Artist of the week Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo had a rough start in life, he was born out of wedlock on April 15th 1452 in Vinci, Republic of Florence. His Father was a successful notary and his poor mother was of a lower class family. Despite having thousands of pages in notebooks Leonardo left behind, He almost never made references to his personal life. Giorgio Vasari who was also a painter, architect, engineer, historian and writer, described Leonardo as having ¨ extraordinary powers of invention, infinite grace and great physical beauty¨. It looks like Leonardo hit the gene pool jackpot. I mean come on… great physical beauty with extraordinary powers of invention, infinite grace!! He may have hard a rough start in life but it looks like Leonardo did not let it hold him back but instead was flexing on everybody. But as we know with success come those haters. People where curious about Leonardo and wanted to know more. It is said that Leonardo was a vegetarian was a big deal back then. Leonardo had a love for animals so strong that he would buy caged birds and then take them out and set them free.

It is said that Leonardo did have some friends in his lifetime but he never married. out of all his friends some of them are now notable either in their field or for their historical significance he had only two women friends. Beyond friendships Leonardo kept his private life secret. Leonardo did not come out unscathed from the dramas of that time in court records from 1476 when Leonardo was just 24 years old he and three other men where accused of sodomy but never charged due to lack of evidence. There was a well known male prostitute involved and needless to say gossip was spread like wild fire. Some of the gossip that spread was that one of the friends he was with that night was Leonardo was with Lorenzo de Medici.The Medici family was said to have used their influence to secure the dismissal of the charges. Since this day Leonardo´s sexuality has been the subject of much debate and has been written about multiple times.

Leonardo´s studies in science and engineering have been said to be as impressive and innovative as his artistic work. These studies in his notebooks include 13,000 pages of notes and drawings. They are said to fuse art and natural philosophy together. They were made up from Leonardo´s life and travels as he made continual observations of the world around him. In his notebooks it displays a range of different things from his grocery list, people who owe him money, and even some for wings for shoes specifically for walking on water. There are compositions for paintings, studies of the details of drapery, studies of faces,emotions on faces, whirlpools, war machines and architecture. These notebooks where originally on loose leaf paper and was entrusted to Leonardo´s pupil and heir Francesco Melzi to be published. This was very difficult because of the scope of Leonardo´s writing. Some of his drawings where copied by anonymous artists Some of his works found their way into major collections such as the Royal Library at Windsor Castle, the Louvre, the Bibliotecha Nacional de Espana, the Victria and Albert Museum, the Bibliotecha Ambrosiana in Milan. The Codex Leicester is the only privately owned major scientific work of Leonardo, it is owned by Bill Gates and it is displayed once a year around the world.

Most of Leonardo´s writings are in mirror-image cursive. It is said that since Leonardo was left handed it was easier for him to write from left to right. In many cases in his notebook a single topic was covered in detail with both words and pictures on a single sheet together. Conveying information that would not be lost if the pages were published out of order. Why they were not published in Leonardo´s lifetime is unknown.

Leonardo was a prolific draughtsman he kept journals full of small sketches and detailed drawings recording all kinds of things that caught his attention. Among some of his famous drawings are the Vitruvian Man, a study of the proportions of the human body and the head of an angel for The Virgin of the Rocks. The Virgin and child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist. Another drawing of Leonardo´s is the body of Bernardo Braroncelli who was hanged in connection to the murder of Giuliano, brother of Lorenzo de Medici, in the Pazzi Conspiracy.

His approach to science was said to be observational and since he lacked formal education in Latin and mathematics, scholars mostly ignored Leonardo the scientist. His observations in many areas where noted however such as when he wrote ¨ Il sole non si move¨ ( The sun does not move ) Leonardo did teach himself Latin and study mathematics under Luca Pacioli. He then prepared a series of drawings of regular solids in skeletal form to be engraved in Pacioli´s book Divina Proportione which was published in 1509. While living in Milan Leonardo studied light from the summit of Monte Rosa. Scientific writings in his notebook on fossils have been considered as influential on early palaeontology.

His studies of anatomy of the human body came from dissecting human corpses. He was given permission to dissect human corpses at the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence and later at hospitals in Milan and Rome. From 1510 to 1511 he collaborated his studies with the doctor Marcantonio della Torre. Leonardo made over 240 detailed drawings and wrote toward a treatise on anatomy. They were examined by a number of anatomists and artists, including Vasari, Cellini and Albrecht Durer who made a number of drawings from them. Leonardo´s anatomical drawings include many studies of the human skeleton and its parts. He studied the mechanical functions of the skeleton and the muscular forces that are applied to it. He drew the heart and vascular system, the sex organs and other internal organs. Making one of the first scientific drawings of a fetus in utero. His drawing and notions are far ahead of his time and it is said that if they were published they would have made a major contribution to medical science.

