Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci

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1452-1519, Italian painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer, and
scientist, probably the supreme example of Renaissance genius. Born in Vinci,
Tuscany, he was the illegitimate son of a Florentine notary and a peasant girl.
His precocious artistic talent brought him to Verrocchio's workshop in 1466,
where he met Botticelli and Ghirlandaio. The cul mination of his art in this
first period in Florence is seen in the magnificent, unfinished Adoration of the
Magi (Uffizi), with its characteristic dramatic movement and chiaroscuro. In
c.1482 Leonardo went to the court of Ludovico Sforza in Milan and there composed
most of his Trattato della pittura and the notebooks that demonstrate his versa
tile genius. The severe plagues in 1484 and 1485 drew his attention to town
planning, and his drawings and plans for domed churches reflect his concern with
architectural problems. In 1483, Leonardo and his pupil Ambrogio de Predis were
commissioned to execute the famous Madonna of the Rocks (two versions:
1483-c.1486, Louvre; 1483-1508, National Gall., London). The now badly damaged
Last Supper (c.1495-1498; Milan) was executed during the period when he was
experimenting with the Fresco medium, and this partly accounts for its damage.
Despite this, a sublime spiritual content and power of invention mark it as one
of the world's masterpieces. Leonardo's model for an equestrian monument to
Francesco Sforza was never cast, and in 1500 he returned to Florence, where he
did much theoretical work in mathematics and


pursued his anatomical studies in the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova. As a
military engineer for Cesare Borgia he studied swamp reclamation and met Niccolò
Machiavelli. In c.1503 he executed the celebrated Mona Lisa (Louvre). Then, as
architect and engineer in Milan to the French king Louis Xii, he continued his
scientific investigations into geology, botany, hydraulics, and mechanics. In
1510-11 he painted St. Anne, Mary, and the Child (Louvre), a work that
exemplifies his handling of sfumato-misty, subtle transitions in tone.

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His
enigmatic St. John the Baptist (c.1513; Louvre) was executed for Pope Leo X and
his brother Giuliano de' Medici in Rome. Shortly after 1515, Leonardo accepted
an invitation from Francis I of France to settle in the castle of Cloux. Here he
pursued his own researches until his death. His versatility and creative power,
as well as the richness and originality expressed in his notebooks, drawings,
and paintings, mark him as one of the great minds of all time.


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