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The Life and Times of Leonardo Da Vinci

Written by Brett Nelson

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Posted on January 14 2020

“I will do things no one in the past has dared to do, I will think new thoughts, bring new things into being.” Such were the words of Leonardo da Vinci to his regular comrades whom he loved, cherished and lived his entire life with. He created works of astonishing beauty including the world-famed Mona Lisa. He was not only a world renowned painter but also a musician, architect, sculptor, inventor, engineer, mathematician, geologist, cartographer, botanist and an influential writer. There is no doubt in anyone's mind even today, that he was a prodigious person with the mind of a historic genius that is worth studying even just for the mere fact of his enigmatic existence in the whole travel of the universe.

Born in 1452AD just outside the village of Vinci in modern-day Italy, he is famed as the man who wanted to know everything there is, was and shall be to know. His name really means Leonardo of Vinci which is the village upon which he was born and lived most of his formative life. Born out of wedlock and being the son of a wealthy Florentine gentleman notary and a peasant woman, Leonardo's life was not only filled with a complex mixture of expectations, but a true class war fueled by the ambitions and demands of relatives from both sides. His actual birthday was April 15th and his father's name was Messer Pierro Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci and his mother's name was Caterina.

Due to the consequences of his birth at that time, he spent the first five years of his life living with his mother and rarely seeing his father like many other legitimate children would do. Later on, he moved to the household of his father still in the same Florentine town of Vinci whereby he got to know his paternal relatives well. It is believed that receiving his informal education in Latin, Mathematics and Geometry had something to do in awakening the genius that lied deep in him and was only waiting to be unleashed by the right environment and human conditioning. Very little is known about his early childhood and despite many attempts to research into this matter, only a couple of paintings and some make-believe stories have survived to date.

As was the norm of that time, one has to pick up a trade or become apprenticed to someone in order to make a living and afford the necessities of their families. Leonardo was apprenticed to one of the most reputed Florentine artists of that time commonly known as Verrocchio who also had other historic painters associated with him at that time. Among these painters were Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Perugino, and Lorenzo di Credi. In those times, painters had to make their own paint from scratch right from the bare ingredients, they had to know how to mix them and work them well in order not only to produce quality work and outstanding oil paintings, but also to minimize waste as much as was possible.

Leonardo of Pisa horned his skills here and interacted freely with these masters of the arts at that time, and it is believed that it was in these numerous interactions that he realized how gifted he was and started coining his own style in the art. At barely the age of twenty, he was already recognized as a master in the Guild of St. Luke, the Guild of artists and doctors of medicine, and it was then that his wealthy father opened for him his own workshop. Even though he started working for himself, it was very clear even to his regular clients that his attachment to Verrocchio did not waver even a little bit. Up to today, his earliest known drawing in pen and ink is dated to 1473AD, and it is the Arno valley drawn sometimes in early August of that year.

As he gracefully sauntered on in his life, amongst some of his famous oil paintings, oil painting reproductions and drawings apart from the Mona Lisa, are The Baptism of Christ, The Last Supper, The Vitruvian man, The Annunciation, The Adoration of the Magi, Madonna of the Rocks, his own portrait, St. John in the Wilderness Bacchus just to mention a few. He even made drawings of a flying machine which is believed to have influenced the development of the modern-day helicopter and other militaristic inventions of our times. Over the course of his lifetime, it is obvious that he was noted by the royalties of that time, and commissioned to create many historic works of art many of which might even not have been documented due to their secrecy.

When he finally bid “adieu” to the things of this world on May 2nd, 1519, the 67-year-old Leonardo da Vinci had lived a life larger than life itself, and touched many with his gifts, talents and spectacular. Over a couple of decades after his death, Francis I of France with whom he had enjoyed warm and cordial relationship with, is quoted as saying, “There had never been another man born in the world who knew as much as Leonardo, not so much about painting, sculpture, and architecture, as that he was a very great philosopher.” For ever, he shall remain in the minds of both appreciators of art and the entire world as not only an inventor, artist, and painter of great repute but also as an inspiration to all those curious minds whose imagination is unbridled by any human conformity.

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