Leonardo Da Vinci was an Italian polymath, who is perhaps most well-known for his work as an artist. He is commonly regarded to be one of the greatest geniuses who ever lived, who, as well as producing some of the most famous paintings in the world, such as the Mona Lisa (La Gioconda), is also credited with inventing well ahead of his time due to drawings such as the Vitruvian Man.
Statue of Leonardo da Vinci outside the Uffizi Gallery in Florence / Pixabay
Born in the small town of Vinci ("Leonardo Da Vinci" literally means "Leonardo of Vinci") in Tuscany in 1452, to a wealthy notary and a peasant girl, Leonardo grew up primarily in his father’s household, before becoming an apprentice for the painter and sculptor Verrocchio when he was around 17, after the family moved to Florence. He trained with Verrocchio for seven years, learning about sculpting, painting, leather working, metalwork, woodwork and mechanics, among other skills, and became a master of the Guild of Saint Luke by the time he was 20. However, he stayed and worked with Verrocchio for several years after qualifying.
From 1478 onwards, Leonardo worked taking artistic commissions such as The Last Supper for the Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery. At the outbreak of the Second Italian War, he fled Milan where he had lived since 1482 and went to Venice, where he turned his skills to military engineering and architecture in order to protect the city from naval attack, showcasing his talents beyond the realms of art. He returned to Florence in 1500 where he was provided with a workshop by the Servite monks of the monastery of Santissma Annunziata for two years.
Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci / Pixabay
Following this, Leonardo was hired by the son of Pope Alexander VI, Cesare Borgia, after producing a map of his stronghold, Imola, a revolutionary concept at the time. Here, once again Leonardo worked as a military architect and engineer, travelling with Borgia around Italy for a year before returning to Florence and rejoining the Guild of Saint Luke in 1503. By this time Leonardo had begun work on his most well-known work, the Mona Lisa, a portrait of the noblewoman Lisa del Giocondo. Until 1508, Leonardo lived between Milan and Florence, writing about the Da Vinci Globe, in which he gave an early acknowledgment of the existence of the Americas.
Following the invasion of Milan by Swiss, Spanish and Venetian forces, who sought to drive out the French, Leonardo travelled to Rome where he lived in the Belvedere Courtyard in the Apostolic Palace. After several questionable endeavours, including decorating a lizard with silver scales, Leonardo fell ill, although this did not prevent him exploring botany and experimenting on cadavers. The French recaptured Milan from the Spanish, Swiss and Venetian forces, and Leonardo was enlisted by King Francis I, who provided him with a house near the Loire Valley. He produced vast plans for a castle city, as well as various other impressive mechanical creations for the King, working until his illness left him bedridden.
Leonardo died aged 67, on the 2nd May, 1519, and following great sadness and celebration of his life, was buried in the Collegiate Church of Saint Florentin at the Château d’Amboise.