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Reflecting on the Genius of Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci

It is almost impossible to talk about art, without mentioning a some of the great artists in history.  I am intrigued by few including the genius of a artist Leonardo da Vinci.

The illegitimate son of a 25 year-old notary, Ser Piero, and a peasant girl, Caterina, Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452, in Vinci, Italy, just outside Florence. His father took custody of him shortly after his birth.

Sketch of Horse

Growing up in his father’s Vinci home, Leonardo had access to scholarly texts owned by family and friends. He was also exposed to Vinci’s longstanding painting tradition, and when he was about 15 his father apprenticed him to the renowned workshop of Andrea del Verrochio in Florence. Even as an apprentice, Leonardo demonstrated his great talent. Indeed, his genius seems to appear in a number of pieces produced by the Verrocchio’s workshop from the period 1470 to 1475. For example, one of Leonardo’s first big breaks was to paint an angel in Verrochio’s “Baptism of Christ,” and Leonardos was so much better than his masters that Verrochio allegedly resolved never to paint again. Leonardo stayed in the Verrocchio workshop until 1477.

 Leonardo da Vinci is best known as an artist but his work as a scientist and an inventor make him a true Renaissance man. He serves as a role model applying the scientific method to every aspect of life, including art and music. Although he is best known for his dramatic and expressive artwork, Leonardo also conducted dozens of carefully thought out interests. These studies were so broad, and because he was so often compelled by new subjects, he usually left projects unfinished or unrealized! (see “Big Horse”) As a result, he only completed about six works in 17 years, including “The Last Supper” and “The Virgin on the Rocks.” He spent most of his time studying science, either by going out into nature and observing things or by locking himself away in his workshop cutting up bodies or pondering universal truths.  His experiments and inventions he created were futuristic and groundbreaking for the time.
Mona Lisa

Around 1503, Leonardo reportedly began work on the “Mona Lisa.” From 1513 to 1516, he worked in Rome. He mostly maintained a workshop and undertook a variety of projects for the Pope. He continued his studies of human anatomy and physiology, but the Pope forbade him from dissecting cadavers, limiting his progress.

The Virgin and Child


Although suffering from a paralysis of the right hand in later years, Leonardo (who wrote with his left-handed) was still able to draw and teach. He produced studies for the Virgin Mary from “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne.” He also completed studies of cats, horses, dragons, St. George, anatomical studies, studies on the nature of water, drawings of the Deluge, and of various machines and inventions.

Leonardo died on May 2, 1519 in Cloux, France. Legend has it that King Francis was at his side when he died, cradling Leonardo’s head in his arms. His life and art is truly inspirational.    Art has no limitations just imagination.  There are few books on his life , which is worth reading.

Be well. 


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