Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci or better known as Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was a renowned Italian genius and perhaps a man of immeasurable curiosity and an inventive mind. His multiple talents enabled him to do many things in different fields including painting, writing, architecture, engineering, geology, anatomy, and botany among others (Veltman 381).
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Despite his diverse talents, Leonardo is well known for his works in art, particularly painting whereby he produced some of the most famous paintings such as the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and the Vitruvian Man among many more (Emmer 449; Mills 39). On the other hand, being an illegitimate son of a notary and a peasant woman did little to undermine Leonardo’s quest to excel in different fields, which ranged from painting to science and technology. Arguably, Leonardo was perhaps the greatest mind of the Renaissance era.
Youth and Early Years
Leonardo was born and raised in Italy under the protection of his father and stepmothers. He spent most of his youth working at Verrocchio’s workshop and learning the laws of science and nature after he had been informally educated in geometry and mathematics. His stay at Verrocchio’s workshop gave him the necessary exposure and experience in painting, which saw him becoming one of the painting masters at the age of 20, and he received recognition by the Guild of St Luke (Budd 13; Emmer 450).
His Greatest Works
Some of Leonardo’s greatest works to date have been in painting more than in science and technology. One of Leonardo’s most famous works include The Last Supper, which was done in the 1490s. The painting captures Jesus’ last moments with the 12 disciples, specifically at the moment where he reminded them that one among the disciples would betray him.
The other great work by Leonardo is the Mona Lisa, which he painted in the 1500s, and it is arguably one of the most famous paintings in the world to date. Apart from painting, Leonardo created several drawings in science and technology such as the Vitruvian Man and the picture of a fetus in the womb (Clayton and Philo 8-12).
A Renaissance Man
Leonardo was a genius and a true Renaissance man owing to his extensive talents that extended far beyond painting and drawing. Following in the footsteps of other Renaissance humanists of his time, Leonardo had developed a keen interest in establishing the relationship between art and science.
Accordingly, he had varied interests in science and technology, particularly in anatomy, optics, and hydraulics whereby he came up with some original pieces of inventions. This interest in science and technology had a great influence on Leonardo’s paintings and drawings (Mills 39).
Level of Acclaim Acquired
Leonardo commands admiration and respect from other painters, critics, and fans in equal measure. His fame and reputation increases by the day, especially considering the number of people who travel long distances and pay a lot of money just to have a glimpse at his famous pieces of art.
The young generation is also keeping up with the pace by purchasing merchandises that contain Leonardo’s most famous paintings and drawings. On the other hand, writers around the globe have written extensively on Leonardo’s talent, and his private life is at the center of numerous speculations (Emmer 449-453).
Struggles and Challenges
Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Dyslexia
Many writers have observed that Leonardo was suffering from ADD owing to his inability to finish all the projects that he started. Actually, there are about 15 paintings created by Leonardo, which survive to date while most of his works produced disastrous results because of his constant desire to experiment with new painting techniques.
This is a typical symptom of ADD, which causes one to get distracted so easily. Other writers have noted that Leonardo was dyslexic because he used to write from right-to-left without being consciously aware (Emmer 449-453).
Struggles with the Church
As noted earlier, Leonardo was a true Renaissance humanist. The proponents of Renaissance humanism focused on art and science as well as other human concerns that were not relevant in the church. Hence, Leonardo and his colleagues pursued different interests concerning humanity such as the Greek and Roman philosophy and historiography, which contradicted the teachings of the Medieval Christian Church of their time.
For instance, instead of being pre-occupied with worldly issues, most Renaissance humanists tended to promote human interests that improved human life. Moreover, Renaissance humanists were the major promoters of anti-church and anti-clerical sentiments during Leonardo’s era. Hence, Renaissance humanism and its ideologies were in stark contrast with the medieval ideals (Veltman 385).
Keeping his Work Private
Leonardo tried to keep his works private using his notebooks, which he wrote in mirror-image handwritings. Most people belief that Leonardo preferred the “backwards” handwriting as a way of ensuring that he maintained secrecy. However, there are those who view his actions as an unconscious form of left-handedness whereby an individual writes from right-to-left without being aware of it.
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This is a typical feature of most dyslexics whose left-handedness is not considered as a problem, but a gift. In Leonardo’s case, his dyslexic gift was used to conceal details in his pieces of artwork including sketches, painting ideas, and even scientific inventions (Mills 39-42; Veltman 383). However, after his death, some of Leonardo’s private notes have found their way into the hands of third parties.
Leonardo was the most talented artist of his time. He produced the most famous paintings and drawings, and introduced different painting techniques such as the Chiaroscuro, which is a technique he used to create a contrast between light and dark colors. Moreover, Leonardo introduced the sfumato painting technique, which promoted the use of smoky effects in paintings.
The other painting techniques introduced by Leonardo include linear perspective and the use of light and shadow in paintings. Linear perspective is a technique used by Leonardo to give his paintings life and a three-dimensional look. Furthermore, his knowledge of human anatomy enabled him to create graphic, proportionate, and real paintings (Mills 39; Veltman 383).
Apart from painting, drawing, and sculpture, Leonardo was also talented in science, engineering, and technology. Leonardo’s most famous contributions arose from his attempt to create a connection between science and art. He attempted to understand science from an observational perspective, and in so doing, he developed an understanding of the anatomy of humans and various animals.
This is evidenced in his drawings of human embryos, the human skeleton, the human backbone, the human circulatory system, and the muscles among other anatomical structures. His understanding of the human anatomy helped him to develop the first robot. He also drew several diagrams regarding his engineering inventions such as the self-pumping waterwheel, the overbalancing hammer wheel, and the rolling ball wheel among others (Mills 39-42).
Why Study Leonardo Today
After examining Leonardo’s early life, his struggles and challenges as well as his contributions to art and science, it is important to look at his worth in the contemporary fields of art and science. In the modern society, science and technology plays a huge role in almost every aspect of human life starting with communication, transportation, and even medicine.
Leonardo’s early attempts to create a connection between art and science are useful for the modern artist who is looking for ways to use the dynamic advances in science and technology for the benefit of visual art. Hence, Leonardo da Vinci deserves attention because of his ideas on the fusion between art and science (Veltman 384-385).
Leonardo da Vinci was the most multi-talented individual to have graced the Renaissance era and even the contemporary society. Leonardo’s long-lasting fame and reputation arose from his talents in painting and drawing. He managed to produce several paintings and drawings, which were famous and influential during his time.
He was also a true Renaissance humanist having championed human interests that produced the greatest good for all. His contributions in art and science are also worth mentioning considering that he was the first to use some of the well-known painting techniques besides conceiving some of the greatest scientific and engineering inventions of his time. Lastly, Leonardo’s attempt to relate art and science earned him the honors of being studied today because his ideas are quite fascinating.
Budd, Denise A. “Leonardo da Vinci and Workshop Practice: The Role of the Dated Notation.” The Journal of the History of Art 10.1(2009): 13-39. Print.
Clayton, Martin C., and Ronald Philo. Leonardo Da Vinci: The Mechanics of Man. Los Angeles, CA: Getty Publications, 2010. Print.
Emmer, Michelle. “A Film on Leonardo da Vinci by Luciano Emmer.” Leonardo 42.5(2009): 449-453. Print.
Mills, Allan A. “Leonardo da Vinci and Perpetual Motion.” Leonardo 41.1(2008): 39-42. Print.
Veltman, Kim H. “Leonardo da Vinci: A Review.” Leonardo 41.4(2008): 381-388. Print.