Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, born in VINCI, Province of Florence, on April 15th 1452, has often been described as the archetype of the Renaissance man, the Humanist. His untiring curiosity, inventive imagination and geniality has been always well-known. In fact, Leonardo had many scopes in his long life: painter, sculptor, architect, scientist, inventor, engineer, anatomist, botanist, cartographer, writer and even musitian! He did everything and left us a huge cultural legacy and the first step for many discoveries.
Leonardo was the illegitimate son of Piero da Vinci with a peasant woman called Caterina. His birth house, CASA NATALE, located at Anchiano, a district right outside Vinci (about 2 miles away), is still intact and can be visited with free entrance. Unfortunately there is nothing left in the house, only a few reproductions of his work fized on the walls and the farmhouse itself. At Vinci you will find Leonardo's Museum – Museo Leonardiano – which hosts a large collection of machines and models rebuilt based on Leonardo the inventor's drawings and notes. These objects are exposed in the Palazzina Uzielli – Castello dei Conti Guidi, in Piazza dei Guidi, Vinci town center. The museum offers guided tours and didactic activities for groups upon previous reservation.
Leonardo has been educated in the studio of Verrocchio, a very well-known painter with high reputation in Florence. His first brush strokes have been done together with his master and can be seen for example in the painting “The Baptism of Christ” (1472-1475) > in the picture here > exposed in the UFFIZI GALLERY, in Florence. During his stay in the Verrocchio's studio, Leonardo has done many workshops with also other important artiststs of that period like Ghirlandaio, Perugino and even Botticelli and has got not only a general education in arts and Humanist culture but also skills and techniques. In the 1472, at the age of 20, Leonardo has been qualified as a master in the Guild of St. Luke, the Florentine guild of masters in art and medicine.
The “Adoration of the Magi” (shown here on the left) was his first commission for the monks of Scopeto but has never been completed. Leonardo's earliest complete work is thought to be the “Annunciation” (picture below) from the period while he was yet at Verrocchio's studio. Both paintings belong now to the Uffizi collection.
Leonardo's professional life was intense. He left Verrocchio's studio and became a protected by Lorenzo de' Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany at that time. So he was sent by him to Milan to work at the court of Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan. During this time, Leonardo has developed a lot his engineering skills and invented many different kinds of artefacts, from floats and pageants for local festivals up to war cannons and guns for militar defense. While working for Ludovico, Leonardo has painted “The Last Supper” (picture below) inside the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan and has got the commission for the “Virgin of the rocks” (here on the left side) - a controversial paiting which gave origin to a second one, with a few different details. THE LAST SUPPER can be visited by previous booking that can be made on-line on the Official Website of the Cenacolo Vinciniano. Have a look in some virtual tours of the Chapel and the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. The “Virgin of the rocks”, which exist actually two versions of that painting, can be seen: one of them at the Louvre museum in Paris, while the second version, the one which has been accepted to fulfill the commission of Ludovico, can be seen in the National Gallery of London.
The “Mona Lisa” or “La Gioconda” - the laughing one – (picture on the left side) has been painted in the 1500's already, and became one of the most famous painting in the world, which can be seen in the Louvre. Besides, Leonardo has produced many drawings and notes, composing Codes (Codex Atlanticus; Codex Leicester) and studies of all kind. The most popular of those drawings is certainly “The Vitruvian Man” (below), which now belongs to the Accademia of Venice.
During some years Leonardo has been in and out between Milan and Florence. In Milan, he entered to the service of Cesare Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI, and have worked with engineering and cartography dedicated to militar and supply ends, in a time when maps were really rare. In Florence, Leonardo painted the mural “The Battle of Anghiari” inside the Palazzo della Signoria, (1503 – 1505). Between 1513 and 1516, Leonardo has stayed in Rome, living in the Belvedere, in the Vatican, where also Raffaello and Michelangelo, both much younger than him, were active at that time, working for Pope Leo X. This one has presented Leonardo to King Francis I of France. From 1516 until his death in 1519, Leonardo has spent his last years in France, in the manor house Clos Lucé received by King Francis I, to whom legends say Leonardo became also a close friend.
Texts by Adriana Lucchesi for Tuscany-villas.com - March 2011.
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