“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
Leonardo di Ser Piero da Vinci, was an Italian artist, sculptor, architect – with so many feathers in his hat that confining his talents to one field is impossible.
Known for his works like the Mona Lisa, the Vitruvian Man and The Last Supper da Vinci was often referred to as the ‘Universal Genius’ or the ‘Renaissance Man’.
His genius in mathematics, engineering and literature was also what made people call him a ‘polymath’. He is sometimes credited for inventing the parachute, the flying machine and the tank.
His unusual childhood
Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15th in Vinci, Florence. He was born out of wedlock, his father Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci, was a wealthy a Florentine legal notary, and his mother Caterina, was a poor peasant. His full name Leonardo di Ser Piero da Vinci literally means, Leonardo, the son of Piero of Vinci.
According to the book, The Life And The Times Of Leonardo, Leonardo’s father married a 16-year-old girl who fell in love with Leonardo. He had lived for a few years with his mother and then in his father’s household. After the death of his father’s first wife, his father married three more times.
Not many know that Leonardo’s last half-sibling was born when he was 40-years-old!
According to the book, Lives Of The Artists, Leonardo had once painted a monster spitting fire on a peasant’s shield which terrified the peasant. His father, Ser Piero sold the shield to a Florentine Art Dealer and he sold it to the Duke of Milan.
At the age of fourteen, Leonardo apprenticed with Verrocchio a famous artist in Florence as a studio boy. Botticelli and other artists had also apprenticed with Verrocchio. It is often said that Leonardo surpassed his master’s skill in painting. He is also believed to be the model for Verrocchio’s two works.
When Leonardo turned 20, he qualified as a master. Even though he worked in his father’s workshop, he continued to collaborate with Verrocchio.
Leonardo’s first known work was a drawing in pen and ink of Arno valley.
In 1476, Leonardo was convicted of sodomy (having homosexual relations was illegal then) by the court in Florence. The records of his works disappeared after that time until he painted a silver lyre (string instrument) in the shape of a horse’s head to secure peace with the Duke Of Milan.
Thereafter, he painted the Virgin of the Rocks for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception and The Last Supper for the Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery. Before he travelled to Hungary he did several projects for the Duke Of Milan. He had also worked for the son of the Pope Alexander VI, Cesare Borgia, as a chief engineer and architect when he crafted a map of Chiana valley in Tuscany.
Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci’s paths often clashed. Leonardo painted The Battle of Anghiari and Michelangelo painted its companion piece, The Battle of Cascina, when Leonardo returned to Florence. A few years before this, Michelangelo had insulted Leonardo that he could not cast.
According to biography.com, ‘ Leonardo da Vinci is well known for his pioneering use of two painting techniques:
Chiaroscuro: a stark contrast between darkness and light that gave a three-dimensionality to da Vinci’s figures.
Sfumato: a technique in which subtle gradations, rather than strict borders, infuse paintings with a softer, smoky aura.
On May 2, 1519, Leonardo died of a stroke at Clos Luce. Leonardo kept his private life secret. He had various assitants, pupils and followers. His life and work continues to inspire artists even today.
Some of Leonardo’s most famous painting were, Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, The Vitruvian Man, The Battle Of Anghiari, The Virgin And Child With St.Anne, St. John the Baptist, Salvator Mundi, Adoration of the Magi, Madonna Litta, La Bella Principessa, Bacchus etc.
He once said,
“As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.”
Preview Photo: biography.com