Biography of Leonardo da Vinci | Painter and Italian scientist

Prototype of the Renaissance scholar, brilliant painter and Italian scientist is one of the most fascinating figures of history.
Considered the paradigm of the homo universalisof the Renaissance scholar well versed in all areas of human knowledge, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) entered in fields as varied as aerodynamics, hydraulics, Anatomy, Botany, painting, sculpture and architecture, among others. His scientific research were largely neglected and undervalued by his contemporaries; his pictorial production, on the other hand, was immediately recognized as a teacher able to materialize the ideal of beauty in works of delicate poetry and disturbing suggestion.

Recreation of a portrait of Leonardo
In artistic terms, Leonardo forms, along with Miguel Ángel and Rafael, the triad of the great masters of the 16th century, and, despite the paucity of his work, the history of painting has it among their greatest geniuses. For others, it is possible that powerful fascination they evoke their masterpieces (with La Gioconda at the head) that another fascination about her figure that has continued to grow over the centuries, fueled by the multiple mysteries surrounding his biography, some of them trivial, like writing from right to left, and others certainly disturbing , as those visionary inventions five centuries forward in time.

Youth and technical discoveries

Leonardo was born in 1452 in the Tuscan town of Vinci, son of a peasant woman, Caterina (who married shortly after a craftsman of the region), and be Piero, a wealthy Florentine notary. Italy then was a mosaic of City-States such as Florence, small republics like Venice and fiefs under the power of the Princes or the Pope. The East Roman Empire fell in 1453 to the Turks and hardly survived even, very reduced, the Holy Roman Empire; It was a violent time in which, however, the splendor of courts had limits.
While his father was married four times, had only sons (eleven in total, with which Leonardo wage lawsuits by paternal inheritance) in their last two marriages, so the small Leonardo grew up as the only child. His enormous curiosity manifested itself early: already in childhood drawing mythological animals of his own invention, inspired by a profound observation of the environment where he grew up. Giorgio Vasari, his first biographer, recounts how the genius of Leonardo, being still a child, created a shield of Medusa with dragons that terrorized his father when he stumbled upon him by surprise.
Aware of the talent of his son, his father allowed him to enter as an apprentice in the workshop of Andrea de el Verrocchio. Over the six years that the Guild of painters prescribed as instruction before being recognized as a free artist, Leonardo learned painting, sculpture and techniques and mechanics of artistic creation. The first work yours that you have accurate news was the construction of the copper sphere designed by Brunelleschi to Crown the Church of Santa Maria dei Fiori. Next to the workshop of Verrocchio, moreover, was that of Antonio Pollaiuolo, where Leonardo did his studies of Anatomy and, perhaps, also began in the knowledge of the latin and Greek.
Graceful and vigorous, young Leonardo had inherited the physical strength of the lineage of his father; It is likely to be the model for the head of San Miguel in the box of Verrocchio Tobias and the angel, thin and beautiful features. Moreover, his creative imagination and early expertise of his brush soon overtake his master's. In the Baptism of Christ, for example, inspired Angels painted by Leonardo contrast with the bluntness of the Baptist made by Verrocchio.

