A True Renaissance Man … Essay
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¶ … history of art somewhere between the start of recorded history and the end of the 19th century. There is a ton of source material and art that could be used from that range but the one that clearly stood out to the author of this report was the work of Leonardo da Vinci. The man did many different things and he did them all stunningly well. His accolades and skills include that of artist, mathematician, inventor and writer. He has been gone from this earth for nearly half a millennia but his influence and staying power is without question. This report shall explore his life and his most seminal work and influences. While there could and should be other artists that should be involved in the discussion when it comes to the most influential artist in known human history, Mr. Da Vinci should certainly be among that discussion, at the very least.
To put the time of da Vinci's life in historical context, Columbus and his ship expedition reached the Americas in 1492. As such, this was during the time of da Vinci's life. He lived from April of 1452 to May of 1519. As his name implies, he hailed from the Vinci area of Italy. His final days, on the other hand, came in France. While he is known as Leonardo da Vinci, his full name is actually Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci. When people seek out to label someone as a "renaissance man," da Vinci is a man who immediately comes to mind. The man dabbled or became an expert (if not a main influence) in many different fields. Indeed, he was a painter, a sculptor, an architect, an inventor, a military engineer and a draftsman. When it comes to art, his works are among the most known and influential. Da Vinci was the man behind Virgin of the Rocks, The Last Supper and The Mona Lisa. While da Vinci surely could not have done so on his own, the people and art enthusiasts that followed him made him a "leading light" of what has since become known as the Italian Renaissance [footnoteRef:1]. [1: Biography,. 2016. "Leonardo Da Vinci Biography." Biography.Com. http://www.biography.com/people/leonardo-da-vinci-40396#synopsis.]
Despite the guiding force that da Vinci has become over the years and centuries, his beginnings were rather muted and humble. His birthplace was a farmhouse in the hills of Tuscany. He was actually a baby born out of wedlock. The parents were a Florentine notary by the name of Ser Piero and a peasant woman by the name of Caterina. When da Vinci reached five years old, he moved to the family estate of his father. This estate was in the Vinci area of Italy. Like the farmhouse mentioned just a few sentences ago, it was also in the Tuscan area of Italy. While at the estate, da Vinci lived with his uncle and grandparents. Interestingly enough, da Vinci had very little formal education. He did indeed receive basic instruction when it came to reading, writing and mathematics. However, it was his artistic skills that turned some heads and this eventually led to da Vinci doing an apprenticeship with Andrea del Verrocchio of Florence. Through that apprenticeship, he learned a variety of things including metalworking, leather arts, carpentry, drawing, painting and sculpting. One of his nascent works as an artist, a pen and ink drawing of the Amo valley, was created in 1473 1.
After about a half a decade after the apprenticeship started, da Vinci had already qualified for membership as a master artist with the Florence Guild of Saint Luke. Da Vinci parlayed this into being able to establish his own workshop. Another seminal work associated with da Vinci, known as the Baptism of Christ, was thought to have been started by da Vinci and finished by the aforementioned Verrocchio. There has been an assertion by some people, most notably Giorgio Vasari, that Verrocchio was so "out-classed" and humbled by da Vinci that he eventually decided to not pick up a paintbrush again. However, there are many others that say that Vasari's assertion is patently false or at least unprovable. Something that is not in dispute is that da Vinci faced some rather disturbing accusations in 1476. Him and four other men were charged with sodomy. In those days, that charge could incur exile or even the death penalty. While da Vinci was eventually acquitted of the charges, his whereabouts in the two following years, from 1476 to 1478, have never been figured out with certitude [footnoteRef:2]. [2: Biography,. 2016. "Leonardo Da Vinci Biography." Biography.Com. http://www.biography.com/people/leonardo-da-vinci-40396#synopsis.]
Da Vinci reemerged in 1478 and was quickly commissioned to do some rather major works. These included a chapel in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. A few years later, da Vinci was commissioned to pain The Adoration of the Magi. The hits just kept coming as the widely known The Lord's Supper was done in 1483. However, the painting that exists besides that one that is most widely associated with da Vinci did not come until 1503. That painting, of course, was The Mona Lisa. Something that should be noted is that for all of da Vinci's fame and reputation, fewer than two dozen works of art are directly tied to or associated with him as being the primary or only artist. Indeed, much of his final years were dedicated to his scientific work rather than making works of art. One thing that da Vinci spent a ton of time on was journaling. The pages of his journal numbered in the thousands of pages 2.
Whether it was from his journal or from other sources, da Vinci was a very quotable man. One quote associated with him is "painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen" [footnoteRef:3]. The way that people spoke about da Vinci was equally startling and glowing. Indeed, Francois I of France was quoted as saying "there had never been another man born in the world who knew as much as Leonardo, not so much about painting, sculpture, architecture, as that he was a very great philosopher" [footnoteRef:4]. There is a rumor, perhaps a legend, that Francois I actually held Leonardo's head in his hands as he passed. Regardless, the two men had a great amount of rapport and solidarity. Francois I was the kign of Franch that recaptured Milan in the early 1500's. Even with that, Francois made sure that da Vinci's ties to his humble roots was not ignored. Indeed, sixty beggars followed the remains of da Vinci during his funeral procession, as was da Vinci's wish upon his demise 4. [3: LeonardoDaVinci.net,. 2016. "Leonardo Da Vinci Paintings, Drawings, Quotes, Biography." Leonardodavinci.Net. http://www.leonardodavinci.net/.] [4: LDV - The Complete Works,. 2016. "Leonardo Da Vinci Biography." Leonardoda-Vinci.Org. http://www.leonardoda-vinci.org/biography.html.]
As mentioned before, Leonardo da Vinci was a notorious artist even though he did not release a lot of completed works. This has led nations and collectors to covet his works with great relish. For example, there is a chalk and ink portrait that has surfaced that may very well be the work of da Vinci. Those rumors alone have led many to believe that the work is worth nine figures or more. According to National Geographic, the work is in the possession of a Canadian collector by the name of Peter Silverman. The work has not attracted the $100 million asking price but Silverman has refused to budge on the price. It is believed that the portrait is that of Bianca Sforza. She was allegedly the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Milan. Regardless of whether the painting is of her, she died shortly after it was done due to pregnancy complications [footnoteRef:5]. [5: O'Neill, Tom. 2016. "Lost Da Vinci - Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine." Ngm.Nationalgeographic.Com. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/02/lost-da-vinci/o-neill-text.]
Something else that da Vinci delved into to the great delight of art enthusiasts to this very day has also looped in and enraptured medical professionals and experts. Indeed, da Vinci was also quite good at making up anatomical diagrams and pictures. The diagrams included those of skeletons in general, skulls and so forth. His work was so advanced and adept that there was an enhancing of understanding about the human body that few, if any, people of that day could dare to pull off. Even with that, much of work on the subject was not published while was alive and thus the revelations and lessons that could have been learned while he was still alive and well were delayed until after his death and the diagrams were disseminated to the rest of the world. Even with that unfortunate delay, it is a wondrous thing that his work was not lost to decay or fire. Something, as they say, is better than nothing. In total, there were 13,000 words of notes and about 240 "meticulous" drawings completed by da Vinci and that were later uncovered [footnoteRef:6]. [6: Sooke, Alastair. 2013. "Leonardo… [END OF PREVIEW]
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