Who was the man that created the smile behind the straight face of the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and The Proportions of the Human Figure? The man, “a painter, a sculptor, an architect and an engineer” (http://www.davincilife.com/) was perhaps one of the greatest minds to grace this earth with his ideas, thoughts, and contributions to society. The true question is what did Leonardo Da Vinci really leave behind for those to come after him? Did he leave behind a legacy of useless knowledge only to be understood by those who were of a high level of intellect? Or did he leave behind a legacy that would inspire and enlighten thousands of people with his brilliance in the arts and the sciences? The life of Leonardo Da Vinci; is a life of mystery, enlightenment, creation, and inspiration drove him to be what we now consider the “renaissance master” (http://www.davincilife.com/). The things he left behind let us construct a library of inventions which we use every day and have inspired us with his theories and his knowledge of the sciences and arts.
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Leonardo Da Vinci was brought into the world April 15th, 1452. He was an “illegitimate son of a 25-year-old notary, Ser Piero, and a peasant girl, Caterina” (http://www.mos.org/leonardo/bio.html) born in a town with the same last name as Leonardo, Vinci Italy. The early childhood of Da Vinci is not known very well except that the first five
years of his life were spent in thehamletofAnchiano. He would later become his fathers' son when his mother married a different man and moved to a town close by. Each of his parents continued to have kids with other people and supplied him with a total of seventeen half brothers and sisters. One reason that Da Vinci may have turned out to be the genius that we now consider him to be, would be that during his childhood he had access to a vast amount of scholarly texts from his family and friends. Leonardo got his start out in the arts at an early age of fifteen. His father set Leonardo up to be an apprentice in the workshop of the renowned painter Andrea del Verrocchio. Leonardo soon discovered his talent of art and painting to the point where when Leonardo was asked by Andrea to paint an angel in his painting “Baptism of Christ” his work was so much better than that of Verrocchio that “Verrocchio allegedly resolved never to paint again. Leonardo stayed in the Verrocchio workshop until 1477 when he set up a shingle for himself” (http://www.mos.org/leonardo/bio.html). Leonardo stayed at his own shop until about 1481 when a major church commissioned Da Vinci to paint an altarpiece Adoration of the Magi, which he left unfinished when he left Florence to take on the position of court artist for the Duke of Milan. “In leaving, Leonardo followed a trend set by masters of the older generation who went to Venice and Rome to execute commissions larger than any available in their native Florence.” (http://www.notablebiographies.com/Ki-Lo/Leonardo-da-Vinci.html). While he was in Milan he created one of his most renowned paintings, The Last Supper. When the Duke was overthrown Leonardo left Milan and returned to Florence in 1500. During the next six years of his life he would begin a term for the armed service in which he dedicated most of his time to the vitality of humans, as in the Mona Lisa. In 1506 Leonardo was called to Milan by the French governor to work on a sculpture, in which he created no new paintings. “Instead he turned more
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and more to scientific observation. Most of Leonardo's scientific concerns were fairly direct extensions of his interests as a painter, and his research in anatomy (the structure of a living organism) was the most fully developed” (http://www.notablebiographies.com/Ki-Lo/Leonardoda-Vinci.html). After being in Rome for three years he was called to Fontainebleau where he was given the title of first painter, architect and mechanic by the King who also granted him a house in Cloux where he died three years later on May 2, 1519. There are many tales of Da Vinci as a young child producing numerous amounts of extravagant artwork, these tales whether they are true are not just to add to the awe of Leonardo. To have had such skill at a young child one would be led to believe that he was in fact a genius, how else would he have had such a skill at the arts. However, his genius didn't encompass the arts; it encompassed the arts, science, inventions, and many other things. Most of Leonardo's works remained safe in his journals and notebooks because he entered them in a mirrored format, right to left. The reason he would have done this is because he was left handed and it was much easier for someone to pull a quill pen rather than push one and the ink wouldn't smear on the page. However, because of this many of his inventions weren't created because people could not understand the drawings.
