Leonardo da Vinci

From April 15, 1452, to May 2, 1519, the world was blessed by the genius that was Leonardo da Vinci. He is regarded as one of the most prominent painters in history, having made substantial contributions to science and art, influencing his mastery of the other. Among his contemporaries, which included artists like Raphael and Michaelangelo, Da Vinci lived during a time when creativity was at its peak. He brought his singular talent to practically everything he did. Italy during the Renaissance is a pinnacle in human history, similar to Athens during the Pericles era. No name now appears to represent the Renaissance era more than Leonardo da Vinci.

The Life and Work of Leonardo Da Vinci

Young Adulthood: 1452 to 1476

Leonardo da Vinci was born in a little Tuscan town close to Vinci. At 14, he started a nine-year apprenticeship with Andrea del Verrocchio, a well-known goldsmith, painter, and sculptor who was a significant player in the art world of the time. The young Leonardo probably encountered artists like Sandro Botticelli while working alongside other apprentices, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pietro Perugino, and Lorenzo di Credi at Verrocchio’s bustling Florence workshop.

Verrocchio was the legally authorized sculptor for the Medici dynasty, who ruled Italy at the time and had learned his trade from the great Donatello. Da Vinci undoubtedly advanced under Verrocchio’s instruction, from performing numerous menial duties around the workshop to preparing surfaces and mixing paint. After that, he would have advanced to studying and imitating the works of his teacher. Last, he would have helped Verrocchio, and the other apprentices create the master’s creations.

During his apprenticeship, Leonardo da Vinci not only improved his drawing, painting, and sculpture skills, but he also gained information in a wide range of subjects, including chemistry, mechanics, carpentry, and metallurgy, from others who worked in and around the studio. His pen-and-ink rendering of the Arno River valley, Landscape Drawing for Santa Maria Della Neve, was finished in 1473 after he had completed more than half of his studies with Verrocchio. Leonardo da Vinci’s earliest piece can be positively identified as his.

Vitruvian Man,1485
Vitruvian Man, 1485

Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci would play a significant role in his legacy. In addition to developing inventions, studying human anatomy, sketching landscapes, and laying out designs for paintings like The Virgin of the Rocks and The Last Supper, his only mural that has survived, Da Vinci drew a lot.

Although the paintings were joint endeavors, much of his other creative output from his time at Verrocchio was attributed to the studio’s head artist. The Baptism of Christ and The Annunciation, two masterpieces by Verrocchio, have been thoroughly scrutinized by scholars over the years to determine which figures Leonardo da Vinci is credited with creating. Experts believe that one of the angels in da Vinci’s 1475 “Baptism of Christ” is his creation, but in the same year’s “The Annunciation,” the angel’s backdrop and wings are the work of an apprentice artist. To discern between Verrocchio’s thicker, lead-based paint strokes and da Vinci’s lighter, water-based paint strokes, historians x-rayed “The Annunciation.”

Although he joined the Florence Painters’ Guild in 1472, the artist worked as Verrocchio’s assistant until 1476 to further his studies. The fantastic vibrancy and anatomical accuracy of Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings and sketches indicate his master’s influence.

Years Between: 1477 and 1499

Leonardo da Vinci started setting the foundation for his creative legacy as soon as he departed the Verrocchio workshop and opened his own. He concentrated on religious themes, like his contemporaries, but he also accepted portrait assignments as they presented themselves. The Madonna of the Carnation, Ginevra de’ Benci, the Benois Madonna, the Adoration of the Magi, and St. Jerome in the Wilderness are just a few famous works he created over the following five years. The final two sections lack a polish.

Church leaders in Florence hired Leonardo da Vinci to create his “Adoration of the Magi,” which they intended to use as an altarpiece. Due to the changes da Vinci made that were distinct from the 1480s’ painting traditions, this artwork has historical significance. Unlike other painters who had positioned the Virgin and Christ Child to the side, he centered them in the composition. Da Vinci expanded on conventional perspective methods by altering the clarity and color of objects as they got farther away. Sadly, the Duke of Milan’s special offer to hire him as the court artist prevented him from finishing the project.

The artist used his wide range of skills and interests in Milan to produce paintings, stage designs, and military plans for the Duke. Da Vinci created the Virgin of the Rocks, a six-foot-tall altarpiece known as the “Madonna of the Rocks,” early in his time at court. The artist plays with merging the edges of objects in hazy light to produce a smoky effect known as sfumato in this painting, which dates to 1483. The artist would continue to explore this technique in his later works.

