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Leonardo da Vinci                                                                         Italian version

 Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), was one of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance, and the greatest experimental scientist of his age.

"Leonardo da Vinci" Portrait of Mona Lisa (1479-1528), also known as La Gioconda, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo; 1503-06; Oil on wood, 77 x 53 cm (30 x 20 7/8 in); Musee du Louvre, Paris.   Leonardo da Vinci "Madonna Litta" c. 1490. Oil on panel, transferred to canvas. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia.   Leonardo da Vinci "St. John the Baptist" c.1513-1516. Oil on wood. Louvre, Paris, France.



Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)He displayed genius in almost all the arts and sciences. Leonardo was a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, and art critic. He studied the sciences as an inventor, a civil and military engineer, a botanist, an astronomer, and a geologist. He became the leading student of anatomy of his time. Da Vinci also pioneered studies of flying. He sketched flying machines based on the way birds fly. Leonardo's many designs show that he had a knowledge of aviation far beyond his own time.

Early Life

 Leonardo was born in the little village of Vinci. His father, Piero da Vinci, may have served as the village notary and lawyer. His mother was peasant girl named Caterina. Piero's parents took Leonardo into their home and raised him. The boy showed one side of his genius by working out difficult problems in mathematics and engineering. But he showed greatest promise in drawing and painting. As a result, his father took him to Florence to study with Andrea del Verrocchio. Da Vinci studied painting, sculpture, and engineering under Verrocchio. He painted the figure of an angel in Verrocchio's Baptism of Christ while he was still a student. Many people thought that the angel was the best part of the painting. The angel was Leonardo's first completed work, as far as art historians know. Da Vinci soon painted better than his teacher, and the painter's guild in Florence admitted him in 1472. He went on working with Verrocchio until about 1476, but he developed a different style. In his Adoration if the Magi, an unfinished panel, he showed that he preferred more idealistic painting than did Verrocchio.

Work in Milan

 In the early 1480's, Leonardo entered the service of Ludovico Sforza, who later became Duke of Milan. Leonardo may have gone to Milan to design and cast an immense bronze statue in memory of Francesco Sforza. Leonardo never finished this work, but he did complete a painting, The Madonna of the Rocks, in his early years in Milan. This painting, was the first to show completely the style for which Leonardo is best known. He arranged his figures formally, making a triangular composition, and filled the foreground with detailed studies of plants. During this period, Leonardo also painted a mural, The Last Supper in the dining hall of the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Many persons consider this mural one of the greatest paintings in the world, even though its colors have faded badly. It still shows Leonardo's amazing knowledge of anatomy and perspective. Most noteworthy is the masterful way in which he shows the complex emotions in the hearts of Christ's disciples. Leonardo worked on projects for the diversion of rivers while he served the duke, and developed a canal system with locks that are still in operation. He designed court pageants and new fortifications for Milan. He delighted the duke with his  great ability as a musician and singer. He performed on his lute and on many mechanical instruments he had invented, making up both words and music as he went along.


Leonardo da Vinci "The Last Supper" c.1495-1498. Oil and tempera on plaster. Santa Maria delle Grazie, Refectory, Milan, Italy.

Work in Florence

 French troops seized Milan in 1499 and forced he duke to flee. Leonardo returned to Florence, where he painted a portrait of the wife of a merchant named Giocondo. The mysterious smile Leonardo painted in the Mona Lisa or La Gioconda has been the subject of endless discussion. People especially like the simplicity and dignity of his painting, which appears in color in this article. The mountain landscape in the background is in perfect atmospheric perspective, and seems to lead the viewer into infinity. Da Vinci resumed his studies of theoretical mathematics while in Florence. He also made many drawings of the anatomy of the human body. He began work on The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne at this time, but did not complete the painting for several years, possibly in Francy. In 1502 and 1503, Leonardo took some time from his studies in Florence to work for the general Cesare Borgia. Da Vinci studied provincial fortifications in Italy for him, and drew some excellent maps of important military areas. Later, the maps were used to plan a peacetime system of canals for his own city of Florence. he also designed a breech-loading cannon and an armored vehicle like a tank. Back in Florence, Leonardo started a series of frescoes, and they have since been completely destroyed. His clay models, sketches, and parts of the finished cartoon, as well as copies of the finished central panel by other artists, enable us to reconstruct the painting.

The most famous portrait

 Da Vinci's Mona Lisa  is probably the most famous portrait ever painted. The mysterious smile of the subjects, a young Italian woman named Lisa del giocondo, has fascinated countless viewers. But such smiles were a feature of many portraits of women painted during the Renaissance.


 Leonardo Da Vinci drew his self-portrait, above, in about 1512. He filled thousands of notebook pages with comments and drawings on many subjects, including anatomy, below, mathematics, and naval warfare.

