Leonardo Da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452. His father was a wealthy notary, named Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci. His mother Caterina was a sixteen year old peasant girl. Leonardo had no surname when born and took the name Da Vinci meaning from Vinci, the small town in Florence where he was born. Throughout his life Leonardo faced many hardships. From 1457 he lived in the household of his father, grandparents and uncle, Francesco, in the small town of Vinci, after living the first five years of his life with his mother in Anchiano.
According to European Authors Leonardo’s father had another son in 1475, with the birth of Piero’s son Leonardo was excluded from the family. Living during the Renaissance time Leonardo went on to be one of the most influential artists in history with works such as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Not only was Leonardo one of the icons in art history, he has also impacted many fields in science such as astronomy and technological ingenuity. According to Art through the Ages, Leonardo is “the most diversely talented person ever to have lived”. While that claim cannot be proven, Leonardo did build himself a pretty resume.
His resume consists of: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. So while the term “most” cannot be proven, one can assume, by looking at this resume, that Leonardo was truly a very talented person. Leonardo was a pioneer in turning medieval Europe into early modern Europe. This movement is referred to as the Renaissance period, a period of great cultural change and achievement that began in Italy around the end of the 13th century and lasted until the 16th century.
According to West in the World, “renaissance literally means ‘rebirth’ and was coined in Italy in the early 14th century to refer to the classical (Greek and Roman) literature and values. ” A major part of the Renaissance was the art that came out during that time period between the 13th and 16th centuries. This is when Leonardo worked and released both his art and ideas. Leonardo Da Vinci has proven to be one of the most influential and diverse people in history. In 1466, Leonardo was apprenticed to the artist Andrea di Cione, known as Verrocchio.
According to The Rise of the Artist, in the workshop Leonardo was exposed to both theoretical training and a vast range of technical skills, including drafting, plaster casting, metallurgy, metal working, chemistry, leather working, mechanics and carpentry as well as the artistic skills of drawing, painting, sculpting and modeling. From 1472 to 1475, Leonardo collaborated with Verrocchio on his The Baptism of Christ, painting the young angel holding Jesus’ robe. According to Daniel Arasse, Leonardo’s earliest known dated work is a drawing in pen of the Arno valley, drawn on August 5, 1473.
From 1476 until 1478 there is no record of his work or even of his whereabouts (The Everything Da Vinci Book). According to Martin Kemp, Leonardo worked in Milan from 1482 until 1499. He was commissioned to paint the Virgin of the Rocks for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception and The Last Supper for the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The Last Supper proves that his influence lives onto this day. The Last Supper is the most reproduced religious painting of all time, showing that people to this day continue to appreciate Leonardo’s art.
On his return to Florence in 1500, he was a guest of the Servite monks at the monastery of Santissima Annunziata. Leonardo created the cartoon of The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist, a work that won such admiration that “men and women, young and old” flocked to see it “as if they were attending a great festival” (The Everything Da Vinci Book). Many people coming to see the panting he created proved once again that Leonardo’s work caught the attention of and attracted many people.
Among the works created by Leonardo in the 16th century is the small portrait known as the Mona Lisa or “la Gioconda”, the laughing one. In present time it is arguably the most famous painting in the world. The Mona Lisa is the perfect example of how Leonardo’s art has had an influence on the world all this time. Leonardo Da Vinci’s artwork is the most clear cut way to prove that his influences live on today. Although Leonardo is most widely known for his artwork, he was employed for his engineering and skills of invention.
Leonardo worked in the scientific areas of: aeronautics, anatomy, astronomy, botany, cartography, civil engineering, chemistry, geology, geometry, hydrodynamics, mathematics, mechanical engineering, optics, physics, pyrotechnics and zoology. However, many of his designs, such as the movable dikes to protect Venice from invasion, proved too costly. As an engineer, Leonardo conceived ideas vastly ahead of his own time, conceptually inventing a helicopter, a tank, the use of concentrated solar power, and a calculator (The Life Times Leonardo).
As a scientist, Leonardo had no formal education in Latin and mathematics and did not attend a university. Because of these factors, his scientific studies were largely ignored by other scholars (The Life Times Leonardo). Lives of the Most Excellent Italian Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, from Cimabue to Our Times, is a series of artist biographies written by 16th century Italian painter and architect Giorgio Vasari. In the Leonardo biography Vasari states: He made designs for mills, fulling machines and engines that could be driven by water-power…
In addition he used to make models and plans showing how to excavate and tunnel through mountains without difficulty, so as to pass from one level to another; and he demonstrated how to lift and draw great weights by means of levers, hoists and winches, and ways of cleansing harbours and using pumps to suck up water from great depths. Leonardo was a master of mechanical principles. He utilized cranks, pulleys, leverage and cantilevering, gears, including angle gears and rack and pinion gears; parallel linkage, lubrication systems and bearings.
Among those inventions that are credited with passing into general practical use are the strut bridge, the automated bobbin winder, and the lens-grinding machine (Nano-world. org). A very influential design coming from Leonardo was his design of a single span bridge. In 1502, Leonardo produced a drawing of a single span 720 foot bridge as part of a civil engineering project for Ottoman Sultan Beyazid II of Istanbul. The bridge was envisioned to span an inlet at the mouth of the Bosphorus known as the Golden Horn.
However, Beyazid did not follow the project, because he believed that such a construction was unmanageable. However, in 2006 the Turkish Government decided to construct the exact bridge Leonardo had drawn up. The Turkish government deciding to go through with this construction proves that Leonardo swayed the Turks hundreds of years later. Leonardo studied and excelled at many different forms of science. Another form of science that he excelled at was astronomy. Although astronomy does not figure large in Leonardo’s works, he realized the possibility of constructing a telescope.
On Leonardo’s The Notebooks he states: … In order to observe the nature of the planets, open the roof and bring the image of a single planet onto the base of a concave mirror. The image of the planet reflected by the base will show the surface of the planet much magnified’ Although he did not invent the telescope, he did come up with the idea for it, which shows that the telescope is yet another influence on our time from Leonardo Da Vinci. Leonardo Da Vinci was a pioneer for the Renaissance movement in Europe.
Although we cannot say Leonardo was the “most influential” we can say that evidence proves that his influences from artwork and inventions impact our everyday lives almost 500 years after his death. His The Last Supper lives on as the most reproduced religious painting, as do his designs for bridges live on in Turkey and Norway. With all of the evidence that there is available on Leonardo Da Vinci it is safe to say that he was truly a pioneer in the Renaissance and directly impacted both his own time period as well as our own time period and many time periods to come.
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New York: McGraw-Hill, 1972. Print. Phillips, Cynthia, and Shana Priwer. The Everything Da Vinci Book: Explore the Life and times of the Ultimate Renaissance Man. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2006. EBSCO. Web. 10 Nov. 2012. Sherman, Dennis, and Joyce E. Salisbury. The West in the World. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2011. Print. Vasari, Giorgio, and Philip Joshua Jacks. The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects. New York: Modern Library, 2006. SIRS Renaissance. Web. 1 Nov. 2012.