Leonardo da Vinci has been at the helm of many inventions, scientific theories, brilliant renaissance paintings, and sculptures. His work has been subject to countless debates over the century. Yet there has never been an artist who deserves the title of a ‘Genius’, more than da Vinci does.
Leonardo da Vinci came from a humble background and achieved universal acclaim during his life through his wide array of work. The illegitimate son of a local lawyer in the town of Vinci in Tuscan region, Leonardo da Vinci, was rather self-sufficient. It may not be incorrect to conclude that his lack of proper upbringing did not affect his mind in any negative manner. The savant was attributed with numerous talents, and prime among them were a great singing voice, superlative mathematical intelligence, tremendous understanding of science, un-matched male beauty, and a magnificent physique.
Leonardo da Vinci’s overabundance of gifts may have caused him to treat his artistry talent flippantly, for he seldom finished a painting and usually made rash technical experiments using his work. ‘The Last Supper’, which is a fresco on the wall of the Santa Maria delle Grazie Church in Milan, has almost disappeared due to Leonardo da Vinci’s inadequate preparations for the fresco.
However, it takes a da Vinci to produce a ‘piece de resistance’ a la ‘The Mona Lisa’ (1503), that has achieved the dizzying heights of popularity and awe. The Mona Lisa has the innocent disadvantage of being too renowned! People have tried to reproduce this painting in every conceivable medium, but the mystery and magic surrounding this cult figure remains intact and stands in defiance to every effort made to comprehend the secret behind the half smile of the subject.
In his lifetime, Leonardo da Vinci painted portraits of three women, and they all have a wistfulness and mystery surrounding them. This magical quality is very appealing in ‘Cecilia Gallarani’ (1490) and is at its provoking best in ‘Ginevra de` Benci’ (1478-1480). All these three paintings are haunting, and almost spiritual in their appeal – a technique very Leonardo da Vinci like.
It was in 1482, that Leonardo moved to Milan and offered his services as a military engineer, sculptor, and painter to the ruler Ludovico Sforza, who gladly accepted the services and financed the artist a workshop. Leonardo da Vinci spent 18 years in the service of Ludovico. ‘The Virgin of the Rocks’ (1482-1486) was painted by Leonardo da Vinci for the Church of S. Francesco Grande in 1483.
It was during the late 1480s that Leonardo da Vinci began to experiment on a wide range of scientific studies that included subjects such as botany, medicine, anatomy, architecture, geography and many others. He left behind several drawings and sketches of his experiments. Moreover, he worked on the ‘Treatise on Painting’, a manual of instruction (theoretical and practical) for painters through much of his adult life.
In 1499, da Vinci headed to Mantua and then Venice. In 1500, he came back to Florence and painted the ‘Virgin and Child with St. Anne’ (1502-1516). In 1516, Leonardo da Vinci was appointed “the first painter, engineer and architect of the King”, Francis I of France. He died in Cloux, France on 2 May 1519. He rests in peace in the Church of St. Florentine in Amboise.
Leonardo da Vinci’s work is unique for his treatment of hair that has an angelic quality, and the lack of rigidity of contour in his forms. His use of perspective to add depth to his frescos and pictures is remarkable for the method of execution.
Rembrandt influenced Leonardo da Vinci, but Leonardo’s repertoire of work is too deep, too dark, and too overpowering.
“He who despises painting has no love for the philosophy in nature.”
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