Leonardo Da Vinci portraitWhat words could be used to describe Leonardo da Vinci? Painter, inventor, sculptor, engineer? Inventor, musician, writer, geologist? Mathematician, astronomer, architect, botanist? All of these and more. The brilliant Italian was the epitome of the Renaissance ideal, and is considered by many to be one of the greatest geniuses of history. Born in Vinci in the area of Florence in 1452, his full name was Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci. At 14 he was apprenticed as a “studio boy” in the workshop of the artist Verrocchio, a prominent sculptor and painter of the time. He spent seven years there and was exposed to sculpting, painting, chemistry, and a number of other skills and sciences.

The Medici, Milan, & Masterpieces

His first independent commission was a painting for the Chapel of St. Bernard in Florence. The second was The Adoration of the Magi for a group of monks. He finished neither, as the Medici family sent him to Milan, where he stayed for 17 years. There his commissions included Virgin of the Rocks and The Last Supper. He worked on various other projects in Milan, and in 1482 was commissioned to cast an enormous bronze statue of a horse. In 1492 he completed a clay model, which was destroyed by French soldiers seven years later when they used it for target practice. The monument itself was never completed, and the bronze was eventually used to make cannons.

Few Surviving, But Many Famous Works

Unfortunately, many of Leonardo’s works did not survive. His most famous works, however, make him one of the most revered and well-known artists in history. The Last Supper, a 29-foot mural depicting Jesus’ last meal with his apostles, was completed in 1498. It depicts the moment when Jesus said that one of his disciples would betray him; the consternation on the others’ faces is quite clear. The painting is in the Santa Maria delle Grazie church in Milan. Very little of the original painting remains, and it has undergone numerous restorations. If The Last Supper isn’t Leonardo’s most famous work, the Mona Lisa certainly is. Completed in 1506, it is a painting of a seated woman with an enigmatic smile. For years scholars and historians debated the identity of the woman; it is now generally believed to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of a wealthy Florentine silk merchant. The painting hangs in the Louvre in Paris and is undoubtedly the most popular piece in the entire museum. It is estimated to be worth nearly $800 million.

The Mind of More Than An Artist

Leonardo Da Vinci journalMany think of Leonardo da Vinci as a painter, but his journals reveal a man with a brilliant mind and insatiable curiosity about the word around him. More than 13,000 pages contain notes and drawings of innumerable subjects including human faces, wings, animals, anatomy, babies, flying machines (including a sketch of a helicopter), shoes for walking on water, plant studies, and rocks. His sketches of war machines include a catapult, giant crossbow, tank, and steam-powered cannon.

Leonardo da Vinci was famous during his own lifetime, and his reputation has only grown with the centuries. Painters, historians, and engineers still marvel at his ingenuity and talent. The Mona Lisa is, arguably, the most famous and recognizable painting in the world. Five hundred years after his death, this brilliant, mysterious man still manages to amaze and impress.

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