Leonardo da Vinci is popularly known for his paintings such as “The Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper.” Apart from being a celebrated illustrator, da Vinci is also a scientist – he took up inventing and military engineering as well. Learn more about his colorful life by reading the interesting Leonardo da Vinci facts listed below.
Leonardo da Vinci Facts That Will Impress You
1. He is the artist behind the most famous painting in the world: The Mona Lisa.
The Mona Lisa is heralded as the “most well-known, visited, written about, sung about, and parodied artwork in the entire world.” Da Vinci began drawing the Mona Lisa in the year 1503. The half-portrait is known for the subject’s enigmatic smile, a reflection of his renowned sfumato technique.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the painting is the identity of Mona Lisa herself. Speculations say that it was based on da Vinci’s mother, an unknown courtesan, even Princess Isabella of Naples. It was even rumored to be a portrait of his apprentice Salai, who is garbed in feminine clothing. The most probable muse is Lisa del Giacondo, the wife of a Florentine merchant, as the painting was previously known as the “La Gioconda.”
Nestled in the famed Louvre Museum, the 30 by 21 inch Mona Lisa canvas sits behind thick bulletproof glass. Since it was placed in the Grand Gallery in 1804, the artwork has attracted millions of curious visitors from around the world.
2. His other famous artworks include the Vitruvian Man and the Last Supper.
Completed in 1490, the Vitruvian Man is said to be a harmonious union between art and science. The nude male figure with two superimposed positions is said to represent the artist’s penchant for symmetry and proportion.
The Last Supper, on the other hand, was drawn initially to be displayed at the monastery of the Santa Maria delle Grazie. It was commissioned in 1495 by Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan. The masterpiece featured Jesus and the twelve apostles during the Passover. The expressions and the body language of the subjects are so well-detailed that it became the controversial piece in Dan Brown’s aptly-named novel, “the Da Vinci Code,” an interesting fact about Leonardo da Vinci.
3. Da Vinci was never formally trained in the arts.
With his world-renowned paintings and sculptures, nobody would have guessed that da Vinci did not have any formal schooling in the arts.
To hone the artistic talent he had as a kid, he worked as an apprentice under the artist Andrea del Verrocchio. Under his tutelage, da Vinci learned to draw, paint, and sculpt. Del Verrochio also taught da Vinci to work with wood, leather, and metal. In turn, he helped his master complete the “Baptism of Christ,” where he drew the background, as well as the angel holding Jesus’ robe.
The apprenticeship helped improve da Vinci’s already impeccable skills; by age 20 he was recognized as a master artist of the Guild of St. Luke.
4. Da Vinci’s most popular invention is the flying machine.
An interesting fact about Da Vinci is that he had already played with the concept of flying several centuries before an actual plane was invented. His flight machine was based on bat physiology. It was one of the concepts he featured in his book “Codex on the Flight of Birds: A Study of Avian Aeronautics.”
5. Da Vinci is a man of science.
Despite the lack of formal schooling, Da Vinci excelled in many scientific disciplines. He believed in “Saper Vadere,” which translates to ‘knowing how to see.’ He learned the different facts of life by observing the world around him.
Da Vinci was particularly fond of anatomy, with his drawings of the fetus, bone, heart, and sex organs being some of the first medical illustrations in the world. He also studied zoology, botany, geology, physics, aeronautics, and hydraulics; he was such a keen observer that he tucked his notes inside his belt.
6. Da Vinci also dabbled with architecture.
A true Renaissance man, Da Vinci specialized in several arts and sciences, one of which was architecture. He sketched many a building, including a palace, a villa, and the Medici residence. His biggest project was considered to be the French palace of Romorantin, which he worked on from 1517 to 1519.
7. Da Vinci is also a military engineer.
Da Vinci’s genius is undoubted as he had more than just artistic skills under his belt. He was also an accomplished military engineer, having worked for the Duke of Milan for 17 years. An interesting fact about Leonardo da Vinci is that his outputs include a chariot with mounted scythes, an armored tank, as well as a gigantic crossbow.
He also worked for Cesare Borgia, who commanded the papal army in the early 1500s. His work entailed sketching maps and plans, as well as surveying military ventures. Da Vinci also partnered with Niccolo Macchiavelli in creating the diversion of the Arno River; this immediately prevented the enemy’s access to open waters.
8. Da Vinci also made sculptures – but they never came to fruition.
Da Vinci started sculpting at a young age; he was said to make heads from plaster and marble. None of them have survived to the modern day though.
In 1489, he was commissioned to make a sculpture of Francesco Sforza, the ancestor of the Duke of Milan (and his employer) Ludovico Sforza. It was initially made of clay but was never cast in bronze due to shortage; France then needed the metal to make wartime cannons. Unfortunately, the model was shot to pieces before Da Vinci’s vision was ever realized.
He was also commissioned to make a grand equestrian statue by Gian Giacomo Trivulzio. Trivulzio requested to scale back on the statue’s size; the project was scrapped eventually.
Da Vinci is a master of many disciplines – he excelled in painting, sculpting, architecture, military engineering, and science. The Leonardo da Vinci facts demonstrated above have shown that he was truly enlightened, despite the circumstances that he lived in. With his many contributions to the fields of the arts and sciences, da Vinci has surely earned his spot as one of the best Renaissance humanists in history.
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