Angels attributed to Leonardo in the Baptism of Christ (c. 1475), Andrea de el Verrocchio
The young disciple there used a new technique recently arrived from the Netherlands for the first time: the oil painting, which allowed a greater softness in the stroke and a deeper insight into the fabric. In addition to the extraordinary drawings and virtuous participation in other paintings of his teacher, his major works of this period are a St. Jerome and the large panel adoration of the Magi (both unfinished), notable for the innovative dynamism by the skill in the contrasts of traits, the geometrical composition of the scene and the extraordinary handling of chiaroscuro technique.
Florence was then one of the richest cities in Europe; the numerous weaving and workshops of manufactures of silks and brocades of East and West wool became the big Mall of the Italian peninsula; There the Medicis had established a court whose splendour was not some artists that had. But when the young Leonardo found it couldn't of Lorenzo the magnificent rather than praise his virtues of good courtier, thirty-year-old decided to look for one horizon more prosperous.
First Milanese period (1482-1499)
In 1482 he filed the powerful Ludovico Sforza, the strong man of Milan, in whose court would be seventeen years as «pictor et ingenierius ducalis». Their main occupation was the military engineer, their projects (almost all unfulfilled) comprised the hydraulics, mechanics (with innovative systems of levers to multiply human strength) and architecture, as well as painting and sculpture. It was the period of full development; following the mathematical foundations laid down by Leon Battista Alberti and Piero della Francesca, Leonardo began his notes for the formulation of a science of painting, at the time that exercising in the execution and manufacture of lutes.
Spurred by the dramatic pestilence that it hit Milan and whose cause saw Leonardo in crowding and dirt of the city, designed spacious villas, made plans for pipelines of river and ingenious systems of defense against artillery enemy. Having received the Commission to create a monumental equestrian statue in honour of Francesco, the founder of the Sforza dynasty, Ludovico Leonardo worked for sixteen years in the project of the «great horse', that you don't agree with rather than a model in clay, destroyed soon after during a battle.
Their friendship was particularly fruitful with the mathematician Luca Pacioli, Franciscan Friar who concluded his treatise on the divine proportion, illustrated by Leonardo to 1496. Pondering the view as the instrument for more accurate knowledge of human, Leonardo argued that through a careful observation should recognize are objects in its form and structure to describe them in the paint in the most accurate manner. Thus drawing became the key instrument of his teaching method, to the point that it could be said that in his notes, the text was to explain the drawing, and not Conversely, reason why Leonardo da Vinci has been recognized as the creator of the modern scientific illustration.
The ideal of the saper vedere guided all his studies, which began to take shape as a series of inconclusive treaties that would be then collected in the Codex Atlanticus, so called because its large size in the 1490's. It includes works about painting, architecture, mechanical, Anatomy, geography, Botany, hydraulic and aerodynamic, merging art and science in a single cosmology which gives, in addition, a way out for an aesthetic debate that was anchored in a rather sterile Neoplatonism.
Although it seems that Leonardo worry too to form its own school, in his Milanese Studio was gradually created a group of loyal apprentices and students: Giovanni Boltraffio, Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis, Andrea Solari and his inseparable Salai, among others. scholars do not have reached agreement yet about the precise attribution of some works of this period, such as the Madonna Litta or the portrait of Lucrezia Crivelli.

Detail of The Virgin of the rocks (second version, c. 1507)
Contracted in 1483 by the brotherhood of the immaculate conception to make a painting for the Church of San Francisco, Leonardo undertook the realization of what would become the famous Virgin of the rocks, the end result, in two versions, would not be ready at eight months that marked the contract, but twenty years later. In both versions the triangular structure of the composition, the grace of the figures and the brilliant use of the famous sfumato to enhance the visionary sense of the scene were an aesthetic revolution to his contemporaries.
To this period belong the portrait of Ginevra de Benci (1475-1478), with its innovative relationship of proximity and distance, and the expressive beauty of La belle Ferronniere. But to 1498 Leonardo finished a mural painting, in principle a modest Commission for the refectory of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria Grazie dalle, who was to become his definitive consecration pictorial: The last supper. Today we need an effort to understand its original splendor, since it deteriorated rapidly and she was badly restored many times. Great plastic capturing the dramatic moment in which Christ says to the Apostles "one of you will betray me" gives the scene a psychological unit and a dynamic apprehension of the fleeting moment of surprise of the people (of which only Judas is excluded). The mural became not only a celebrated Christian icon, but also into an object of pilgrimage for artists from across the continent.

