Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452 and he was Italian. He never married nor had children. Unbelievably his assistant inherited his entire estate. He lived during the Renaissance era, which was all about important developments and discoveries in areas such as art and science.
The name Leonardo da Vinci translates to ‘Leonard from the town of Vinci’. That sounds quite weird, but that was how they named people back then. Imagine if your name was Jack from the town of Philadelphia…that would be quite a name.
Well actually quite a lot; he was a brilliant artist, sculptor, draftsman, inventor, scientist, mathematician, engineer, costume maker, writer and musician and he was also very interested in the laws of science and nature, which greatly influenced his work.
He is without a doubt known as one of the greatest painters of all time, and quite possibly the most talented person that has ever lived. Historian Helen Gardner said: “… His mind and personality seem to us superhuman, the man himself mysterious and remote.” Wow, that’s quite a statement to make, that he was ‘superhuman’. He must have been good!
He was the child of a respected notary, who is a person who can do all sorts of legal things, and a young peasant woman, but he was raised by his single father and stepmothers. At 14 he learnt and worked for an artist Verrocchio, where he learnt loads of technical skills, including metalworking, leather arts, carpentry, drawing and sculpting. By age 20, he had qualified as a master artist in the Guild of Saint Luke, which was like a prestigious association that was for painters and artists, and now had his very own workshop.
Because Leonardo’s interests were so varied, he got distracted really easily and often wouldn’t complete a project. During the 17 years he spent working for the Duke of Milan (1482-1499) he completed only six works, including the famous picture The Last Supper. Dozens of paintings and projects were never completed.
Leonardo was one of the first Italians to use oil paint. He was left-handed and used a mirror to write backwards because a quill pen was easier to pull from right to left than actually push it. It also made it harder for others to dig through his notes and steal his ideas. It’s incredibly hard to write backwards and not many people can do it. Apparently he wore pink to make his complexion look fresh. That’s really funny! Maybe you should try wearing pink and see if it helps.
He loved animals and was a vegetarian throughout his life. He also liked to buy caged birds so that he could set them free. That’s nice!
He hated war, but besides this he worked as a military engineer to invent advanced and deadly weapons, drawing plans for the first armored car in 1485. He also invented the bicycle 300 years before it appeared on the road and created an inflatable tube so people could float on water. Ah, no now we know who to thank for that awesome creation that is heaps of fun.
His remarks and inventions were recorded in 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, including designs for the first parachute, first helicopter, first airplane, first tank, and first repeating rifle, swinging bridge, paddleboat and first motorcar. He was very interested in flight. Many of his machines have since been built and tested, with some being successful and others weren’t so successful.
He spent a lot of time studying the flight of birds, showing his ideas in great detail. He was very interested in the human body was apparently trying to find where the soul was. His drawings of the body including bone and muscular structures are some of the first on human record. He is considered by many to be the father of modern science.
A famous drawing by da Vinci called The Vitruvian Man describes the relationship between human proportions and geometry.
Da Vinci is world famous for his paintings and the way he used light in his portraits. His most famous painting is the Mona Lisa, which was valued in 1962 at US$100 million and a suggested value today of US$780 million. It hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris behind bulletproof glass and is regarded as a national treasure. People don’t know for sure who she was, but there were lots of ideas, like it was the real-life wife of a merchant, others or even a self-portrait of himself as a woman.
He was asked to paint it but he never delivered it and kept it till he died on May 2, 1519 at the age of 67 in Amboise, Touraine which is today, Indre-et-Loire, France. Amazingly it took him about ten years just to paint the Mona Lisa’s lips.
In 1994 Microsoft founder Bill Gates purchased da Vinci’s famous scientific writings, the ‘Codex Leicester’ which contained explanations of water movement, fossils and the moon amongst other things.
One of da Vinci’s last commissioned works was a mechanical lion that could walk and open its chest to reveal a bouquet of lilies. It would be cool to have one of those!
A famous saying by da Vinci is, “The eye sees a thing more clearly in dreams, than the imagination awake.”
He was one very clever man, and hope you’ve learnt heaps about him.