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Leonardo da Vinci.

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Leonardo da Vinci Also known as: Leonardo Da Vinci, Leonardo di Ser Piero da Vinci Birth: April 15, 1452 in Vinci, Italy Death: May 2, 1519 in Amboise, France Nationality: Italian Occupation: artist, painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, scientist Source: Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. Gale Research, 1998. BIOGRAPHICAL ESSAY Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was an Italian painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, and scientist. He was one of the greatest minds of the Italian Renaissance, and his influence on the painting of the following generations was enormous. Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452, near the village of Vinci about 25 miles west of Florence. He was the illegitimate son of Ser Piero da Vinci, a prominent notary of Florence, who had no other children until much later. Ser Piero raised his son himself, a common practice at the time, arranging for Leonardo's mother to marry a villager. When Leonardo was 15, his father apprenticed him to Andrea del Verrocchio, the leading artist of Florence and a characteristic talent of the early Renaissance. Verrocchio, a sculptor, painter, and goldsmith, was a remarkable craftsman, and his great skill and passionate concern for quality of execution, as well as his interest in expressing the vital mobility of the human figure, were important elements in Leonardo's artistic formation. Indeed, much in Leonardo's approach to art was evolutionary from tradition rather than revolutionary against it, although the opposite is often true of his results. Assistant in Verrocchio's Workshop After completing his apprenticeship, Leonardo stayed on as an assistant in Verrocchio's shop, and his earliest known painting is a product of his collaboration with the master. In Verrocchio's Baptism of Christ (ca. 1475), Leonardo executed one of the two angels, a fact already recorded in the 16th century, as well as the distant landscape, and he added the final touches to the figure of Christ, determining the texture of the flesh. ...read more.


What we see today is largely a later reconstruction, but the design is reliable and remarkable. The scene seems at first to be one of tumultuous activity, in response to the dramatic stimulus of Christ's words "One of you will betray me," which is a contrast to the traditional static row of figures. But the 12 disciples form four equal clusters around Christ, isolated as a fifth unit in the middle. Thus, Leonardo once again enriches the empirical observation of vital activity but simultaneously develops a containing formula and emphasizes the center. This blend of the immediate reality of the situation and the underlying order of the composition is perhaps the reason the painting has always been extraordinarily popular and has remained the standard image of the subject. In its own time, the Last Supper was perhaps less well known than the project for a bronze equestrian statue of the previous Duke of Milan, on which Leonardo worked during most of his Milanese years. He wanted to show the horse leaping, a technical problem of balance in sculpture that was solved only in the 17th century. Numerous drawings of the project exist. Besides apparatus for pageants and artillery, architectural projects also occupied Leonardo in Milan. He and the great architect Donato Bramante, also a recent arrival at the court, clearly had a mutually stimulating effect, and it is hard to attribute certain innovative ideas to one of them rather than the other. The architectural drawings of Leonardo, very similar to the buildings of Bramante, mark the shift from the early Renaissance to the High Renaissance in architecture and show a new interest in and command of scale and grandeur within the basic harmonious geometry of Renaissance structure. No buildings can be attributed with certainty to Leonardo. When Leonardo's patron was overthrown by the French invasion in 1499, Leonardo left Milan. He visited Venice briefly, where the Senate consulted him on military projects, and Mantua. ...read more.


Raphael came to Florence in 1504 at the age of 21, eager to increase his knowledge of perspective and anatomy, and he quickly revealed Leonardo's influence in his portraits and Madonnas; his results were less intellectual, psychological, and energetic and more coolly formal, but with Leonardo's vitality. About 1503 Michelangelo changed from a sculptor of merely grand scale to one whose figures are charged with energy. This may be seen in the contrast between Michelangelo's David and St. Matthew. From this time on Leonardo influenced, directly or indirectly, all painting, as Vasari implies. His influence on science was much less, although his drawings may have been known to the anatomist Andreas Vesalius and had an effect on his great publication of 1543. However, most of Leonardo's scientific observations remained unknown until the same questions were again investigated in later centuries. FURTHER READINGS * Jean Paul Richter edited The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci (2 vols., 1883; 2d rev. ed. 1939). Two excellent books are Kenneth Clark, Leonardo da Vinci: An Account of His Development as an Artist (1939; rev. ed. 1967), which is relatively brief and emphasizes Leonardo's work as a painter, and Ludwig H. Heydenreich, Leonardo da Vinci (trans. 1954), which is more detailed and concerned with the definition of his personality. A collection of essays which shows all sides of Leonardo's genius is C. D. O'Malley, ed., Leonardo's Legacy: An International Symposium (1969). An illuminating collection of articles is Morris Philipson, ed., Leonardo da Vinci: Aspects of the Renaissance Genius (1966). Leonardo's scientific work is emphasized in Ivor Blashka Hart, The World of Leonardo da Vinci: Man of Science, Engineer and Dreamer of Flight (1962), and Richard B. McLanathan, Images of the Universe: Leonardo da Vinci, the Artist as Scientist (1966). A fine specialized study is Arthur E. Popham, ed., The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci (1945). A clear, concise biography is Leonardo da Vinci: A Penguin Life by Sherwin Nuland (2000). Michael White's Leonardo: The First Scientist (2000) comprehensively discusses da Vinci's scientific life and achievements. ...read more.

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