The return to Florence

At the end of 1499 the French entered Milan; Ludovico Moro lost power. Leonardo abandoned the city accompanied by Pacioli, and after a brief stay in Mantua, at home of his fan the Marchioness Isabella of Este, came to Venice. Harassed by the Turks, who already dominated the Dalmatian coast and threatened to take the Friuli, the Signoria of Venice hired Leonardo as a military engineer.
In a few weeks projected a number of artifacts whose concrete realization would not be done but, in many cases, until the 19th or 20th centuries: from a kind of individual submarine, with a tube of leather to take air aimed at soldiers who, armed with drill, would attack the boats below, to large pieces of artillery with delayed-action projectiles and ships with double wall to resist the onslaught. The exorbitant costs, the lack of time and, perhaps, the pretensions of Leonardo in the sharing of the loot, excessive for the Venetians, made that great ideas do not pass of sketches. In April 1500, after almost twenty years of absence, Leonardo da Vinci returned to Florence.
Then dominated the city Cesare Borgia, son of papa Alejandro VI. Described by the own Machiavelli as "unsurpassed model" of political intrigador and despot, this ambitious and feared man was preparing to embark on the conquest of new territories. Leonardo, again as a military engineer, toured the northern territories, drawing maps, calculating precise distances and projecting bridges and new artillery weapons. But shortly after the condottiero fell in disgrace: his captains rebelled, his father was poisoned and he fell seriously ill. In 1503 Leonardo returned to Florence, which at that time was at war with Pisa, and there conceived his great project to divert the Arno River behind the city enemy to encircle it, considering also the construction of a canal as a waterway to communicate Florence with the sea. The project materialized only in extraordinary maps of its author.

Santa Ana, the Virgin and child (c. 1510)
But Leonardo was already recognized as one of the greatest masters of Italy. In 1501 he had drawn a sketch of his Santa Ana, the Virgin and child, which would move to the canvas at the end of the Decade. In 1503 he was commissioned to paint a large mural (twice the size of The last supper) in the Palazzo Vecchio: the Florentine nobility wanted to immortalize some historical scenes of his glory. Leonardo worked for three years in the battle of Anghiari, which would remain unfinished and would then loose their impairment. Despite the loss, they circulated sketches and copies admirarían to Rafael who would inspire, one century later, a famous replica of Peter Paul Rubens.
Also only in copies survived another great piece from this period: Leda and the Swan. However, the Summit of this Florentine stage (and one of the few works finished by Leonardo) was the portrait of Mona (abbreviation of Madonna) Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, reason why the box is known as The Mona Lisa or La Gioconda. Famous work from the moment of its creation, became model portrait and almost no one would escape its influence in the world of painting. As picture and as a character, the mythical Gioconda has inspired countless books and legends, and even an opera; but very little is known for certain. It does not even know who commissioned the picture, which Leonardo would take with them on their ongoing vital pilgrimage until his later years in France, where the King Francisco I sold it by four thousand pieces of gold.

Detail of the Mona Lisa (c. 1503-1507)
Perfecting his own discovery of the sfumato, taking him to an almost miraculous concretion, Leonardo managed to capture a gesture between the shooting and the perennial: the "enigmatic smile" of the Mona Lisa is one of the chapters more admired, discussed and imitated in the history of art, and his mystery continues to fascinate even today. There is a legend that Leonardo promoted this gesture in its model and sounding lauds while she posed; the picture, which has gone through many vicissitudes, has been considered as Summit and talent and «pictorial science» overview of its author.
Back in Milan (1506-1513)
Leonardo interest in scientific studies was increasingly intense. Attending dissections of cadavers, which made drawings to describe the structure and function of the human body; at the same time made systematic observations of the flight of birds (on which he planned to write a Treaty), with the conviction that man could also fly if he came to know the laws of the air resistance (some notes from this period have been as clear precursors of the modern helicopter).
Absorbed by these musings and concerns, Leonardo did not hesitate to leave Florence in 1506 Charles D'amboise, French Governor of Milan, offered him the post of architect and painter of the Court; honored and admired by his new employer, Leonardo da Vinci designed for him a castle and executed sketches to the Oratory of Santa Maria dalla Fontana, founded by the patron. Your Milan stay was only stopped in the winter of 1507, when he collaborated with the sculptor Giovanni Francesco Rustici in the execution of the bronzes of the Baptistry of the city in Florence.
Perhaps too old for the fifty years which had then, his face was taken by Rafael as a model of the sublime Plato for his work the school of Athens. Leonardo, on the other hand, painted little, dedicating itself to collect his writings and to deepen his studies: with the idea of having completed for 1510 his treatise on anatomy, working together with Marcantonio della Torre, the most celebrated anatomist of his time, in the description of organs and the study of human physiology.

