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Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, inventor, draftsman, and scientist. Although he is famously/widely known for his artistic abilities, such as the Mona Lisa, Vitruvian man, and The Last Supper, he was not a prolific painter- fewer than two dozen paintings by him exist. Leonardo da Vinci was called by other names like Leonardo di Ser Piero da Vinci, di Ser Piero da Vinci, and Leonardo. He was the illegitimate son of Ser Piero da Vinci, an attorney and notary, and Caterina, a peasant.
Ser Piero da Vinci and Caterina were not married when they had Leonardo and eventually they started different families with other partners. This resulted in Leonardo having a total of 17 half-siblings!
He also believed that sight was the most important sense and was very interested in anatomy. Interested in the proportions of the human body, he developed different techniques in painting such as sfumato, which gives the impression that objects in a painting are in a three dimensional space.
Leonardo also wrote books on painting, giving advice from how to draw to how aerial perspective should be created by scientific shading of colors. He was also ambidextrous, meaning that he could write with both hands. Not to mention, Leonardo was also dyslexic as well as vegetarian for moral reasons. Early Life Born on April 15, 1452 in Anchiano, Tuscany-now in Italy-close to Vinci and 25 miles west of Florence. Leonardo had no formal education beyond basic reading, writing, and math. At 15 years old his father appointed him to Andrea del Verrocchio, who was the leading artist of Florence and the early renaissance.
He was also a sculpture, painter, and goldsmith. Andrea del Verrocchio valued the quality of execution and took interest in the human figure, which were important characteristics in Leonardo’s artistic configuration.
Leonardo and other European artists of the renaissance deeply studied nature in hopes of creating more realistic paintings of the world and its inhabitants. During his apprenticeship he learned to create the illusion of depth and distance by using linear perspective, and how to paint life like people and animals. Leonardo’s talents allowed him to add a certain liveliness to his art and he was constantly trying to explain what he saw by sketching and writing down notes in his journals. While learning from Verrocchio, Leonardo learned how to paint realistically through observation, open window perspective, and the golden ratio. The method of observation is observing everything in a scene in great detail, carefully noticing the difference if an animal or object is closer or farther away. Open window perspective is painting objects as if looking through a window, and in the book “De Divina Proportione” a book of mathematics written around 1498, published in 1509, illustrated by Leonardo da Vinci, and written by Luca Pacioli, explains the golden ratio as well as mathematical proportions and their applications to art and architecture.
Obstacles Leonardo started off as a nonexistent person in society, being an illegitimate child, he had no proper surname-da Vinci simply means “of Vinci”-resulting in a low social status, causing minimal schooling and knowledge only consisting of basic reading, writing, and math. However, he overcome this obstacle of poor education by reading constantly and becoming a devoted student to Verrocchio. Once writing “obstacles cannot crush me; every obstacle yields to stern resolve,” Leonardo eventually made his way to being one of the most noticed people of all time.Leonardo’s greatest obstacle was himself, in that he often harshly criticized his own work and was disappointed by his own achievements. In fact, he valued no one else’s approval other than his own, despite the fact that he was appointed to many wealthy, powerful patrons. In his 20s and 30s, many of his projects were either not completed, or they failed on technical grounds. Then, he often got into trouble for not completing projects he was commissioned to. Leonardo abandoned several projects such as Adoration of the Magi, right before completion. He did this with some projects because he had lost interest and having seen the completed project in his head, he saw no need to share it with the public. He wrote in one of his notebooks stating “Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works”. Often, he would scribble some of his thoughts onto several different pieces of paper, never usually having one single sheet of paper for an invention. If Leonardo had been satisfied with the standards of the world around him, he might have stopped working on creating new inventions a lot sooner, although many of his works and ideas were never put into action; he realized the potential of the human mind, and spent his life pursuing it.Accomplishments During his time, Leonardo was mostly known for just his artwork.
