Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci – (b.April 15 , 1452, Anchiano/Vinci, Italia – d. May 2,1519, Cloux/Amboise, Franţa)  was an italian  painter, sculptor, architect and scientist.

Being a personality of universal spirit and  at the same time artist, scientist, inventor and philosophe, Leonardo embodies the universalist spirit of The Renaissance and remains one of the most important persons  of his epoque. His pioneering  contribution in plastic arts and his force of the anticipation unequalled ever during the whole historical evolution of the science are the characteristics of his grandious personality of which he was always  conscious. A year before his death Leonardo wrote  on his notes: “Io continuerò″ (“I shall continue ”).

Leonardo was born  on April 15 , 1452, no far from Florence, in the little locality Anchiano, being a child born out of wedlock of the peasant  Catarina and  Pietro, the son of the notary of the  town Vinci. Leonardo spent the most exciting moments of his childhood and the adolescence  on the hills of Vinci in the natural environment . He was considered and is the smartest  man of all times.

There is  no much information about the Leonardo’s childhood but an indication of how he began to paint exists.  One day a countryman  wanted that father Pietro to decorate a shield for being sold in Florence.  Pietro entrusted  his son to decorate the shield and Leonardo painted a strong dragon which seemed to excede the drawing. His father became mute in front of the picture made by his son , gave a new shield to the countryman and the work of his son was shown to Andrea del Verrocchro, the owner of a famous  studio. When he saw the work he  wanted to know Leonardo  immediately. The famous painter thus began to paint at the age of 14.

The L’Annunciazione painting (1473-1475) – at present exhibited in  Galleria degli Uffizi in  Florence –is another beginning work of Leonardo and  1478 is the year of the achievement of two  Madonnas, one of which is believed to be “Madonna Benois”, in  Ermitage museum in St. Petersburg. In march 1481, the monks of San Donato Monastery in  Scoperto commissioned  a composition having as subject „Adoration of the Magi” (Adorazione dei Magi) but  the work was not  finished and from it remained only the draught  which presents interest in the manner of grouping the personages  and in the original character  of the technique linked to the name of Leonardo : sfumato and the play of „clearobscure” .The root of this technique consists in the artist’s conception  that “any  body placed in the light area fills with his images the infinite parts of the air around it because none body is finished per see  (non è in sé terminato)”.

In 1482, Leonardo  entered the service of Duke Lodovico Sforza, also named “Il Moro” (the Moor) in Milano. The main reason for his decision in this respect was his particular attraction for the prospective great irrigation works. Leonardo wrote an often-quoted letter describing the many marvellous and diverse things that he could achieve in the field of engineering and informing Ludovico that he could also paint.Thus, in the  letter by  which he offered his services to Lodovico Sforza, Leonardo  mentioned firstly his technical aptitudes  and only at last  he mentiond his artistic talent.  In  Milano he lived in the same residence with the painter Ambrogio da Predis and  in April 1483 he signed a contract with Ambrogio  for painting some works in the Church  San Francesco Grande in Milano. In such a way it was born  the work “Madonna of the rocks ” (La Vergine delle rocce), for which there are  two versions , the version  existing in The Louvre Museum being considered as authentic.

Leonardo da Vinci : Ilustration for the book  „De Divina Proportione” of Luca Pacioli, 1509.

Between  1490 şi 1493 Leonardo  ended  the work “The book about the light and shadow ” comprising the theory of  the aerial perspective and of the colours, studied  the problems of hidraulics, geometry and  optics and contributed to the military enterprises  of Duke Sforza as an engineer and architect.  At the same time he helped  the  mathematician  Luca Pacioli to draft the work of art’s theory  “De Divina Proportione”, issued in  1509.

In the  1495-1498 period he achieved a large  mural composition “The last Supper” on the wall of the Dominican Monastery “Santa Maria delle Grazie”  reaching the highest point of  his artistic genius.   Different from other painers who, in ilustrating this subject, showed the moment in which Jesus announces that He will die soon,  Leonardo illustrated the dramatic development  which follows to the  pronouncement of  the words : “One of You will betray me”, moment in which The  Apostles, after the surprise of the first moment expressed differently their soul revolt but Iuda, in panics, mimicks a gesture of defence.

Leonardo da Vinci: The last Supper , 1495-97, – Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milano

Along time this paint suffered terible alterations. Without using  the fresco technique  Leonardo uses a process consisting in a mixture of oil and tempera for the more ilustration of the nuances . But this process is not resistant and along  time started to exfoliate from the wall because of  the moisture caused by the kitschen situated immediately  near the dining room . The later restoration works of which the last ones started in 1977 succeded in reducing in some  extent the alterations. On this occasion  it appeared „the Leonardo’s blue”   (for example on the sleeve ot Apostle Bartolomew) with its unequalised luminosity .

Starting with the Year  1499, Leonardo begins the series of his wanderings  in different cities of Italy. He passes  Mantova (1499) where meets  Isabella d’ Este, to whom he made a portrait . He remains a few months in Venice and then in 1501 he comes back  to  Florence, where he exhibits the cardboard of the future composition  “ Sant’ Anna, la Madonna, il Bambino e san Giovannino”, which araised the general admiration.

