Leonardo Da Vinci is commonly believed to be one of the greatest geniuses of all time. He was the epitome of the Renaissance Man. The term Renaissance Man refers to the ideal of one who excels in many varied fields of work and knowledge.
Da Vinci is most renowned for his work as an artist and particularly as a painter, but his endeavours in scientific enquiry, mathematics, engineering and anatomy are also well noted.
Leonardo Da Vinci was born and raised near the town of Vinci in Italy, hence his name, which is not so much a surname, as a description, meaning Leonardo of Vinci. He was first apprenticed to artist Andrea del Verrocchio, at the age of 15, who taught him painting, sculpture and the mechanical-technical arts.
Two of Da Vinci’s most famous paintings are the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.
The Mona Lisa is a portrait of a beautiful woman seated in front of a winding landscape. She is perhaps most noted for her enigmatic gaze which meets the eyes of the viewer.
The Last Supper depicts the scene where Jesus Christ reveals to his disciples that one of them will betray him. The painting is perhaps most notable for its composition and great technical perspective. In The Last Supper, Da Vinci conveys, with great skill, the varied emotional responses of the disciples, not least of which is that of Judas, the Betrayer, with his face in shadow, holding a bag of silver.
Another often noted work of Da Vinci is his drawing of the Vitruvian Man, which is a naked man, drawn on a circle with legs spread and arms raised, superimposed also on the same man drawn on a square with legs together and arms straight to the sides. There is great mathematical symbolism in this drawing, which reflects Da Vinci’s attempts to marry mathematics and nature. It displays his belief in the universal proportions of the body and the square and circle have been said to symbolise the aspects of material and spiritual existence.
Da Vinci’s true genius is reflected in his notebooks, in the literal sense of the word, as much of his writing was done reversed so that it could only be read in a mirror. These notebooks contain a great many ideas of Da Vinci, including sketches for flying devices and parachutes, mechanical inventions, and Da Vinci’s great studies into human anatomy.
Da Vinci’s self portrait, a red chalk drawing of around 1512 is a haunting portrait of one of history’s greatest geniuses in the later years of his life. The lines of his face display a man of great experience, knowledge, drive and passion.
Da Vinci died at Clos Luce, France, on the May 2, 1519. FranÃ§ois I king of France is said to have held his head as he died and some twenty years later described Leonardo in the following quote:
“No man ever lived who had learned as much about sculpture, painting, and architecture, but still more that he was a very great philosopher.”
Leonardo da Vinci.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 25 Mar. 2007
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