was adept in Music, sculpting, architecture, and inventions as well. He developed the model of an airplane way before the Wright brothers actually created one!
Well firstly, he does not have a surname.
That is because he was an illegitimate child. And at that time people did not name bastards, Snow. His father was a wealthy merchant Messer Piero Frusino di Antonio da Vinci and his mother was a peasant named Caterina.
His Full name Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci actually means Leonardo, (son) of (Mes)ser Piero from Vinci.
As his name suggests, He was born in the hilly town of Tuscany, close to Vinci, in Medici on 15th April 1452. He was born in the chaos of political instability, the Renaissance era.
He later moved to Florence which was ruled by a wealthy group, Medici family.
Leonardo received informal education in Latin, geometry, and Mathematics. In 1466, at the age of 15, he got apprenticed to a renounced sculptor and painter Andrea di Verrocchio. Verrocchio’s workshop was one of the finest in Florence. It is in this studio, Young Leo brushed his first painting, Arno valley.
He then collaborated with various painters to create many famous paintings. Some of his prominent works include- Baptism of Jesus, Virgin of the Rocks, Adoration of the Magi. The few works mentioned do not justify the kind of artist he was. He created myriad pieces of art, many lost to history.
Adoration of Magi
Other than his artistic skills, his drawings also presented his enigmatic approach. His paintings always had hidden messages, strange symbols. So much so, researchers are still trying to decode his paintings.
In 1482, he was sent to Milan to work in service of Duke. Duke was so impressed by him, Leo stayed in Milan for 17 years. That’s where he painted, The Last Supper and Virgin of Rocks
He had a charming personality. He worked for different royalties over time. He worked for Medici family, the Duke of Milan and Francis 1.
Around 1503, he started creating his masterpiece, Mona Lisa and carried it with himself as a prized possession. More about Mona Lisa in my other article.
The Last Supper
He was a vegetarian and he loved nature, as reflected in his paintings.
And As I mentioned, he was not just a renowned artist.
He was interested in anatomy. The science of the human body. He had done a detailed study of the horse. He dissected and studied various animals and even the human body.He then created the well known drawing of the vitruvian man. The proprtions depicted are flawless.
Science and art are complementary, is what Leonardo believed.
He wanted to establish himself as an Engineer. He created a mechanical knight (robot) and hydraulic machine. By observing birds, he actually created the first mechanical design of an airplane.
He created the model of bicycle, tank, helicopter, what not!
All this, he wrote in his codex, with more than 13000 pages. The codex has diversified topics. He also made over 240 detailed drawings. He had varied interests.
He was, wrote Sigmund Freud, “like a man who awoke too early in the darkness, while the others were all still asleep.”
It Is also his varied array of interests that he was not able to create more paintings and inventions.
In his later years, he was named Premier Painter and Engineer and Architect to the King Francis of France. He spent his years in Loux, where he died in 1519 at the age of 61. He was unmarried.
We know most of him because of a biography published by Giorgio Vasari in 1550.