The incredible artwork of Leonardo at such a young age contributed to the development of such a great artist. After Da Vinci worked in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio, he stayed in the workshop for a few years before he opened a shop of his own in 1477 where he stayed for a few years. He then after a few years entered into the service of Duke Milan where he worked until what is speculated as 1499. Da Vinci worked in many places where he created his most known paintings such as the Mona Lisa, which he created in Florence and The Last Supper, which was created in Milan. Leonardo was seen as a great and noble person everywhere
he went due to his unusual style of painting of which he would combine different methods to create his own styles. When he would do this it would surpass all others painters who conformed to the usual style of paintings. One of the things that made Leonardo's paintings so unique and so glorified is the way he painted people. Due to Da Vinci being a master of the sciences and the anatomy of the human body he was able to depict with a greater reality the life-likeness of people. Not only did he use a different style for painting people, but also for the detail of perspective. Da Vinci took the regular principle of perspective and “joined this principle to two others: perspective of clarity (distant objects are less distinct) and perspective of color (distant objects are more muted in color). He wrote about both of these principles in his notebooks” (http://www.notablebiographies.com/Ki-Lo/Leonardo-da-Vinci.html). Although not all of Leonardo's methods worked out, such as The Last Supper. Leonardo painted this with an oil based medium instead of the usual water based paints on fresh plaster. The reasoning behind this was so that the colors would be more distinct to the viewer, however, “his experiment was unsuccessful. The paint did not stick well to the wall, and within fifty years the scene was reduced to a confused series of spots. What exists today is largely a later reconstruction” (http://www.notablebiographies.com/Ki-Lo/Leonardo-da-Vinci.html).
Da Vinci was not just a man of the arts, his work in the field of science greatly contributed to our understanding of the anatomy of the human figure, the law of motions, and the workings of gravity. Da Vinci has a famous picture that is known as the Proportions of the Human Figure. In this picture he has a drawing of man in a box within a circle in two different positions. Even though there is only one body shown, the arms and legs of two men are shown to
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highlight the proportions of the human body. Leonardo studied the anatomy of man very intensely contributing to the extravagance of his paintings. It is rumored that during his childhood his father asked him to paint a shield. As every kid would have been ecstatic to paint a shield for his father; he took the shield and got to work thinking what he was going to paint. After awhile he figured out that he was going to paint a ferocious animal on it and went out and collected many specimens that he would later inspect very thoroughly before he started painting the shield. He kept these dead animals so long that by the time he was finished inspecting them and painting the shield he had a painting of a tremendously realistic animal head breathing fire.”As a successful artist, he was given permission todissecthuman corpses at theHospital of Santa Maria NuovainFlorenceand later at hospitals in Milan andRome. From 1510 to 1511 he collaborated in his studies with the doctorMarcantonio della Torreand together they prepared a theoretical work on anatomy for which Leonardo made more than 200 drawings” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonardo_da_Vinci#Scientific_studies). Leonardo was not only a genus in the science of anatomy; he was also very enthralled in the idea and concepts of the laws of motion. He used his curiosity of motion to inspire some of his later inventions such as the water wheel and hydraulic pumps. The things he made that were inspired have lived on through the centuries and as time passes they continue to get more advanced and adapt to the needs of the world and the people living in it. However, some of his best works in science were for use in the military. Because Da Vinci knew so much about the law of motion and the laws of gravity he knew what would create better weapons and better defense mechanisms. Some of the things that greatly contributed to the military field of science was his machine gun, his man powered tank, and a device that was designed to aid forces in the storming of walls that was equally
proportioned so it wouldn't tip over when soldiers would cross its covered bridge. These things had so much effect on our understanding of weapons and defense mechanisms due to his detailed drawings that were depictions and instructions to work these things.
The man, a genius in the arts a master of anatomy of the human body which increased his understanding for the portrayal of humans in his art. He was also a master of inventing, although many of his inventions weren't brought to reality during his time. Many of the things he thought of was incredible advancements that we were able to make sooner than we would have probably been able to do if it was someone else inventing it. A few of his inventions were things such as a helicopter, a tank, crossbow, machine gun, and many other things that were of basic design but way ahead of the time in which he lived. Da Vinci was fascinated with flight; he had often drawn pictures of birds in the air, which gave him inspiration for some of his drawings and inventions. One in particular was his invention of wings that a person would attach to them and flap their arms like a bird and be able to fly. His fascination with the theory of flight led the way for people many centuries later to be able to expand on his ideas and creations and create what we now use every day all around the world, airplanes. However, that's not the only thing that we use every day in the modern world; machine guns. Da Vinci had created along with many other machines that could be used for war was the machine gun. His original plan was a man powered gun with eight barrels allowing the person to have a rapid fire weapon to eliminate many foes at one shot of the gun. The creations of Da Vinci whether they had been created in that time or if they weren't created until centuries later; he left the world of engineering with so much to expand on that we were able to finish what he had started and improve the things we have now.
All together Leonardo Da Vinci was a master of his time. He was a skilled inventor, artist, scientist, and overall complete and idealistic renaissance man. From the works he painted to the advancements in science to the creation and designing of things we now cherish and appreciate each day. His legacy lives on with us even today. So much that there have been movies that have been created from some of his creations in the art field. Would we have been able to develop everything we have now? I personally believe that we would not have what we have now in the time that we got it if Da Vinci had not created a journal of everything he made, everything he thought, and everything he had dreamed of.
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