Leonardo da Vinci "The Annunciation" c. 1472-1475. Oil and tempera on wood. Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

Later Years

 Leonardo returned to Milan in 1506, this time in the service of Louis XII of France. He went on studying anatomy, and concentrated his engineering on research on hydraulics and aeronautics. Six years later, he joined Bramante, Raphael, and Michelangelo in Rome to work for Pope Leo X. The four great artists worked on designs and construction of the new Church of St. Peter. Some of them also worked on other new or enlarged buildings and rooms in the Vatican. Several French kings admired Leonardo's work and invited him to live in France. Da Vinci finally accepted Francis Is invitation in 1516, and settled in the small castle of Cloux, near Amboise. He lived there in a princely fashion until he died, on May 2, 1519.

Leonardo's Genius

 Leonardo dealt with all kinds of problems. His paintings reveal a sensitive approach to color and keen sense of detail. Unfortunately, his many other activities prevented him from completing many paintings. Scholars often read Leonardo's Treatise on Painting to see what he thought about his own compositions and about the works of others.. People interpositions and about the works of others. People interested in the many sides of Leonardo's genius study other pages of his many notebooks. Leonardo was ambidextrous, and he wrote his notes backwards with his left hand. He then read them with a mirror. Nearly 7,000 pages from his notebooks exist today. He sketched ideas and inventions on them, along with his notes. His comments ranged over such fields as painting, anatomy and the philosophy of living.


 Da Vinci studied landscapes, rock formations, and the movement of water. In a famous drawing, above, he tried to show the action of water in a whirlpool, indicating currents below the surface as well as the surface pattern he could see. He wrote his notes backwards, and read them with a mirror.


 Da Vinci used the principles of geometry in his sketches for buildings. One of the problems he studied involved supporting a dome above a round building, as sketched above. He later spent several years in Rome, working on plans for Saint Peter's Church and other buildings in the Vatican.

Designer and Inventor

 Da Vinci understood principles about machines and processes that were not put to use until long after his death. The International Business Machines Corp. built many models from his drawings. He sketched a flying machine, above, and a "machine gun", opposite page. he worked on metal projectiles, right, that heavy stone balls. His ideas for an aerial screw, far right, forecast the development of the propeller and the helicopter.

"Leonardo da Vinci" Ginevra de' Benci c. 1474; Oil on wood, 38.2 x 36.7 cm (15 1/8 x 14 1/2 in); National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Leonardo da Vinci "Madonna with the Carnation" c.1475. Oil on wood. Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany. Leonardo da Vinci "The Proportions of the Human Figure" (Vitruvian Man). 1490. Pen, ink and watercolour over metalpoint. Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice, Italy.


Leonardo's works


Florence - Uffizi:

  "The Baptism of Christ" 1475-78
Oil on wood, Uffizi Florence;
  "Annunciation" oil on wood, 1472-75;
  "The Adoration of the Magi" 1481-82; Yellow ochre and brown ink on panel, 246 x 243 cm (8 x 8 ft); Uffizi, Florence.


Paris - Musee du Louvre:

  "Annunciation" tempera on wood, 1478;
  First version of "The virgin of the Rocks." primarily an oil on canvas, then transported on canvas, 1483-86;
  "La Gioconda" olio on wood del 1503-06;
  "Virgin and Child with St. Anne" oil on wood, circa 1508.


Turin - Real Library:

  "Head of angel" Pen and ink on paper, 1473;
  "Selfportrait" could represent just himself but not if it has an effective certainty, 1512.



   Second version of "The Virgin of the Rocks." oil on wood, 1495-1508;
  "Burlington House Cartoon" (Mary, Christ, St. Anne and the Infant St. John). 1507-13. Chalk on paper. National Gallery, London, UK.
  "Portrait of Cecilia Galleran" c.1490. Oil on wood. Czartorychi Muzeum, Cracow, Poland.
  "The Last Supper" c.1495-1498. Oil and tempera on plaster. Santa Maria delle Grazie, Refectory, Milan, Italy.
  "Madonna with the Carnation" c.1478-80. Oil on wood. Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany.
  "Head of a young woman (dishevelled)" 1506-1508 (?) shaded earth and amber turned green on a board prepared with biacca, 24,7 x 21 cm. Parma, National Art Gallery.
  "Madonna Benois" c. 1475-1478. Oil on canvas, transferred from panel. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia.
" Portrait of Ginevra de'Benci" c.1478-1480. Oil and tempera on wood. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA.




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Leonardo da Vinci "Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani" (Lady with an Ermine). c.1490. Oil on wood. Czartorychi Muzeum, Cracow, Poland.

Leonardo da Vinci "Portrait of a Young Man" (Portrait of the Musician Franchino Guffurio?) c.1490. Oil on wood. Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan, Italy.

Leonardo da Vinci "Portrait of an Unknown Woman" (La Belle Ferroniere). c.1490. Oil on wood. Louvre, Paris, France.

Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea del Verrocchio "The Baptism of Christ" c.1472-1475. Oil and tempera on wood. Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.