Personality & Social Life
While living in Florence as Verrocchio's assistant, Leonardo was very sociable and open. He was free in spirit as many young and aspiring artists are, but he was also very hardworking. He learned new things and techniques constantly and never stopped improving, while accepting any new challenge in the form of work, art or science. The character that separated him from the others was his vibrancy of a real "Renaissance man." A Renaissance man was considered to be one who was constantly curious about the world. Leonardo showed this trait through his entire life.
In his more mature years, Leonardo was considered strong, generous, physically beautiful and very intelligent. He stood out because he was a vegetarian which was a very radical notion during the Renaissance. He even went as far as to purchase caged birds just to set them free. Also, he didn't have a close relationship with women, except for a few close female friends. Instead, Leonardo dedicated all of his time and energy to various art and scientific disciplines until the end of his life. He was though, considered very close to his pupils, Salai and Melzi, whom he tutored and cared about a lot.
When Leonardo was 24 years old, he and three other young men were arrested for sodomy, which was punishable by death. They were all later released because of his connections and a lack of concrete evidence. That event led Leonardo to become more closed and less trusting to people. His general lack of trust was countered by his enormous attention and understanding that he gave to his pupils and close friends.
One of the pupils that Leonardo favored most was Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno, also known as Salai, which means "a little devil". Salai was very naughty when he started his apprenticeship with Leonardo, and the famous artist described him as a "thief, liar and greedy". However, these bad characteristics didn't matter over time. Leonardo had patience and worked carefully with the young Salai. As a result, Salai remained by Leonardo's side for the next thirty years.
Also, after Leonardo's death, Salai became the owner of "Mona Lisa" which was considered a very valuable painting even at that time. Leonardo's other favorite student was the infamous Francesco Melzi, a son of an aristocrat that was with Leonardo from 1506 to his death. Francesco also inherited the artistic works, scientific researches and all the other Leonardo's lifetime creations.
In his last years, Leonardo was invited to live in a manor next to the castle of the French King Francis I, and they became very close friends, which is depicted in various works of art as Francis I holds Leonardo's head on his deathbed. Leonardo was loved by the French people and the images of Leonardo's last moments with a caring King gained enormous approval and sympathies of the people in France.
The Life of a Polymath Genius
When Leonardo started working as an apprentice for Verrocchio, he learned to perfect his art style. Leonardo mostly painted by combining egg yolk with tempera to create a thick medium. This technique became very popular at that time. The first time Leonardo adopted this change of style and personal innovation was when the young Da Vinci used oil painting techniques on the "Baptism of Christ." His results were so remarkable and lifelike that Verrocchio declared that from now on, Leonardo will paint all of the faces of people in this realistic technique.
The later period of Leonardo's life included painting a few important commissions, many of which remained unfinished. One of these unfinished images, the "Saint Jerome in the Wilderness," depicted a hard period in Leonardo's life. The other famous unfinished painting is The adoration of Magi which included unique classical architecture in the background.
The mural that Leonardo created that really left his mark on history is the "Last Supper" which is a wall painting. For this commission for the Duke of Milan, Leonardo learned the new tempura egg-yolk technique of wall painting, so he could create this masterpiece at his own pace.
One of the most famous works of art in the world and throughout history that was painted by Leonardo is the "Mona Lisa", or "the smiling one". The shadows placed over her eyes are positioned so the nature of her smile can't be determined, making the painting mysterious and intriguing. Similarly, the woman in the Mona Lisa wears regular everyday clothing which was uncommon since most individuals wore their best attire for a portrait. Similarly, Leonardo placed the water in the background in such a way that it makes onlookers think that the water itself is always moving.
One of the most interesting parts of Leonardo's lifetime of work is the notebooks he created. Leonardo's notebooks contain various schematics and drawings along with various other notes and ideas. In those notes, many drawings related to botany, engineering and anatomy can be found. As a successful artist and scientist, he was allowed to dissect corpses and analyze them, while accurately sketching and writing the characteristics of various parts of the human body. He drew the parts of the skeleton, muscles and internal organs. One of his lesser known achievements is that he was the first person to ever accurately illustrate a fetus in utero. His anatomy sketches are so well drawn and described, that his genius is still understood, hundreds of years later, when modern doctors and scientists analyze his work.
Besides being an amazing artist, Leonardo was an astonishing engineer. Many of his ideas and inventions created during his employment as an engineer are depicted in the various illustrations in his notebooks. Leonardo was able to design and construct almost anything, for which he had resources. These designs range from statues and aqueducts to war machines used for both offense and defense. One of his greatest engineering feats was a design that he made for Sultan Beyazid II, in 1502. Bayezid II commissioned him to create a single-span 720-foot bridge. However, Bayezid II believed that the construction of the bridge was impossible and abandoned the project even upon seeing the designs. By using Leonardo's sketches, this bridge, slightly shorter, was constructed in Norway in 2001.
Leonardo also created other amazing engineering projects that included musical instruments, hydraulic pumps, and a "mechanical knight" which was a predecessor to a modern robot and was used to entertain guests of Ludovico Sforza. Leonardo even constructed flying machines, like the "ornithopter" and a machine with a helicopter-like rotor on top. Many more things that were considered too complex and impossible to build during his lifetime were illustrated in his notebooks which have been adopted in modern designs. While his potential could not be used to the full extent at the time due to mankind's lack of understanding, these inventions and designs stand today as a testament of the great genius Leonardo possessed.
Most of Leonardo's notebooks were sorted and categorized. When discovered, they looked like they had been prepared for publication. Unfortunately, at his death, the sketches and notes were in private collections and they couldn't be published, even though the information in them was considered to be groundbreaking for that period of time and that it could improve various areas of science with his explanations and solid groundwork.
Da Vinci's Paintings
Using a unique painting technique, Da Vinci was able to create some of the Renaissance's most vivid and lifelike paintings ever created. Using multiple thin layers of paint, Da Vinci creates depth and personality in his paintings that add a certain life and(Read More...)