Leonardo as Plato in the school of Athens (1511), Rafael
Cosmological «perception» leonardesco ideal manifested in multiple branches: writing about mathematics, optics, mechanics, geology, Botany; your search tended towards the meeting of legislation, functions and compatible harmonies for all these disciplines, to nature as a unit. At the same time, his former disciples joined new ones, among them the young nobleman Francesco Melzi, faithful friend of the master until his death. Together with Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis, Leonardo culminated to 1507 the second version of The Virgin of the rocks; shortly before, she left without fulfilling a Commission from the King of France to paint two madonnas.
The new strongman of Milan was then Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, who intended to return to for the monumental project of the "great horse", turning it into a funerary statue to his tomb in the chapel of San Nazaro Magiore; but not this time the equestrian monument went from sketches, which meant for Leonardo his second frustration as a sculptor. In 1513 a new situation of political instability pushed him to abandon Milan; Salai and Melzi, he went to Rome, where it housed in the belvedere of Giuliano de Medici, brother of the new Pope León X.

Recent years: Rome and France

The Vatican lived a quiet stage, with a living wage and without large obligations: he drew maps, studied ancient Roman monuments, projected a grand residence for the Medici in Florence, and also resumed his close friendship with the great architect Donato Bramante, until the death in 1514. But in 1516, killed his guard Giuliano de Medici, Leonardo left Italy definitively for the last three years of his life in the Palace of Cloux as "first painter, architect and mechanic of the King".
The great respect that Francisco I dispensed you made that Leonardo was this last stage of his life as a member of the nobility than as an employee of the Royal House. Fatigued and focused on the drafting of its last pages for the never-concluded Treaty of painting, he cultivated more theory than practice, although he still played extraordinary drawings on biblical and apocalyptic themes. It reached to supplement the ambiguously San Juan Bautista, an androgynous Elf overflowing grace, sensuality and mystery; in fact, his disciples emulated it shortly after becoming a pagan Baco, which today can be found in the Louvre in Paris.

Detail of St. John the Baptist (c. 1516)
In 1517 his health, hitherto unshaken, began to decline. His right arm was paralyzed; but, with his tireless left hand, Leonardo even made sketches of urban projects, drainage of rivers and up to palatial holiday decorations. Become a sort of Museum, its House of Amboise was full of papers and notes that contained the ideas of this exceptional man, many of which should wait centuries to demonstrate its feasibility and even its necessity; It became even, at this time, conceived the idea of making prefabricated houses. Only three fabrics chosen so they arranged in the last stage (St John the Baptist, La Gioconda and Santa Ana, the Virgin and child) it could be said that Leonardo then possessed one of the great treasures of his time.
Died on May 2, 1519 in Cloux; his will bequeathed to Melzi all his books, manuscripts and drawings, which the disciple of returning to Italy. As it is often the case with the great geniuses, some legends; have woven around his death one of them, inspired by Vasari, aims that Leonardo, repented of having failed an existence governed by the laws of the Church, confessed long and, with his last strength, joined from the deathbed to receive, prior to expiry, the sacraments.

