Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)

Leonardo da Vinci was an extremely talented Italian polymath, being simultaneously a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician, and writer. His artwork and inventions made him one of the greatest creative minds of the Renaissance and of all the times.

3953 Wolff4 Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Engraved by Raffaello Sanzio Morghen 1817. engraving F. Weber sculp Stahlstich Neues elegantestes Conversations-Lexicon
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Engraved by Raffaello Sanzio Morghen 1817

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/389fcf6c-08e3-4dee-99a9-27ced4377a66 by Morton1905


About his life

Leonardo di Ser Piero da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452 in Florence. He was an illegitimate son of a notary, Piero da Vinci, and a peasant girl Catherine in Vinci. He was an apprentice of the famous Florentine painter Verrocchio. In his youth, Leonardo was in service of Ludovico il Moro in Milan. Later he worked in Rome, Bologna, and Venice. He spent the rest of his life in France and died on May 2, 1519.

Bronze statue of Leonardo da Vinci as Perseus on the Ile d'or in the Loire opposite, more or less, the Château d'Amboise, Amboise, France
Bronze statue of Leonardo da Vinci as Perseus on the Ile d’or in the Loire opposite, more or less, the Château d’Amboise, Amboise, France

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/2cf09287-71cb-43bc-8a5d-a05d9906e281 by Spencer Means


What are his major works?

  • The Annunciation
  • Madonna of the Carnation
  • Madonna Litta
  • Virgin of the Rocks
  • Lady with an Ermine
  • La Belle Ferronnière
  • Salvator Mundi
  • The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne
Leonardo da Vinci ( 1452- 1519 ) ' Dama z gronostajem ' ' Lady with an Ermine ' 1489 r. - Muzeum Książąt Czartoryskich , Kraków , Poland.
Lady with an Ermine ‘ 1489

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/f557d965-e691-4fab-88dc-58a078531b04 by damiankania550


  • Mona Lisa (1503-1506) is da Vinci’s most famous work. The painting is one of the most valuable exhibits in the Louvre in Paris. The Italians call it La Gioconda, the French call it La Joconde. Leonardo masterfully managed to convey the feeling of general harmony in the picture, which reflects the idea of the unity of man and nature. It is probably the finest example of portraiture, one of the greatest paintings of the Renaissance and a testament of Leonardo’s genius.
Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci, 1503-1506

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/62c90106-5880-4a37-900e-92adcc3f6dc5 by Joaquín Martínez Rosado

  • The Last Supper is a mural painting on the back wall of the dining room in the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Italy. The painting was created from 1495 to 1498. The plot of the work is based on the last meal of Christ and his twelve Apostles. The composition of the work is based on ratio and balance. We can identify an equilateral triangle, which forms the body of Christ, and a circle, which appears in the silhouette of a curved pediment against the background. These ideal geometric forms are a manifestation of Renaissance and Neo-platonic theories.
Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci, 1498

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/ab05b13d-b62b-4f65-b6e2-c31f34f1b93a by ideacreamanuelaPps

  • The Vitruvian Man (1487) is a world-famous pen and ink drawing on paper. This is an image of a nude male figure in two superimposed positions, inscribed in a circle and a square. The drawing demonstrates the relationship between ideal human proportions and geometry. It is sometimes referred to as the Canon of Proportions or, less commonly, Human Proportions. The idea of the Vitruvian Man was first described by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius in his treatise De Architectura.
'Da Vinci Vitruve' photo by Luc Viatour
Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci, 1487

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/d256a353-9edb-4217-83e8-df0b8122631b by mdwombat


How can we identify Da Vinci’s style?

  • He used the technique of sfumato with great skill. Sfumato refers to the subtle gradation of tone used to obscure sharp edges and create a synergy between lights and shadows in a painting.
  • Leonardo modeled his objects in two dimensions by capturing the light and shadow in three dimensions. This effects is known as chiaroscuro.
  • Leonardo da Vinci typically painted with oil colors which he made by hand from ground pigments; later in his career, he worked with tempera made from egg whites.
  • Leonardo da Vinci’s painting technique used natural shades of subtle intensity. Most often, his works used bluesbrowns and greens in accord with the earth itself, while also incorporated neutral grays, for the background paint.
  • His finished works have more cohesive appearance, thanks to the use of such a small range of colors.
  • Generally his work surface would be a canvas or board, or sometimes a stone when painting a mural.
LEONARDO da Vinci Annunciation (detail) 1472-75
The Annunciation-LEONARDO da Vinci , 1472-75

image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/204b2801-87c9-4aec-9d43-57896845db60 by carulmare

Cesare Borgia posthumously apotheosized by Leonardo da Vinci as Jesus Christ 'Salvator Mundi'. - Auctioned off by Christie's in November 2017 for 450.312.500 $ (381.600.000 €) to the Louvre-Branch of Abu Dhabi.
Salvator Mundi– Cesare Borgia posthumously apotheosized by Leonardo da Vinci as Jesus Christ ‘Salvator Mundi’.

image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/77a9889e-ed29-465c-8a56-3765f283eeae by quapan

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