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LEONARDO DE VINCI


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3/10/99
Early life in Florence
Leonardo was born on April 15, 1952, in the small Tuscan town of Vinci, near Florence. He was the son of a wealthy Florentine notary and a peasant woman. In the mid-1460’s the family settled in Florence, where Leonardo was given the best education that Florence, the intellectual and artistic center of Italy, could offer. He rapidly advanced socially and intellectually. He was handsome, persuasive in conversation, and a fine musician and improviser. In 1466 he was apprenticed as a studio boy to Andrea Del Verrocchio, the leading Florentine painter and sculptor of his day. In Verrocchio’s workshop Leonardo was introduced to many activities, from painting of altarpieces and panel pictures to the creation of large sculptural projects in marble and bronze. In 1472 he was entered in the painter’s guild of Florence, and in 1476 he was still mentioned as Verrocchio’s assistant. Leonardo de Vinci achieved the renaissance goal of doing many things and being excellent in all. He was curious about everything. He continually observed the world around him and recorded it in dozens of notebooks. Because he was fascinated by flight he was always observing birds in flight. He showed how he thought humans might use wings to fly. To understand the anatomy of the human body, he dissected corpses. He then used his knowledge to paint human figures more realistic. So much of Leonardo’s work has been lost only 15 of his paintings survived. Including such masterpieces as The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa.


Search for Fame
In 1478 Leonardo became an independent master. His first commission, to paint an altarpiece for the chapel of the Palazzo Vecchio, the Florentine town hall, was never executed. His first large painting, The Adoration of the Magi was ordered in 1481 for the monastery of San Donato a Scopeto, in Florence, but was left unfinished. Other works ascribed to his youth are the so-called Benois Madonna (c. 1471), the portrait Ginevra de Benci (c. 1474), and the unfinished Saint Jerome (c. 1481). In 1482, Leonardo entered the service of the duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, having written the duke an astonishing letter in which he stated that he could build portable bridges; knew the techniques of constructing bombardments and of making cannons; could build ships as well as armored vehicles, catapults, and other war machines; and that he could execute sculpture in marble, bronze, and clay. He served as principal engineer in the duke’s numerous military enterprises and was active also as an architect. In addition, he assisted the Italian mathematician Luca Pacioli in the celebrated work Divina Proportione (c. 1509). Leonardo became one of the great masters of the High Renaissance, celebrated as a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, and scientist. His profound love of knowledge and research was keynote of both his artistic and scientific endeavors. His innovations in the field of painting influenced the course of Italian art for more than a century after his death. Studies-particularly in the fields of anatomy, optics, and hydraulics anticipated many of the developments of modern science. Leonardo however didn’t win any awards for his astonishing accomplishments, and his brilliance wasn’t appreciated for centuries to come.

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The painting of Leonardo’s I most enjoy is the Mona Lisa. Some say she is the most beautiful woman in the history of the world. Then there are some that say Leonardo painted himself as a woman. No matter why he painted it I find it fascinating. The lines of her head and shoulders just move you around the painting. The warm colors make you want to keep looking at the painting, and in a way it draws you in. Even though in my opinion Mona Lisa may not be the most beautiful woman in the world, the Mona Lisa might be one of the most beautiful paintings in the world.

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