Leonardo Da Vinci Essay

Leonardo da Vinci was born April 15, 1452, in Vinci, Italy. He was raised by his father, Ser Piero, and his stepmothers. At 14 years old, Leonardo started apprenticing with Verrocchio, who was a artist as well. Verocchio’s specialty was perspective, which artists had only recently begun to get the hang of, and Leonardo quickly mastered its challenges. In fact, Leonardo quickly surpassed Verocchio. Within six years, he learned a wide variety of technical skills which, includes metalworking, leather arts, carpentry, drawing and sculpting. By the age of 20, he qualified as a master artist in the Guild of St. Luke and started his own workshop.

The city of Florentine court records show that he was charged with and acquitted of sodomy at the age of 22, and for two years, his whereabouts were not documented. Leonardo has been called a genius and the archetypal Renaissance man. His talents extended far beyond his artistic works. Like many leaders of Renaissance humanism, he did not see a divide between science and art. His observations and inventions were recorded in 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, including designs for flying machines (some 400 years before the Wright brothers’ first success), plant studies, war machinery, anatomy and architecture.

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His ideas were mainly theoretical explanations, laid out in exacting detail, but they were rarely experimental. Leonardo has been called a genius and the archetypal Renaissance man; his talents extended far beyond his artistic works. Like many leaders of Renaissance humanism, he did not see a divide between science and art. His observations and inventions were recorded in 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, including designs for flying machines (some 400 years before the Wright brothers’ first success), plant studies, war machinery, anatomy and architecture.

His ideas were mainly theoretical explanations, laid out in exacting detail, but they were rarely experimental. Renaissance Italy was centuries away from our culture of photographs and cinema, but Leonardo nevertheless sought a universal language in painting. With perspective and other realistic elements, Leonardo tried to create faithful renditions of life. In a culture previously dominated by highly figurative and downright strange religious paintings, Leonardo’s desire to paint things realistically was bold and fresh. This call to objectivity ecame the standard for painters who followed in the 16th century. No slouch when it came to the techniques of the day, Leonardo went beyond his teaching by making a scientific study of light and shadow in nature. It dawned on him that objects were not comprised of outlines, but were actually three-dimensional bodies defined by light and shadow. Known as chiaroscuro, this technique gave his paintings the soft, lifelike quality that made older paintings look cartoon like and flat. He also saw that an object’s detail and color changed as it receded in the distance.

This technique, called sfumato, was originally developed by Flemish and Venetian painters, but of course Super-Genius Leonardo transformed it into a powerful tool for creating atmosphere and depth. Ever the perfectionist, Leonardo turned to science in the quest to improve his artwork. His study of nature and anatomy emerged in his stunningly realistic paintings, and his dissections of the human body paved the way for remarkably accurate figures. He was the first artist to study the physical proportions of men, women and children and to use these studies to determine the “ideal” human figure.

Unlike many of his contemporaries Michelangelo for example he didn’t get carried away and paint ludicrously muscular bodies, which he referred to as “bags of nuts. ” All in all, Leonardo believed that the artist must know not just the rules of perspective, but all the laws of nature. The eye, he believed, was the perfect instrument for learning these laws, and the artist the perfect person to illustrate them. Leonardo was experimenting with oils, a radical technique previously known only in the Northern Europe.

Traditionally, Italian artists had painted with egg tempera (pigment mixed with egg yolk or whites), a messy and smelly mixture which dried quickly and often appeared to crack. By mixing his pigment with oil, Leonardo discovered a more versatile colour, which could be built up in layers to add depth and tone, or even painted over, to cover mistakes. It was the start of an artistic revolution. To be the ultimate Renaissance man, one had to master every discipline, from natural science, engineering and architecture through to philosophy and art.

Leonardo wrote detailed notes on all of these subjects, and in the margins he often left tantalizing doodles of astonishing machines, tanks, parachutes, helicopters, many of which might actually have worked. Unlike his rival, Botticelli, who took inspiration from philosophical ideals and poetry, Leonardo was obsessed with the natural world. From a young age he was determined to reflect every detail. “Nature is the source of all true knowledge. She has her own logic, her own laws, she has no effect without cause nor invention without necessity,” he said.

Throughout his life, Leonardo produced thousands of plant and animal studies particularly about horses. He struggled to capture the chaotic behaviour of water and also embarked on the most controversial practice of the day, the study of anatomy. Procuring corpses from the hospitals of Florence, Leonardo engaged in private dissection and research. He secretly discovered many features of human anatomy more than 200-years before they became common knowledge. Humanism (the philosophy that people are rational beings) became quite popular during the Renaissance. The dignity and worth of the individual was emphasized.

This movement originated with the study of classical culture and a group of subjects known collectively as the “studia humanitatis”, or the humanities. Humanism and the humanities disciplines included studies in speaking, grammar, poetry, ethics and history. The humanist preference was to study them as much as possible in their original classical texts (mostly Latin). The more traditional educational approach was that of scholasticism, which concentrates on logic, natural science and metaphysics. In terms of his empirical investigations of the natural world, Leonardo was a humanist, though he probably would not have used that term.

He was interested in the natural world, in the human body, in machines to improve or advance the human experience, at a time when others were also questioning the medieval and Catholic world view and wondering whether human life might be moved beyond it, expanded philosophically and intellectally, in a way that ultimately progressed through the Early Modern period, the Scientific Revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries, and the Enlightenment. Leonardo was a solitary man; he does not seemed to have appreciated contacts with Ficino or Pico della Mirandola, he did not correspond with Erasmus; he was sui generis.

