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Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci

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One of the most important and influential figures of the Renaissance was the painter, sculptor, architect and engineer, Leonardo Da Vinci – a man that epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal. Born in 1452 in the town of Vinci, Leonardo began his early artistic training in Florence, working at the workshop of the sculptor Andrea Verrocchio. There, he received a multifaceted training in painting, sculpture and the technical-mechanical arts. Leonardo left Verrocchio’s workshop in 1476, and worked independently in Florence until 1481.

Feeling stifled and dissatisfied in Florence, Leonardo decided to seek new challenges, and in 1482, he moved to Milan, where he would spend the next 17 years. One of his early commissions was the altar painting The Virgin of the Rocks (1483-1486) for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception. However, the parties got into a dispute over payment, and Leonardo sold the painting to someone else. After ten years of litigation, the confraternity persuaded Leonardo to paint a second version, The Virgin of the Rocks (1495-1508). During this first Milanese period (1482-1499), Leonardo completed six paintings, including the masterpiece, The Last Supper (1495), at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. He also worked for the Sforza family (the ruling family in Milan) on a monumental sculptural project: a huge equestrian monument honoring the founder of the Sforza dynasty, Francesco Sforza. Leonardo devoted 12 years to the project, creating a clay model of the horse and preparing to cast the 5-meter high figure. However, this great undertaking was never realized: in 1499 the French army invaded Milan and the Sforza family fell from power sealing the fate of the monument (the clay model made by Leonardo was destroyed during the war).

With the political shift in Milan, Leonardo travelled around Italy before resettling in Florence. During his second period in Florence (1500-1508), he painted his most famous work, the Mona Lisa (ca. 1503-1519). By 1508, Leonardo returned to Milan, working for the French rulers of the city. In this period, he painted very little and instead focused on his scientific activity, specifically his study of anatomy. In 1513, the French were expelled from Milan, and forced to move, Leonardo went to Rome, where he spent the next three years. While in Rome, he received an invitation from French King, Francis I to enter his service in France. At 65, Leonardo accepted and bore the title of First painter, architect and engineer to the King.

In his final years in France, he did little painting and mainly worked on his scientific studies and his treatise on painting. Leonardo Da Vinci died in 1519 in Cloux in France. Leonardo, one of the most revered painters of his time, remains among the most important figures in art history. However, it is important to note that his influence goes far beyond – from the drawings, scientific diagrams, and technical studies in his notebooks it is known that his scientific writings and mechanical inventions were centuries ahead of their time.

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Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (Italian: [leoˈnardo di ˌsɛr ˈpjɛːro da (v)ˈvintʃi] ( listen); 15 April 1452 – 2 May 1519), more commonly Leonardo da Vinci or simply Leonardo, was an Italian Renaissance polymath whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of palaeontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter and tank, he epitomised the Renaissance humanist ideal.

Many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime exemplar of the "Universal Genius" or "Renaissance Man", an individual of "unquenchable curiosity" and "feverishly inventive imagination", and he is widely considered one of the most diversely talented individuals ever to have lived. According to art historian Helen Gardner, the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent in recorded history, and "his mind and personality seem to us superhuman, while the man himself mysterious and remote". Marco Rosci notes that while there is much speculation regarding his life and personality, his view of the world was logical rather than mysterious, and that the empirical methods he employed were unorthodox for his time.

Born out of wedlock to a notary, Piero da Vinci, and a peasant woman, Caterina, in Vinci in the region of Florence, Leonardo was educated in the studio of the renowned Florentine painter Andrea del Verrocchio. Much of his earlier working life was spent in the service of Ludovico il Moro in Milan. He later worked in Rome, Bologna and Venice, and he spent his last years in France at the home awarded to him by Francis I of France.

Leonardo was, and is, renowned primarily as a painter. Among his works, the Mona Lisa is the most famous and most parodied portrait and The Last Supper the most reproduced religious painting of all time. Leonardo's drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also regarded as a cultural icon, being reproduced on items as varied as the euro coin, textbooks, and T-shirts.

A painting by Leonardo, Salvator Mundi, sold for a world record $450.3 million at a Christie's auction in New York, 15 November 2017, the highest price ever paid for a work of art. Perhaps fifteen of his paintings have survived. Nevertheless, these few works, together with his notebooks, which contain drawings, scientific diagrams, and his thoughts on the nature of painting, compose a contribution to later generations of artists rivalled only by that of his contemporary, Michelangelo.

Leonardo is revered for his technological ingenuity. He conceptualised flying machines, a type of armoured fighting vehicle, concentrated solar power, an adding machine, and the double hull. Relatively few of his designs were constructed or even feasible during his lifetime, as the modern scientific approaches to metallurgy and engineering were only in their infancy during the Renaissance. Some of his smaller inventions, however, such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire, entered the world of manufacturing unheralded. A number of Leonardo's most practical inventions are nowadays displayed as working models at the Museum of Vinci. He made substantial discoveries in anatomy, civil engineering, geology, optics, and hydrodynamics, but he did not publish his findings and they had no direct influence on later science.

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