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The Biography Index
Leonardo da Vinci (self portrait)
Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519)
Leonardo da Vinci was the illegitimate son of a well-to-do lawyer and a peasant girl. He was born in the small village of Vinci, just outside Florence. In the late 1460's he became the apprentice of the painter and sculptor, Verrocchio. By 1483 he had left Florence to become court artist to the Duke of Milan, with whom he stayed for the next seven years.
Leonardo's paintings were both subtle and graceful. It is these two attributes, more than any others, which cause his style to be seen today as a reflection of the Early Renaissance period. However, Leonardo da Vinci was more than just a great artist. He studied anatomy, astrology, geology and botany. He was also an inventor whose designs for a flying machine and the parachute were the equivalent of science fiction in his time. While working at the Milan court, he turned his talents to engineering and designed artillery and a revolving stage for the theatre. He even tried a new technique in which he used his chemistry skills to formulate a new compound which could be put onto walls so that they could be painted on. Unfortunately, this was one of his less successful experiments, and his painting started to flake off almost as soon as it was finished. As a result we only have Leonardo's sketches to show us what "The Last Supper", his wall painting commissioned by the Duke of Milan, would have really looked like.
Rearing Horse by Leonardo da Vinci
In 1499, he returned to Florence via Venice. He worked there along with the younger Michelangelo, on the walls of the new Council Hall. Their painting, "The Battle of Anghiari", depicting the defeat of Milan by Florence in 1440, has since been destroyed. Today his most famous painting must be the "Mona Lisa" which hangs in the Louvre in Paris. This is a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo who was the wife of a merchant who lived in Florence. Her portrait has captivated the imagination for centuries. It is her smile which most people find so intriguing.
At the age of sixty five, Leonardo da Vinci moved to France at the invitation of François I. He spent the last two years of his life near Tours.
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