Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci was a great artist, engineer, physicist, theoretician, sculptor and architect who worked in a variety of fields. Both The Last Supper (c. 1495–98) and The Mona Lisa (c. 1503–19) are Renaissance masterpieces that have influenced generations of artists. A spirit of scientific curiosity and mechanical ingenuity that was millennia ahead of its time may be found in his notes.
Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452, in Vinci, Italy, as the illegitimate son of Ser Piero, a 25-year-old notary, and Caterina, a peasant girl. As soon as he was born, he was taken into the custody of his father. One day his father apprenticed him to Andrea del Verrochio's workshop in Florence when he was merely 15 years old. Leonardo's talent was evident even when he was still a student. Indeed, a number of Verrocchio's paintings from the period 1470 to 1475 show signs of his talent.
Leonardo made a number of studies ranging from nature and flying machines to geometry and mechanics to the construction of canals and civic construction (designing everything from churches to fortresses). Among the military concepts he came up with during this period are tanks, numerous fighting gadgets, and submarines. Additionally, Leonardo produced his first set of anatomical studies during this time period, as well. Apprentices and pupils were filling his workshop in Milan.
Leonardo's interests were so diverse, and he was always drawn to new topics, that he frequently abandoned projects halfway through. Only a few projects were accomplished in these 17 years, including "The Last Supper" and the Virgin on the Rocks. Between the years 1490 and 1495, he began keeping meticulously illustrated journals in which he recorded his academic endeavours. Painting, architecture, the elements of mechanics, and human anatomy were the four principal subjects of his work. Various codices and manuscripts are now owned by museums and private collectors (Bill Gates once spent $30 million for the Codex Leicester, for example)
As soon as Ludovico Sforza's reign ended in 1499, Leonardo returned to Milan in quest of a new patron. While working for Cesare Borgia, Leonardo spent the next 16 years working and travelling across Italy. As a military engineer, he travelled with Borgia's army for a year, when he met "The Prince" author Niccolo Machiavelli. With assistance from Machiavelli, Leonardo designed and built a bridge over the "Golden Horn" in Constantinople during this period. In addition, Leonardo was also commissioned to paint the "Battle of Anghiari."
Leonardo is said to have started working on the "Mona Lisa" in 1503. He worked in Rome from 1513 until 1516, running a workshop and completing a range of projects for the Pope. Despite Pope's prohibition on dissecting cadavers, he continued to study human anatomy and physiology.Drawings of the Virgin Mary, St. Anne, cats, horses, dragons, St. George, and anatomical studies were among his many accomplishments. He also drew the Deluge and various machines.
The last days of Leonardo's life were spent in Cloux, France. On May 2, 1519, when he died, King Francis is said to have died next to him, holding his head in his arms.
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