A natural genius, he believed that art was connected with science and nature. Studying nature, mechanics, anatomy, physics, architecture, and even weaponry, he was able to create-at least on paper-inventions such as the bicycle, helicopter, submarine, military tank, and airplane. Some of his best known artworks are the Mona Lisa, Vitruvian Man, and The Last Supper. Possibly one of the best known paintings in the world, The Mona Lisa, attracts many viewers where it is currently displayed in The Louvre museum of Paris, France. When Milan was invaded by the French in 1499, Leonardo fled to Venice and then to Florence where he began painting the Mona Lisa approximately during 1503. The Mona Lisa was actually originally called “La Giondall”. The original is 21 inches (high) by 31 inches (wide/long), and it is an oil painting on a poplar wood panel. Nobody knows who the person portrayed in the painting is, although there are many theories, such as his mother Catrina and Princess Isabella of Naples. Greatly influenced by Greek and Roman writing, Vitruvian Man was created around 1487, and unlike his Mona Lisa, it is drawn with pen and ink on paper. This drawing depicts a male in two different positions; in the first, the man is standing up straight with his arms straight out, and in the second, the man has both of his arms and legs out, making an X-shape kind of like the second position of a jumping jack.
Vitruvian Man is a great example of Leonardo’s interest in the proportions of men. Another one of da Vinci’s famous work includes The Last Supper. Located in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, The Last Supper is a fresco that was painted during Leonardo’s time in Milan, from about 1496 to 1498. An ordinary fresco is a painting done rapidly on wet plaster on a wall or ceiling. However, when painting this fresco Leonardo did not use the original fresco painting method, instead he used a hygrometer to monitor the amount of moisture in the air. This is because the dampness affected his method of painting. Sadly, as dampness began seeping into the wall, the painting began to fade, and after a few years it was barely visible. If Leonardo had used the ordinary way of painting frescos, The Last Supper may be less damaged and easier to preserve today. In Addition, Leonardo da Vinci was also one of the first people to study flight in a scientific manner. In his eagerness to build a working invention for flight, he tried to duplicate a bird’s wing structure. In fact, he modeled his invention after the physiology and flying capability of a bat. Out of safety, he decided to test his invention over water, and to have a string or leash attached, so that he would not drown in water due to the weight of the equipment. His invention was mostly powered by muscle strength, and had its flaws. We know today that his invention could never work because he did not take into consideration the weight, limited muscle power, and endurance of humans. However, he managed to learn the ways birds use their wing bones and feathers as well as study the currents of the air and how it interacts with birds to keep them aloft. Ironically, inspired from a chinese toy, Leonardo developed the idea of the modern helicopter, designing an aerial screw that rapidly whirled to lift people and objects off the ground.
Astonishingly, his design could have worked, but he lacked a strong enough power source. Leonardo also developed travel by parachute, and wrote in one of his journals, “If a man have a tent of closely woven linen without any apertures, twelve braccia across and twelve in depth, he can throw himself down from any great height without injury”. Meaning that the parachute would have been around 24 feet wide and 24 feet high. His parachute was supposedly tested from a tower-almost 300 years before the first known parachute jump was made in 1783 from an observatory tower in France.Legacy An inventor of objects 400-500 years before its time, Leonardo da Vinci left a huge impact on today’s art, anatomy, and science. He was the first to design a pile driver, armored car, revolving crane, pulley, lagoon dredge, and flying ship (airplane). Some of his inventions are still used today. An example is his aerial screw for helicopters. In addition, he explained many questions the world asked. One of these questions included his reasoning as to why the sky is blue. Using his observations of sunlight passing through wood smoke, thus signifying how light is spread. Reimagining the world, he designed functioning robots, digital computers, and the first heart valve. His theories of painting which he jotted down on pages filled with drawings as examples have had a lasting effect on artists throughout the centuries, and are still very current today.
He perfectly described the first modern man and devised new ways of thinking, with some of his research still being used today. Optical drawings did not exist with the same accuracy before Leonardo drew them. Leonardo taught artists the application of optics and geometry to art. He developed some deadly weapons that rulers currently use, and studied the human body like a mechanic. Most of his work on anatomy is relevant to humans today, however, one thing that he got majorly wrong was the female reproductive system. This was because he had a hard time getting the dead bodies of women due to the bodies he dissected being the bodies of unclaimed people. So, mainly the bodies of drunks and homeless people. ConclusionOverall, Leonardo da Vinci was a very accomplished man. He created many of the famous paintings that are well known today and made discoveries that were advanced far before his time. Leonardo da Vinci had a large family, that included 17 half siblings and was raised by his father and his uncle. Some of his inventions were inspired by totally unexpected things, such as a chinese toy inspiring his design for an aerial screw. He started off nearly as a nonexistent person in society, but later ended up as one of the most well known people in the world. He had the disadvantage of a poor education, but read constantly to make up for it. Although he created some of the most famous paintings of all time, his greatest obstacle was himself because he harshly criticized his own work.
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