His other surviving work from his time in Milan, The Last Supper, may have degraded swiftly because of his determination to perfect this method. Because his usual water-based fresco paints proved challenging to combine for the sfumato effect he desired, Leonardo da Vinci employed oil-based paint on plaster for this picture of Jesus and his apostles at the table. Much of the artwork at the Santa Maria del Grazie convent had already chipped away from the wall within a few decades. The canvas of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” currently shown at the Louvre, is largely a replica of the abandoned fresco.

Afterward: 1500–1919

The artist traveled back to Florence from home through Venice and Mantua after the French conquest of Milan. His reputation preceded him, longtime friends praised him, and emerging artists were enthralled by his artistic ideas. Leonardo da Vinci produced more paintings during this latter phase of his life than he had previously. The artist started working on his painting of the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne when he moved to Florence in 1500; he would leave it incomplete and not finish it for another ten years.

Later, when Francesco del Giocondo asked Leonardo to paint his wife the Mona Lisa, he started working on what would become his most famous and frequently imitated piece. Although it’s unclear when exactly the “Mona Lisa” was finished, most historians concur that Leonardo da Vinci started the masterpiece in 1503.

Leonardo da Vinci also accepted a request for a fresco to be placed in the Hall of 500 in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio. The painting’s subject was a battle scene at Anghiari, showing a tangle of powerful horses and soldiers. But it was always going to remain unfinished. On the opposite side, a commission for the Battle of Cascina, another incomplete work by contemporary master Michelangelo, was given. The only remnants of Leonardo da Vinci’s war scene are a replica by painter Peter Paul Rubens and the artist’s first drawings.

The second version of the picture, “Virgin of the Rocks,” was made by the artist around the same time and was probably commissioned for installation in a chapel at Milan’s San Francesco Maggiore church. The main distinctions between the two versions are color schemes, lighting, and compositional nuances.

To receive an official contract for an equestrian statue, Leonardo da Vinci went back to Milan in 1506. The artist would create a body of drawings during his seven-year residence in the city on subjects ranging from human anatomy to botany and ideas for new weapons and studies of birds in flight. His experimental designs of a human flight machine would result from the latter. Da Vinci’s fascination with how things are constructed and operated is evident in every sketch he produced during this time.

Leonardo spent some time in Rome after leaving Milan in 1513. France’s King Francis I retook Milan in October 1515. The king had given him the titles of a great artist, architect, and mechanic. He joined Francis’ service in 1516 and later traveled to his last home, close to Francis I of France’s Fontainebleau court. Many historians concur that Leonardo finished St. John the Baptist at his remote Cloux, France, residence. His mastery of the sfumato technique is evident in this masterpiece. At the age of 67, Leonardo passed away at Clos Lucé on May 2, 1519. Recurrent stroke is often cited as the reason. Francis and I had grown close. The monarch is said to have cradled Leonardo’s head in his arms as he passed away, but this narrative, which the French adored and Ingres romanticized in his paintings, could be a myth. He was laid to rest in Amboise, France’s Chapel of Saint Hubert.

Leonardo da Vinci’s legacy

Leonardo da Vinci’s works are influenced by those of his group of peers in the artworks they produced. Raphael and even Michaelangelo, a former competitor, used the same of da Vinci’s distinctive techniques to create similarly lively and anatomically lifelike figures.

His daring deviations from the accepted creative norms of his day would serve as a model for subsequent generations of artists. Leonardo da Vinci painted the traditional religious images of his day, such as the Magi and the Madonna and child. Still, his distinctive positioning of notable characters, his hallmark methods, and his advancements in perspective were all previously unheard of. He transformed each apostle into a distinct entity while yet uniting them all at the moment in The Last Supper, which is a stroke of genius that other painters throughout history would want to imitate. He also isolated Christ at the heart of the tableau.

The famous “Mona Lisa” is still regarded as one of history’s finest paintings by art lovers. The fact that her picture is still widely available on products like T-shirts and refrigerator magnets contributes to immortalizing Leonardo da Vinci’s artwork rather than diminishing the significance of the work. Even decades after his passing, they dominate people’s hearts and thoughts.

Leonardo had a significant influence on art, just like William Shakespeare had on literature and Sigmund Freud had on psychology. Leonardo da Vinci shunned worldly desires and vanity throughout his life. He was a quiet, unassuming man who didn’t care about fame but was adamant about the worth of his skills. Leonardo da Vinci, together with a small group of contemporary Renaissance innovators, becomes the epicenter of an artistic movement that has significantly improved western civilization.

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