Chronology of Leonardo da Vinci

1452Born in Vinci (Italy).
1466Login as an apprentice in the workshop of Andrea de el Verrocchio.
1472It is registered in the Book the debitori e creditori Rosso of the Florentine painters Guild.
1478He paints the great unfinished altarpiece of the adoration of the Kings (Uffizi Gallery).
1481Ludovico Moro requests entering his service as engineer, inventor, architect and artist.
1482He left the Court of the Medicis and presented to Ludovico Sforza in Milan, where he remained seventeen years.
1483Embarks on the painting of The Virgin of the rocks, which will not deliver until 1490.
1494Publishes the Divina proportione, work of Luca Pacioli, illustrated by Leonardo.
1495It starts at the residence of the Sforza the Camerini decoration.
1498Just the mural of the last supper, in the refrectorio of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan. It starts with Luca Paccioli studies of mathematics and geometry. He made the portrait of Lucrezia Crivelli.
1499He moved to Venice.
1503It carries out projects for the channelling of the Arno. He begins painting the portrait of Lisa Gherardini, The Mona Lisa.
1506He returned to Milan called by Charles D'amboise, as court painter and architect.
1507Working on experiments on the flight.
1513He settled in Rome in the service of Giuliano de Medici. He begins his treatise on the art of painting.
1516He moved to France invited as first court painter for King Francisco I, which assigns it as a private residence, the castle of Cloux.
1519Dies at Cloux.

Leonardo da Vinci and his work

Renaissance art had its culmination in the work of three great masters: Leonardo da Vinci, Miguel Ángel and Rafael. Although it belongs chronologically to the 15th century (in 1500 had already done most of his work, synthesis and transcendence of all the findings of the previous century), the spirit of Leonardo da Vinci is projected over the next century, to the point that can be considered the first great painter of the Cinquecento and the formulator of the principles of classical Renaissance.
The multifaceted personality of Leonardo is exemplary and Supreme embodiment of the universality of genius, able to dominate all sciences and encompass all knowledge. His talent was so absolute and ambitious as dispersed and shiftable: left without conclude much of their projects and their production was scarce. Although he dealt widely with architecture, it did not build any building; There are also samples of his sculpture, and we have little more than one dozen of his paintings, many of them unfinished. But the significance of Leonardo da Vinci in the world of art transcends the quantitative aspects and is explained by the abundance and richness of his ideas both the high quality of their achievements.

Alleged self-portrait of Leonardo
In painting, Leonardo improved dramatically the representation and the suggestion of depth through the sfumato, degradation of values that gently model forms and translates the volumes in the space to the two-dimensional plane. Far away, on the other hand, from the desire to achieve illusionistic effects, the art of Leonardo, tender and intellectual, is a compendium and at the same time an overture.
The efforts of Giotto to escape the enclosure of medieval art, the foundations of the Renaissance perspective, the way science and transcription revolutionary space in the early Renaissance Florentine, the uniqueness of Fra Angelico and the purity of the stroke of Pisanello; Finally, the representation of individuality in a portrait like Antonello da Messina, all these findings appear to have been assimilated, redefined and outgunned by Leonardo da Vinci, a work raised from scientific analysis and placed under the sign of the number, sculptural solidity and the structure dense, but also a secret poetry and a disturbing psychological symbolism.


At the age of seventeen he entered the workshop of Andrea de el Verrocchio, next to which remained until 1476, even when already in 1470 he was entered in the register of the Florentine painters. According to a tradition dating back to the early years of the 15th century, the young artist collaborated with the master in the table of the Baptism of Christ (Uffizi Gallery, Florence), including the two angels on the left, who are inspired by the sensitive grace of a Lippi or a Botticelli, and part of the soft and hazy landscape in the background.
The first works of Leonardo manifest an impeccable formalism. In the workshop of Verrocchio painted to 1475 the Annunciation (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence) for the convent of San Bartolomeo di Monteoliveto, near Florence. The princely Virgin, flower-filled meadow, trees clearly cut against the bright sky, the linear perspective of the building, the thoroughness of detail and simple composition shows that the author has perfectly assimilated Florentine aesthetics of the moment. A similar lesson emerges from the portrait of Ginevra Benci (National Gallery of Art, Washington), painted around 1478.