Leonardo da Vinci: Gioconda, 1503-06, Luvre Museum, Paris

In March 1503 Lenardo started to paint  the  famous portrait known under the name Gioconde or  Mona Lisa. Leonardo was very attached to this picture which he  carried always with him . The painter and the art historian Lomazzo writtes that „Leonardo didn’t finished this picture  because he didn’t never know if he had something more to say… he  always returned to work on this picture  never being sure  that he finnished it” . The fine features of the illustrated woman  give a permanent mobility, a uninterrupted flowing of a great diversitiy  of  states of mind with a misterious smile which seems to accentuate, to attenuate or just to disapear.   It is said that  for maintaining the transient smile of the model,  during his achievements works  Leonardo  ordered to play a music of a particular suavity.

Leonardo da Vinci: The battle of Anghiari , 1503-05 (copy of an anonymous) – Private  Collection , München

In October  1503, The Florence Seignority commissioned Leonardo to paint  on the wall of the  Great Council  Hall of  Palazzo Vecchio, “ The battle of Anghiari”. It had to illustrate the development of the battle of June 29, 1441 by an  array of the main episodes, namely the Milanese leader with his horsemen before the fight, the preparations of Florentines and then the different stages of the battle  ended with  the victory of Florentins. By an artistic generalisation of genius, Leonardo synthetises in a single picture the proposed subject. For this purpose he achieved a great number of draughts , kept in the Library of the Windsor Castle  (Great Britain). The mural painting  per see was not preserved because Leonardo tried a new technical process for fixing the colours which failed, said  painting  being   presently  known from  copies made  among others by Rubens  on the base of the draughts executed  by  Leonardo and of the detailed description made by  Giorgio Vasari. From this epoque it is dated the work “Neptune – Zeus of waters ”, from which only a chalk draught was kept.

During his stay in Amboise,Leonardo achieves a series of drawings of  a strong dramatic character illustrating phenomena of outbreaks of the  forces of the nature,  storms, cataclysms. But in the first months of the year 1519 his health is deteriorated  following a cerebral vascular attack. Having his right side of the body paralysed he was kept to bed and on May 2, 1519 his heart stopped.

Many books were written about Leonardo who was  an important pioneer in the modern astronomy, in geometry and especially in mechanics.  The geometric construction of various ornamental shapes attracted him more than empirical resolving of the problems. Here intervened the impulse of instrument builder  : he elaborates all kinds of  tools , particularly  compasses based upon the use of the articulated paralelogramme, and  parabolic, elliptic and proportional  compasses . It is said that Leonardo innitiated the double method in kinematics and  he  concluded that in the hypocicloidal motion a point situated on the mobile arch would describe an ellipse. This is the base method of the  the elliptical lathe the drawing of which being found in the Loenardo’s manuscripts .

The mechanics attracted Leonardo more than any other science. He designed various complicated devices for technical constructions  and after his studies on the  fly of birds he imaginated the possibility of  constructing flying machines .

In the field of biology it is to be mentioned his interest for the plants forms by illustrating in his drawings their  organs and internal structure. For ilustrating  the image of the human body he studied in detail the human anatomy compared to that of animals , particularly of the horses.

Under unfavourable conditions Leonardo develops a grandious work of dissecting over 30 bodies and carefully studying  each organ and tissue  which were illustrated in drawings with a great power of suggestion together with a full scientific fidelity. Most part of these drawings are exhibitted now in the Royal Gallery of Windsor Castle.  In 1498 he elaborated a project  of a „Treaty of Anatomy”, which however was not achieved.

In the history of urbanism he is between the first designers who constructed the scheme of the open modern city totally different from  the feudal walled cities.

Edificatory for the understanding of Leonardo are also the writings, particularly  “The Treaty of picture  ” (Trattato della Pittura), issued later, after his death , in 1651 or “De Ludo geometrico” (1514).

Existing in a great part in  Musée du Louvre (Paris), Royal Library (Windsor Castle), British Museum (London), Galleria Nazionale (Roma), Museo Nazionale (Torino), Gabinetto dei Disegni e Stampe Uffizi (Florence)


* Annountiation (1473-1475), Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
* Madonna Benois (1478), Ermitage, Museum St. Petersburg
* Adoration of The Magi  (1481-1482), Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
* Madonna on the rocks  (La Vergine delle rocce) (1483), Musée du Louvre, Paris
* The Last Supper  (1495-1497), Santa Maria delle Grazie,
* Gioconda or Mona Lisa (1503-1507), Musée du Louvre, Paris
*  The Battle of  Anghiari (1503-1505), only copies achieved by  Rubens and  by an anonimuous artist (the later is in a private collection in München)
*  Saint John The Baptist (1513-1516), Musée du Louvre, Paris

Leonardo da Vinci passed away on May 5,  1519 in  Cloux/Amboise, France.