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Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452 in Anchiano, near Vinci in the Republic of Florence, which is now Italy. He died on May 2, 1519 in Cloux (now Clos-Luce) France. Leonardo da Vinci is believed to be the greatest genius that ever lived. Leonardo had become a master in more fields of any other before or since him. Most geniuses such as Albert Einstein or Alfred Hitchcock were masters only in a single field. It was not the case with Leonardo. He believed that all subject matter was interconnected in one way or another. Leonardo expressed a great deal of his other works in his works of art. He was an Italian painter, draftsman, sculpture, architect, engineer, mathematician, musician, scientist, a writer, and a well-known inventor.
Da Vinci, the Artist
Leonardo started his career as an artist in about 1469 in Verrocchio’s fabled workshop. Leonardo, a youth at the time was Verrocchio’s assistant. One of their famous masterpieces was the Baptism of Christ. This painting was started in 1472 and took roughly 3 years to complete. It is currently being housed at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. A great deal of the detail of this painting was believed to be done by Leonardo himself. X-rays of the painting and comparing them to the original sketches shows that Leonardo had done the painting entirely different that the way Verrocchio had intended it to be in finished form. This may be the earliest indication that Leonardo was trying to free himself from his masters coaching to follow his own path. Verrocchio had felt threatened by the fact that da Vinci’s angel in the painting had seemed to be a great deal better than the other three which were painted by Verrocchio (John the Baptist) and other students) After this Verrocchio had lost interest in painting and concentrated on his other talents such as sculpture and metal working. Suffice to say, this was Verrocchio’s last well-known painting and the start of Leonardo’s career as a famous artist. Another of his more famous works, the Mona Lisa, has brought forth much controversy over the years since its completion in 1506. It was painted in Florence, Italy on wood with oil paints and now currently resides at the Musee du Louvre, Paris. Some of this controversy includes such questioning as follows: Why is she smiling (was she secretly pregnant at the time of the painting), is this really a woman or a cleverly disguised self-portrait of Leonardo himself? If Mona Lisa was actually a self portrait of Leonardo, then the smile couldn’t have been of a secret pregnancy, but most-likely of a secret that the painting is actually based on the artist. The Last Supper is another one of Leonardo’s great works of art. It is a mural that measures 30 feet by 14 feet. This great size mad it a great challenge for the very talented Leonardo. The work was started in 1495 and after 3 years of many sketches and preparatory drawings, the work was finally completed in 1498. This painting was done at the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie on the north refectory. This job focused on a scene at the moment of the announcement Judas’ betrayal. Instead of seating them in a traditional seating arrangement for that time, he seated them so that one could see each of the apostles’ faces and facial expressions as they hear the announcement of the betrayal of Jesus. This job couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for Leonardo, for he was in his time of depression. This job not only brought him out of his depression, but it also won back the Duke Lodovico’s patronage and through this he acquired a vineyard and a piece of property of 16 rods located near San Vittore. Other paintings by Leonardo include St. John in the Wilderness, Benois Madonna, Sala delle Asse, St. Jermome, Adoration of the Magi, and many others.
Da Vinci and his sculptures
Leonardo not only had a talent for art, which he seems the most famous for, but also he had a flare for sculpture. Some of his more well-known sculptures are the Horse in Bronze and the Il Cavallo. The Bronze horse was started in 1482 when the Duke of Milan had commissioned Leonardo to build the world’s biggest horse in honor of his father to guard over the Duke’s castle. It stood 24 feet high upon its completion. The sculpture started out as a full size cay model and was eventually later cast in Bronze, thus the name the Bronze Horse. Leonardo’s other well known sculpture, Il Cavallo, was another horse sculpture that he would not see completed. This only exists in the form of the multitude of drawings that were left behind by da Vinci. Also left behind were two issues da Vinci had with his sculpture. The first was the fact that he needed to fill the space where the horses’ belly was to be and the second issue was settling on the position of the rider. Unfortunately for Leonardo, this was one sculpture he could not complete.
Da Vinci, the Inventor
Leonardo had many great inventions for his time period and a great deal of them was ahead of their time. These inventions can be put into a number of categories according to the invention and the intended purpose of the invention. The first category would be flight. This category includes the parachute, the helicopter, and the glider. The second category is forgeries. In this category would be the Turin Shroud. The reason for this as being in the forgery category is the fact that people question whether it is authentic or it was one of da Vinci’s illusions of making it look authentic by using his many artistic talents. The third category of his inventions is maps. Leonardo had made great improvements in the area of map making in his time period. The fifth category is the military. This category includes the plans he had drawn up for an automobile (re-invention), the invention of a three-tiered machine gun, a scaling ladder (improvement), and a military tank. Even his paintings, which are the sixth category, can be considered as inventions for Leonardo in the fact that he had made improvements in the art and also in his creative techniques. The seventh category for inventions for da Vinci is statues in the fact that, just as in paintings he had made improvements and used different techniques and also invention. The last but not least category in the inventions for da Vinci is a category that I would have never even thought or known about is robots. Leonardo was experimenting with this concept in 1495. The robot is a knight in appearance and is wearing the traditional armor for the time which was Italian-German. It had realistic features as well. For instance if one were to look into the mouth of the robot one would find it looked as a real humans mouth would. Leonardo had done this to prove to himself how easily a human being’s body could be imitated. This to me in itself shows pure genius.
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