Annunciation (c. 1475)
In the two works following, both unfinished, they begin to emerge new data. Leonardo was an independent teacher and had achieved some fame when a large table with the Adoration of the Magi (Uffizi Gallery, Florence) was entrusted in 1481 for the convent of San Donato in Scopeto near Florence. It was never completed, but in the numerous preparatory sketches that have come down to us, first appears, a type of complex composition rich in details, however, clarified from a geometric module formed by the convergence of the leading figures to the Virgin, whose head is the vertex of an ideal pyramid.
This trend to unify and link the various elements of the composition, feature on Leonardo, will achieve great fortune in the next century, from Rafael. Also in the dramatic San Jerónimo (to 1481, Vatican museums, Rome), abandoned when the artist departed for Milan, is remarkable the expressive quality of the face, and even in the case of a sketch can be seen a new development of the nuances of the chiaroscuro, origin of the famous sfumato leonardesco.

First stay in Milan (1482-1499)

In 1482 Leonardo ran a letter to the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, to offer their services as military and civil engineer, architect and expert in hydraulics, and only secondly as a painter and sculptor, proclaiming thereby the universality of the own genius. In fact, this first stage of the Milanese expressed its openness to the world and science in all its facets. Immersed in the courtly environment of Ludovico and his mistress, Cecilia Gallerani, actively participates in festivals, composed galantes hieroglyphs and dialogues with poets and musicians. His discussions with Donato Bramante, with the mathematician Luca Pacioli and engineers and technicians Lombards allow you to develop and strengthen the knowledge acquired in Florence.
Architecture issues will occupy him intensely from this moment. Even though he did no building in particular, thoroughly collected the great constructive issues of its time in numerous studies, notebooks and loose sheets, covering aspects of town planning, fortifications, religious and civil architecture and theory of forms and structures by means of precise drawings and sketches. The manuscript called A and B (national library, Paris), and the Codex Atlanticus (Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan) and Arundel (British Library, London), among others, are preliminary work for a systematic treatise of architecture that never ended.
The result was a catalog of compositions ranging from simple buildings from the early Renaissance to the complex shapes of the Renaissance, dotted with bright, bold, and personal variations in which Leonardo reveals forerunner of the Cinquecento. Seventeen that remained in close contact with Bramante in Milan were crucial to both and, in part, explain the profound changes experienced by Bramante style between his Milanese period and (after 1500) his work in Rome.
Neither the world of sculpture was him. In his youth he had modeled in the workshop of Verrocchio heads of women and children with delicate curls and cheerful expression, in the orientation of Desiderio da Settignano. Now're going you to deal with an issue that already appeared in the background of the unfinished Adoration of the Magi: of horses in activity. Ludovico Sforza happened commissioned to make the equestrian statue of Francesco Sforza, his father, initially entrusted to Antonio Pollaiuolo. In 1489 Leonardo had begun the preparatory drawings of a colossal bronze horse that should measure almost seven meters, and in 1493 had completed a model in clay on the mount without rider, which did not melt due to the fall of Ludovico Sforza in 1499. The French troops of Luis XII decided to use that huge lump as a target and destroyed it completely. When, later, Leonardo has the possibility of restarting a similar monument, political circumstances will return to truncate their ambitious project.
As for painting, the first work by the artist after settling in Milan is The Virgin of the rocks (Louvre Museum, Paris), begun in 1483 for the Church of San Francesco Grande. This picture would make a replica to 1507, which is now in the National Gallery in London, carried out in part by Ambrogio de Predis under his direction. The Virgin of the rocks retrieves the St. Jerome in the Vatican museums the scenery of cliffs, but fantastically broadened and enriched with accurate botanical, and geological studies at the time that develops a wise luminous gradation and a complex spatial structure.

The last supper (1498)
Between 1495 and 1498 he painted on a wall of the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie The last supper, his most extensive pictorial company and one of the most famous works of the history of art. In order to work more conveniently chose, rather than the traditional technique of fresco (which forces to paint quickly the still wet plaster and does not allow regrets), of the temple with a preparation in two layers, but the experiment was not successful and the pictorial surface suffered a very serious deterioration that any further restoration has managed to amend.
The subject of the composition is the moment when Jesus announces that one of the Apostles has betrayed him, resulting in them feelings of anxiety, anger or dismay; a strong emotional charge is thus introduced in a perfectly orderly and symmetrical space in which the figure of Christ, only serene character, is the vanishing point. In addition to these two large works include the portrait Lady with an ermine (Czartoryski Museum, Krakow), representing Cecilia Gallerani, and the apocryphal La belle ferronnière (Louvre Museum, Paris), painting workshop that has been attributed to his pupil Boltraffio.

