Leonardo da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519) Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian painter, sculptor, architect, engineer and scientist. He was one of the greatest minds of the Italian Renaissance, and his influence on the painting of the following generations was enormous. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time.
BIOGRAPHY Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452, near the village of Vinci about 25 miles west of Florence. He was the illegitimate son of Ser Piero da Vinci, a prominent notary of Florence. His mother, Caterina, was a peasant girl. Leonardo grew up with his father in Florence. Here, he started drawing and painting. Leonardo was educated in the studio of the renowned Florentine painter, Verrocchio. Much of his earlier working life was spent in the service of Ludovico il Moro in Milan. He later worked in Rome, Bologna and Venice and spent his last years in France, at the home awarded him by Francis I.
Leonardo da Vinci was a genius – he could write one sentence with his right hand and a different sentence with his left hand. He wrote from right to left – you needed a mirror to read his handwriting. He invented scissors. He had many talents. He made models and in his notebooks there were plans for a tank, a helicopter and a submarine. He made detailed drawings of human anatomy which are still highly regarded today.
Leonardo pioneered new painting techniques in many of his pieces. One of them is a colour shading technique called "Sfumato". It is characterized by subtle, almost infinitesimal, transitions between colour areas, creating an atmospheric haze or smoky effect. "Chiaroscuro" is the technique of modelling and defining forms through contrasts of light and shadow.
Leonardo collaborated with Verrocchio on his Baptism of Christ (1472 – 1475), painting the young angel holding Jesus's robe in a manner that was so far superior to his master's that Verrocchio put down his brush and never painted again. Annunciation (1475– 1480) is thought to be Leonardo's earliest complete work.
The Virgin of the Rocks (1483–1486) demonstrates Leonardo's interest in nature. This is one of the most beautiful Leonardo da Vinci paintings that used the “sfumato” technique. Leonardo's drawing of the Vitruvian Man (1485) is regarded as a cultural icon. It is a study of the proportions of the human body.
Portrait of a Musician (1490) is one of the rarest Leonardo da Vinci paintings as he used a male subject instead of a female one that is so characteristic of all his other paintings. The picture depicts a musician holding a scroll of paper, thought to contain notes of music.
Leonardo's most famous painting of the 1490s is The Last Supper (1498) painted in Milan. The painting represents the last meal shared by Jesus with his disciples before his capture and death. It shows specifically the moment when Jesus has said "one of you will betray me".
Among the works created by Leonardo in the 16th century is the small portrait known as the Mona Lisa or "la Gioconda“ (1503– 1505/1507), the laughing one. In the present era it is the most famous painting in the world. Its fame rests on the elusive smile on the woman's face.