Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, was born in a Tuscan town called Vinci, Italy, in the republic of Florence. He was born into a wealthy legal family, and at the time they didn’t use surnames and da Vinci literally means ‘of Vinci’, and his full name means ‘Leonardo, (son) of ser Piero from Vinci’. Little did his family know that his knowledge would become endless, and he was noted as being educated in science, mathematics, engineering, astronomy, botany, cartography, palaeontology, and he became a skilled inventor who became prominent in the Italian Humanist Renaissance.
Not too much is recorded about Leonardo’s early life, but at 14 his family moved to Florence and he started work in the studio of famed artist and sculpture, Andrea del Verrocchio, as a studio boy, and at aged 17 he became his apprentice. He remained an apprentice for 7 years, and trained along side many other future painters who all learned various skills like mechanics, casting, and artistic procedures ie: painting.
In 1482, Leonardo moved to the city of Milan (Milano), in the region of Lombardia, northern Italy. Milan is the most cultural, commercial and prosperous city for fashion, manufacturing and style/design, so it’s no surprise that Leonardo headed there. Many Italians of the time considered Milan as the most important city in Italy, and disregarded Rome, despite its historical and prestigious presence. Leonardo found himself working for the city’s duke, Ludovico Sforza, who was renowned for being one of the most ruthless princes in Italy’s history. He remained in Milan for 17 years as the palace’s ‘pictor et ingeniarius ducalis‘ (painter and engineer of the duke), where he was involved in many projects from art to consultancy in the service of the Duke. When the Duke’s inevitable fall of power came about, Leonardo decided to visit Venice with mathematician Lucas Pacioli, before finally returning to Florence to a warm welcome.
“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
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In 1942 he drew perhaps one of the most famous and iconic pictures ever created, the ‘Vitruvian Man‘. It’s based on Roman’s architect Vitruvius, and represents the ‘perfect man‘.
• four fingers equal one palm
• four palms equal one foot
• six palms make one cubit
• four cubits equal a man’s height
• four cubits equal one pace
• 24 palms equal one man Source
As well as his inventions, medical and anatomy expertise, cartography skills, and his awareness of the scale of the planet, and that it was heliocentric and not geocentric like society believed (despite never making his knowledge public during his life, due to the power of the Catholic Church, and the inevitable claim of heresy if he announced his claims), he was also an extremely skilled artist and sculpture. Perhaps one of the most famous paintings ever created is the Mona Lisa. I wasn’t going to bring this up as it’s so obvious and it’s always overshadowed everything else he did, but how can you write a retrospective of Da Vinci without mentioning the Mona Lisa?
The Mona Lisa is on permanent display at the Louvre in Paris, and in 1962 it was insured for $100,000,000. The way that inflation of currency works, it had an estimated value of $2,500,000,000 in 2014, making it easily the most valuable piece of artwork in history.
Due to his rigorous study of human anatomy he came to the conclusion that humans and monkeys were ‘almost of the same species’. He teaches this conclusion over 350 years before the Victorian, Charles Darwin, wrote ‘Origin of the Species‘. Some could argue that he came to this conclusion because of the similarity, but with being an expert on anatomy it seems more than just assumption.
The description of man, which includes that of such creatures as are almost of the same species, as Apes, Monkeys and the like, which are many” – Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo died at Château du Clos Lucé in 1519, at just aged 67. Historians are confident that his death was due to a stroke, and he was known to have kept up his scientific studies until his last moments. His estate, and belongings were passed over to his assistant, Melzi; Mona Lisa was given to one of Leonardo’s disciples, Gian Giacomo Caprotti (nicknamed Salai ‘Little Devil‘).