The Lady with an ermine (c. 1490)
Both are dated in this Milanese period, during which the artist seeks theoretical foundations for its artistic doctrine. For Leonardo painting was not only an art, or the art par excellence, but the fundamental science of nature, basis and principle of the knowledge of the universe, and therefore requires extensive knowledge of mechanics, Anatomy, physics, optics, mathematics and botany. Penetrating "with sottile invenzione" in the laws of creation, the mind of the painter is transmuted into nature itself and acquires powers close to divinity. That is why Leonardo rush a huge research work that was expected to publicize periodically. But their findings and their thesis remained hidden until the publication of his manuscripts; his Treaty of painting did not appear until 1651.

Florence (1499-1506)

After the fall of Ludovico, Leonardo was already famous in all Italy. He returned to Florence after briefly passing by Mantua and Venice. Isabel de Este commissioned him in Mantua to his portrait, which only made a sketch (Louvre Museum, Paris). He continued with his intense activity in the most varied fields and applied to the study of mathematics and mechanics experiments.
These speculations drew you towards 1504 Piero Soderini, gonfalonero then of the Republic, which entrusted a large historical composition for the room of the Council of the Palazzo Vecchio, the battle of Anghiari, which we know only by Giorgio Vasari description and some partial drawings and copies, one of them by Rubens. Also in this complex work, which represented a dizzying tangle of men and horses in battle, technically failed Leonardo, to try a new combination of waxes and oil that not withstood the passage of time.

Detail of the Mona Lisa (c. 1503-1507)
In the same years was born of his brushes the most mysterious and fascinating of its capolavori: famous female portrait called La Gioconda (started to 1503), which was acquired by Francisco I by four thousand gold ducats and is today the most prestigious treasure of the Louvre. Placed a happy scenario of valles waterlogged and pale rocky peaks by the mist, the image goes beyond any individual reference, no matter what the character represented (the most widespread opinion is that you it's Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo Florentine), in terms that seems to express themselves in it the most secret and inviolable essence of femininity. Painting had never reached so much subtlety in modeling or such quality tones, thanks to the chiaroscuro of gradual and almost imperceptible transition we know with the term of sfumato, which outlines are blurred and blend with the Nimbus of smoke and plastic mass.

Recent years (1506-1519)

In 1506 Leonardo returned to Milan, where he remained until 1513. It is at the service of Carlos de Amboise, representative of the King of France, and have the opportunity to engage again in an equestrian monument, this time in honor of the head of the French faction of Milan, Gian Giacomo Trivulzio. Based on the aborted monument to Sforza, we know the project by a picture (Royal Library, Windsor Castle) that shows a horse rearing up whose cast would have been difficult. In 1513 the French suffered a temporary setback, and Leonardo returned to flee the capital of Lombardy abruptly, leaving conclude once again his great horse. In Rome, where Cardinal Giovanni de Médicis (elected that year Pope with the name of León X) gives you a few stays at the Vatican, continues with his scientific research and their grandiose projects of engineering and hydraulics.
These years also belong his latest paintings: Santa Ana, the Virgin and child (Louvre Museum, Paris) comes from an admirable charcoal made around 1501 for the Servites of Florence, today in the National Gallery London. Maria, sitting on the lap of Santa Ana, trying to attract towards you the small Jesus, which fastens to a lamb, symbol of the future passion. A dialectic of forms that a movement develops in the clearly pyramid scheme where the three figures are inserted and a given direction corresponds another in the opposite direction, which is one of the first examples of pictorial of elaborate groups in contrapposto to achieved great prestige in painting and sculpture from the 16th century.