Leonardo also studied and recorded the effects of age and of human emotion on the physiology, studying in particular the effects of rage. He drew many figures who had significant facial deformities or signs of illness. He also dissected and documented cows, birds, monkeys, bears, frogs, and compared their anatomy to the human anatomy. Leonardo´s dissections and documentations of muscles, nerves, and vessels helped to describe the physiology and mechanics of movement.

During his lifetime Leonardo was also valued as an engineer. Leonardo studied and designed many machines and devices, He drew their anatomy with unparalleled mastery, producing the first form of modern technical drawing. These studies and projects fill more than 5,000 pages. His journals include a vast number of inventions, both practical and impractical. His inventions include musical instruments, a mechanical knight, hydraulic pumps, reversible crank mechanisms, finned mortar shells, and a steam cannon. Leonardo was also fascinated with flight. He produced plans for several flying machines, such as a flapping ornithopter and a machine with a helical rotor.

Leonardo´s paintings first gained attention when he painted the Baptism of Christ painted in conjunction with Verricchio. Two other paintings date from this time at Verricchio´s work shop, both of them are Annunciations. In 1480 Leonardo received two very important commissions and commenced another work that was of ground breaking importance in terms of composition. Two of the three were never finished and the third took so long it was the subject to many arguments about payment and completion.One of the paintings is Saint Jerome in the wilderness.

The Lady with an Ermine is another remarkable portrait from Leonardo. The painting is different then most from its time due to the pose of the figure. With the head turned at a very different angle to the torso. The ermine plainly carries a symbolic meaning, relating to either the sitter or to the Lodovico who belonged to the prestigious Order of the Ermine.

Leonardo´s most famous painting of the 1490 is The Last Supper. This painting was commissioned for the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria della Grazie in Milan. It represents the last meal shared with Jesus with his disciples before his capture and his death. It shows the movement when Jesus says ¨ One of you will betray me. ¨ The writer Matteo Bandello watched Leonardo work and said that sometimes Leonardo would work from dawn until dusk without stopping to eat and sometimes Leonardo would go days without painting. Leonardo was troubled by being able to adequately depict the faces of Christ and the traitor Judas. This painting was acclaimed as a masterpiece of design and characterization.

Mona Lisa whos fame rests on the elusive smile on the womans face. It has a mysterious vibe with its subtle shadows. Vasari wrote that the smile was so pleasing that it seemed more divine than human. He said rhar this painting would make even the most confident master despair and loose heart.

Even though Leonardo had no formal academic training many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime example of the Universal Genius or Renaissance man. A man of unquenchable curiosity and feverishly inventive imagination. He is widely considered one of the most diversely talented individuals that has ever lived. Helen Gardner wrote that the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent in recorded history. She said that his mind and his personality seem to be superhuman, while the man himself seems mysterious and remote.

Photo by AKA Naturalista

Leonardo´s fame within his own lifetime was said to be such that the King of France carried him away like a trophy, and supported Leonardo in his old age. He also help Leonardo in his arms as he died on may 2nd 1519 at the age of 67. Interest in Leonardo´s works and life have never diminished. Writers continue to hail him as genius while speculating about his personal life such as his sexuality and what someone so intelligent actually believes in. The admiration that Leonardo commands from painters, writers, and historians is reflected in many other written tributes. Baldassare Casrilglione author of Il Cortegiano wrote in 1528 ¨ Another of the greatest painters in this world looks down on this art in which he is unequalled.¨ While biographer known as Anonimo Gaddiano wrote ¨ His genius is so rare and universal that it can be said that nature worked a miracle in his behalf. Vasari in his Lives of Artists wrote of Leonardo … In the normal case of events many men and women are born with remarkable talents; but occasionally, in a way that transcends nature, a single person is marvelously endowed by heaven with beauty, grace and talent in such abundance that he leaves other men far behind, all his actions seem inspired and indeed everything he does clearly comes from God rather than from human skill.Everyone acknowledged that this was true of Leonardo da Vinci, an artist of outstanding physical beauty, who displayed infinite grace in everything that he did and who cultivated his genius so brilliantly that all problems he studied he solved with ease.

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