But in his curiosity and outlook at the time, he was, indeed, a humanist. Leonardo da Vinci had a famous painting called the Last Supper. This is a picture of Jesus at his last supper and there are many people around him, this is a simple picture but it is different from the paintings before, and if you look into it is very complex. There are humanism themes embedded in the painting. In the background of the painting there are windows, and out the windows there is landscape of hills and other thing. This shows real life and the depth of the painting, all the different layers of the painting.

Then there is also immense amounts of symmetry in this painting. This was important to humanism because everything was supposed to be balanced. Also man’s perfection was a big part in the renaissance, and a body id symmetrical. So some symmetry in The Last Supper was, on either side of Jesus was a group of six people, then in those groups of people each was split into two other groups, all very even and symmetrical. There was also four panels on each side of the walls. Another characteristic of humanism art was real emotions.

Every single person in this painting( besides Jesus, who was left out for obvious reasons) is not smiling. They are giving real emotions. Humanism art was all about emotions, and being real. All the people in the painting seem concerned or anxious, all real emotions, they are not just happy all the time. Leonardo was quite emphatic with portraying things as they were seen. This naturalism was quite apparent in many of his early works and carried out throughout his entire ensemble of pieces that are attributed to his name. Leonardo was fascinated with nature.

Many of his earliest sketches are of plants, flowers, and botanicals which are represented with great detail and labor, striving to give them the beauty that he experienced from them. This desire to portray things naturally, or realistically, carried over into his backgrounds, his portrayal of figures, his draperies, and his many other talents; sculpture, sketches, and even making the pigments of the paints he used in order to better represent his figures more realistically. The first account of Leonardo’s genius is seen in the painting of The Baptism of Christ, the angel on the left of the picture is attributed to him.

This painting, executed mainly be the hand of Verrocchio, is now in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It has been suggested that Verrocchio thought Leonardo’s work to be so superior than his own, that he vowed never to paint again. His Annunciation was painted in 1473 and at the time he was still living in Verrocchio’s house. Other works from this early Florentine period include, the Portrait of Ginevra de’Benci, the Benois Madonna, and his unfinished picture of St Jerome. During the Middle Ages the Church was the principle customer of art. Thus, in both content and meaning the art of that age was overwhelmingly religious.

With the distinctive outlook and prosperity of the Renaissance, however, princes, councils, and merchants emerged as important patrons who paid for a largely secular, man centered art that glorified themselves or their cities. In Renaissance art religious subjects remained dominant, but its significance lies in its worldliness, its fidelity to nature and to man. Da Vinci was commissioned to paint an altarpiece, The adoration of the Magi, for a monastery just outside Florence. The work (about eight feet square) is unfinished, probably because Leonardo had left Florence for Milan. The reasons for Leonardo’s departure from Florence are unclear.

Some say that it was his lack of recognition by Lorenzo de Medici, also the artist had been overlooked for the decoration of the walls of the Sistine Chapel. Pope Sixtus IV had summoned the finest artists in Tuscany to work on the Chapel. The Medici recommended Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Signorelli but not Leonardo. In Milan Leonardo worked on various projects for Ludovico il Moro Sforza (The Duke of Milan) including modeling huge clay horse intended to be cast in bronze. Like much of his work, this project was never completed and was eventually destroyed by the French who invaded Milan.

Da Vinci was accepted into the Sforza court and enjoyed a comfortable surroundings, in return he completed designs for war machines. and was listed as an engineer by the Sforza family. It would seem that Leonardo became quite the court painter within the Sforza circle. Notably he completed portraits of two of the Duke’s mistress’ Cecilia Gallerani, entitled The Lady with an Ermine. The second portrait is of Ludovico Sforza’s mistress Lucrezia Crivelli, known as La Belle Ferroniere. Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous drawing is The Vitruvian Man, the figure of a naked man placed within a circle and a square.

The arms and legs are shown in two positions superimposed on one another, it was made as a study of the proportions of the human body. On the French invasion Leonardo fled to Venice and was employed as an engineer and worked on methods of defending the city from naval attack. He had many scientific plans with concepts far ahead of their time, these included plans for a flying machine (he had observed and studied the flight of birds). Leonardo also studied anatomy and was given permission to dissect corpses and, as his anatomical drawings show, he was one of the first to explore the growth of a child in the womb.

In 1500 Leonardo was back in Florence, and around 1502 painted the wife of a Florentine official, the Mona Lisa, destined to become the most famous image in art. During this Florentine period he produced designs for a fresco intended for the Grand Council Hall of the Palazza Signoria. Leonardo da Vinci was in direct competition with Michelangelo who had also been commissioned to produce a design. Michelangelo’s chosen subject was the Battle of Cascina, taken from the wars between Pisa and Florence.

Leonardo’s choice was the Battle of Anghiari, in which Florentine forces triumphed over Milanese mercenaries in 1440. Details of this unfinished work exist only as copies by later artists (such as Rubens) based on Leonardo’s detailed records. Also in 1502 he was employed by Cesare Borgia as a military engineer and architect, and travelled throughout Italy with this notorious adventurer. Piper, D. (1981). The Dictionary of Painting ; Sculpture, Art ; Artists, Painters ; Sculptors, Terms ; Techniques. London: Mitchell Beazley Publishers. The Great Artists (1985) Leonardo da Vinci. London: Marshall Cavandish Ltd.