Santa Ana, the Virgin and child (c. 1510)
As John the Baptist (Louvre Museum, Paris), is a ghostly appearance that emerges from a more dense shadows, which reaches its peak the sfumatotechnique. Besides the Baco (Louvre Museum, Paris), workshop work very altered subsequently, should be mentioned the lost Leda and the Swan, which are preparatory drawings (Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam), as well as two Madonnas made for Luis XII between 1506 and 1510 which also have disappeared. Teachings that sprouted from the leonardesca source were of immense scope for all the painting of the 16th century, but his art had an immediate echo in Lombardy and Piedmont, creating a school which had the names of the Lombards Bernardino Luini and Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, Andrea Solario, and the Piedmontese Gaudenzio Ferrari and Sodom.
In 1516, after the death of his patron Giuliano de Medici, Duke of Nemours, the artist accepted the invitation of the most powerful and generous admirers, King Francisco I of France, and settled in manoir de Clos-Luce, next to the castle of Amboise, in the beautiful Loire Valley. There, principescamente hosted, he wanted to continue tirelessly studying, writing and, above all, looking at the endless variety of the nature and the dark confines of the cosmos. He made architectural studies to the Royal Castles and probably inspired the complex design of Chambord, built around a staircase of double twist so surprising and ingenious Castle seems a monumental housing intended to give some value. Before his end, in 1519, was consigned to the margin of one of his drawings: "While he believed learning to live, only to learn to die."

The painting as a science

When Leonardo is considered in relation to the variety and complexity of its artistic and scientific activities, traits that define it are its categorical rejection of the principle of authority and the affirmation of the experience as a unique value. Also in his activity as a painter was his defining trait. Learned the two basic principles of Florentine painting in the 15th century, three-dimensional representation and assessment of classical antiquity as a teacher, is opposed to them beating them and proposing a new system of representation. The geometric construction of the space and linear perspective by the quattrocentistas, it opposed the aerial perspective, whose base is in their continuous research on the phenomenon of light. Before the lesson of classical antiquity, reacts with a rational, experienced, and vast knowledge of the phenomena of nature.
In the famous Treaty of painting, Leonardo developed the idea of the superiority of the painting on the other arts and disciplines and their ability to move with greater fidelity to the representation of the reality, based on scientific grounds that lead them to become a liberal art. Leonardo artistic activity and scientific activity; merge, as in any other historical personality, in a way, both activities come into fruitful contradiction, sometimes feeding and others opposing it. For Leonardo da Vinci, beauty does not depart from its scientific nature conception, since, like her, it has to be visible and experienced. Leonardo, formed in contact with the Florentine neoplatonic core, did not abandon the idea of beauty was something intangible, although I was not going to occur, as he attempted to Botticelli, through metaphors and apologies, but through a direct visual image, search covering all pictorial activity of the artist.

Mechanical designs of Leonardo
Sfumato, technical resource invented by Leonardo, which consists of the blurring of the outlines, It is based on its scientific theory on the transparent thickness of air, which takes you to the atmospheric representation. Leonardo intuits that the atmosphere is not transparent, but has own color and density, which change by the effects of light; These atmospheric properties alter the volume and the color of objects, which are integrated and linked to the environment in which they are located. The Quattrocento represented objects based on a preconceived view of them; Leonardo represents them as you observe them at the time when going to be represented, forgetting any set idea priori. The sfumato technique allows the fusion of the object with the nature that surrounds it, the union of the human nature with cosmic nature, the achievement of ideal beauty.

Science, technology and engineering

Along with his work as a painter, Leonardo stood out for its numerous technical and scientific research: design flying machines, war artifacts, research on anatomy and architecture... Fascinated by the Sea (made spectacular drawings of the flood, preserved at Windsor Castle), for the possibility of sailing the air and the beauty of the human body, studied the movement of water, the flight of birds and the mysteries of Anatomy, leaving immortal drawings (as the Homo ad circulum) in prodigious books whose illustrations always accompanied with texts written backwards Perhaps, forced to use a mirror to decipher them, its unlikely Reader it was necessarily a man friend of enigmas.
Extracted from the website: Biografías y Vidas
Biographies of historical figures and personalities

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