Leonardo da Vinci was a leading artist and intellectual of the Italian Renaissance who’s known for his enduring works “The Last Supper” and the “Mona Lisa.”
Leonardo da Vinci was a painter, sculptor, architect, inventor, military engineer and draftsman — the epitome of a “Renaissance man.” With a curious mind and keen intellect, da Vinci studied the laws of science and nature, which greatly informed his work. His ideas and body of work have influenced countless artists and made da Vinci a leading light of the Italian Renaissance.
Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452, in a farmhouse nestled amid the undulating hills of Tuscany outside the village of Anchiano, in present-day Italy. He received little formal education beyond basic reading, writing and mathematics instruction, but his artistic talents were evident from an early age.
His Last Supper (1495–98) and Mona Lisa (c. 1503–19) are among the most widely popular and influential paintings of the Renaissance. Leonardo’s drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also regarded as a cultural icon, being reproduced on items as varied as the euro coin, textbooks, and T-shirts. A painting by Leonardo, Salvator Mundi, sold for a world record $450.3 million at a Christie’s auction in New York, 15 November 2017, the highest price ever paid for a work of art. His notebooks reveal a spirit of scientific inquiry and a mechanical inventiveness that were centuries ahead of their time.
Art, da Vinci believed, was indisputably connected with science and nature. Largely self-educated, he filled dozens of secret notebooks with inventions, observations and theories about pursuits from aeronautics to anatomy. The concepts expressed in his notebooks were often difficult to interpret.
He was mainly, despite what he sometimes wished, a painter. He liked to think of himself as an engineer and architect, which he also did with great passion. But his first job was as a theatrical producer. His theatrical production led him to mechanical props, like flying machines and a helicopter screw, which were designed to bring angels down from the rafters in some of the performances. Leonardo then blurred the line between fantasy and reality when he went on to try to create real flying machines that were engineering marvels! So, what he picked up in the theatre he brought both to his art and real-life engineering.
Da Vinci died at Cloux (now Clos-Lucé) in 1519 at age 67. He was buried nearby in the palace church of Saint-Florentin.
Being curious about everything and curious just for curiosity’s sake, not simply because it’s useful, is the defining trait of Leonardo. It’s how he pushed himself and taught himself to be a genius.