Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci

Italian polymath whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, poetry, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of paleontology, 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, his genius epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal.

At the time of his birth, Leonardo’s parents were not married. His father, Ser Piero, was a Florentine notary and landlord while his mother, Caterina, was a young peasant girl. Leonardo spent his childhood on the estate of his father, as his legitimate son, receiving the basic education of those times: reading, writing and arithmetic. He only learned Latin, the foundation of the traditional education, much later, on his own. Also, he never penetrated the core of higher mathematics (geometry and advanced arithmetics) until his thirties, when he started to study them diligently and insight.

In 1482, Leonardo leaves for Milan to enter in the service of the duke. This was actually surprising if you consider that the thirty years old artist had just received an order for his first far-reaching works in his native Florence: “Adoration of the Magi”, an unfinished panel for the San Donato a Scopeto monastery, and a painting that he didn’t start for the church altar of the Saint Bernard Church in the Palazzo della Signoria.

His gentle but retained nature and nice behavior made him very popular at the Duke’s court. Being highly valued, people always asked paintings and sculptures from his and was charged with organizing the royal balls. He has also served as a counselor in architecture, fortifications and military matters, but also as a hydraulic engineer and solved mechanical engineering problems. Leonardo has imposed endless goals throughout his entire life.

In his 17 years of stay in Milan, Leonardo carried out six compositions. According to recent reports, he would have received an order for three more compositions, which either disappeared or weren’t even made.

In December 1499 or January 1500, after the victorious French entrance in Milan, Leonardo leaves the city accompanied by mathematician Lucas Pacioli. After a short stay at Mantova in February, he went to Venice, where the Signoria asks for his support to prevent a possible Turkish invasion in Friuli. Leonardo advises them to prepare the flooding of the threatened region. From Venice, he returns to Florence, where, after a long absence, is enthusiastically received and honored as honorary citizen of the city. In that same year, Leonardo is named expert architect in a commission appointed to investigate the damage suffered by the foundation and structure of the San Francesco al Monte church. He is hosted by the Servite Order at the Santissima Annunziata Monastery, where he seemed to be preoccupied with mathematics rather than painting, according to the story told by Fra Pietro Nuvolari to Isabella D’Este, who was trying in vain to obtain a composition belonging to the artist.

In 1503, Leonardo also received an order for a fresco in the council hall of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, a historical scene of monumental proportions (7 x 17 m), which is twice the size of “The Last Supper”. For three years he worked at the “Battle of Anghiari”, but the painting remained unfinished, like Michelangelo’s “Battle of Cascina”, which was meant to be its pair. In these years, he also paints “Mona Lisa” (about 1503-1506).

Last Supper
Last Supper
Annunciation
Annunciation
Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa

 

His anatomical studies acquire new dimensions thanks to collaboration with Marcantonio della Torre, a renowned anatomist from Pavia. Leonardo initiates the plans for a general work that would include not only accurate and detailed reproductions of the human body and organs, but also comparative anatomy and complete physiology studies. Da Vinci was going to finish the anatomy manuscript until the winter of 1510-1511. In addition, his manuscripts abound in studies of mathematics, optics, mechanics, geology and botany. In his research, he feels more and more convinced that force and motion as basic mechanical functions, give rise to all the external forms of organic and inorganic nature and establish them. Moreover, he believed that these forces are in accordance with oredered and harmonious laws.

A splendid map of the “Pontine Marshes” suggests that Leonardo met at least the position of consultant in a project of rehabilitation of Giuliano de Medici, commissioned in 1514. He has also drawn up blueprints for a spacious residence that was to be built in Florence for the Medici, who seized power in 1512. However, the residence wasn’t built.

Probably suffocated by this landscape, Leonardo, aged 65, agreed to enter into the service of young French King, Francis I. At the end of 1516, Leonardo da Vinci leaves Italy forever with his faithful disciple, Melzi. The last three years of his life he spends in the small castle of Cloux, near the royal summer palace at Amboise, on the Loire Valley. He was proudly wearing the title of “Premier peintre, architecte et mechanicien du Roi” (“First painter, architect and engineer of the King”). Leonardo continues to make sketches for proms, but the King had considered him an honored guest and offered him total freedom. A few decades later, Francis I talking about Leonardo with sculptor Benvenuto Cellini, using only words of praise and appreciation.

Leonardo painted very little in France, preferring to appoint and to draw his scientific studies, treaties on painting and several pages of anatomy treaty. “Visions of the end of the world” or “The flood”, describes with waste of imagination the primordial forces that dominate nature, letting his pessimism to emerge.

Anatomical Man
Anatomical Man

 

He died in Cloux and was buried in the palace-church of Saint Florentine. The church was devastated during the French Revolution and during the early 19th century was devastated to the ground. Today, the place of da Vinci’s tomb is unknown. Melzi inherited all of Leonardo da Vinci’s artistic and scientific estate.

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