Leonardo da Vinci means “Leonardo from the town of Vinci,” and is generally referred to in short as “Leonardo” rather than as “da Vinci” He received a fresh burst of public interest in 2003 with the publication of The Da Vinci Code. Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most prominent artists around the world, and his fame will never cease.
Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452, near the village of Vinci about 25 miles west of Florence. He was the illegitimate son of Ser Piero da Vinci, a prominent notary of Florence.
When Leonardo was 15, his father apprenticed him to Andrea del Verrocchio, the leading artist of Florence and a characteristic talent of the early Renaissance. Verrocchio’s great skill and passionate concern for quality of execution, as well as his interest in expressing the vital mobility of the human figure, were important elements in Leonardo’s artistic formation. His earliest known painting is a product of his collaboration with the master as Leonardo stayed on as an assistant in Verrocchio’s shop after completing his apprenticeship. It was a standard procedure in the Italian Renaissance.
But what is special is that Leonardo’s work is not, as was usual, a slightly less skilled version of Verrocchio’s manner of painting but an original approach altering it.
About 1478 Leonardo set up his own studio. In 1481 he received a major church commission for an altarpiece, the Adoration of the Magi. In this unfinished painting, Leonardo’s new approach is far more developed. In these paintings there is a not traditional composition and a strong sense of continuing movement.
The simultaneous increase in both the level of activity and the organized system which controls it will climax later in Leonardo’s famous Last Supper (1495-97) which is among the most widely popular and influential paintings of the Renaissance. He created this artwork during his 11 years dwelling in Milan. In his painting distant objects progressively lose their separateness and hence are not drawn with outlines and also they tend to a uniform gray tone. Leonardo wrote about this in his notebook entries in mirror script, a trick which kept many of his observations from being widely known until decades after his death. His notebooks reveal a spirit of scientific inquiry and a mechanical inventiveness that were centuries ahead of his time.
In 1500 Leonardo returned to Florence, where he was received as a great man. Florentine painters of the generation immediately following Leonardo were excited by his modern methods. During his years in Florence (1500-1506), even though they were interrupted in 1502 by a term as military engineer for Cesare Borgia, Leonardo completed more projects than in any other period of his life.
In his works of these years, the emphasis is almost exclusively on portraying human vitality, as in the Leda and the Swan(lost; known only through copies), a spiraling figure kneeling among reeds, and the Mona Lisa, the portrait of a Florentine citizen’s young third wife, whose smile is mysterious because it is in the process of either appearing or disappearing. In the portrait, the crossed arms form the base of a pyramid capped by the head, which gives the lady her quality of classic rightness and prevents the less than full-length portrait from seeming incomplete and arbitrarily amputated at the lower edge.
Called to Milan in 1506 by the French governor in charge, Leonardo worked on an equestrian statue project, but he produced no new paintings. Instead he now turned more and more to scientific observation. Leonardo was and is best known as an artist, the creator of such masterpieces as the Mona Lisa, Madonna of the Rocks, and The Last Supper. But Leonardo was far more than a great artist: he had one of the best scientific minds of his time. He made painstaking observations and carried out research in different fields. He’s equally famous for his astonishing multiplicity of talents,dabbled in architecture, sculpture, engineering, geology, hydraulics and the military arts, all with success, and in his spare time doodled parachutes and flying machines that resembled inventions of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The most heavenly gifts congregated in one individual. This individual was Leonardo da Vinci, who had an indescribable grace in every effortless act and deed. His talent was so rare that he mastered any subject to which he turned his attention. Leonardo da Vinci was great Italian painter, draftsman, sculptor, architect, and engineer. He made detailed drawings of human anatomy which are still highly regarded today.
All his paintings are universally seen as masterpieces. The power of The Last Supper comes in part from its masterly composition. In the present era the Mona Lisa or “la Gioconda” with her enigmatic smile is probably the most famous painting in the world. Its fame rests, in particular, on the elusive smile on the woman’s face, its mysterious quality brought about perhaps by the fact that the Leonardo has subtly shadowed the corners of the mouth and eyes so that the exact nature of the smile cannot be determined.
He was the founding father of what is called the High Renaissance style and exercised an enormous influence on contemporary and later artists. His writings on art helped establish the ideals of representation and expression that were to dominate European academies for the next hundreds of years.