Leonardo da Vinci

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Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci
BirthplaceVinci, Republic of Florence (present-day Italy)
Known for Diverse fields of the arts and sciences

Da Vinci, Leonardo:

see Leonardo da VinciLeonardo da Vinci
, 1452–1519, Italian painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer, and scientist, b. near Vinci, a hill village in Tuscany. The versatility and creative power of Leonardo mark him as a supreme example of Renaissance genius.
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Leonardo da Vinci

(də vĭn`chē, Ital. lāōnär`dō dä vēn`chē), 1452–1519, Italian painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer, and scientist, b. near Vinci, a hill village in Tuscany. The versatility and creative power of Leonardo mark him as a supreme example of Renaissance genius. He depicted in his drawings, with scientific precision and consummate artistry, subjects ranging from flying machines to caricatures; he also executed intricate anatomical studies of people, animals, and plants. The richness and originality of intellect expressed in his notebooks reveal one of the greatest minds of all time.

Early Life and Work: Vinci and Florence

Leonardo was the illegitimate son of a Florentine notary and a peasant woman. Presumably he passed his childhood with his father's family in Vinci, where he developed an enduring interest in nature. Early sources describe his beauty, charm of manner, and precocious display of artistic talent.

In 1466 Leonardo moved to Florence, where he entered the workshop of VerrocchioVerrocchio, Andrea del
, 1435–88, Florentine sculptor and painter, whose real name was Andrea di Michele di Francesco di Cioni. He was a leading figure in the early Renaissance, and his workshop was a center for the training of young artists in Florence.
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 and came into contact with such artists as BotticelliBotticelli, Sandro
, c.1444–1510, Florentine painter of the Renaissance, whose real name was Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi . He was apprenticed to Fra Filippo Lippi, whose delicate coloring can be seen in such early works as the Adoration of the Kings
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, GhirlandaioGhirlandaio or Ghirlandajo, Domenico
, 1449–94, Florentine painter, whose family name was Bigordi. He may have studied painting and mosaics under Alesso Baldovinetti. Ghirlandaio was an excellent technician.
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, and Lorenzo di CrediLorenzo di Credi
, 1459–1537, Florentine painter. He spent his early years in the workshop of Verrocchio, whom he assisted in the painting of an altarpiece at the Cathedral of Pistoia.
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. Early in his apprenticeship he painted an angel, and perhaps portions of the landscape, in Verrocchio's Baptism of Christ (Uffizi). In 1472 he was registered in the painters' guild. The culmination of Leonardo's art during his first period in Florence is the magnificent unfinished Adoration of the Magi (Uffizi) commissioned in 1481 by the monks of San Donato a Scopeto. In this work is revealed the integration of dramatic movement and chiaroscuro that characterizes the master's mature style.

Middle Life and Mature Work: Milan and Florence

Leonardo went to Milan c.1482 and remained at the court of Ludovico SforzaSforza, Ludovico or Lodovico
, b. 1451 or 1452, d. 1508, duke of Milan (1494–99); younger son of Francesco I Sforza. He was called Ludovico il Moro [the Moor] because of his swarthy complexion.
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 for 16 years. In this time he composed the greater part of his Trattato della pittura and the extensive notebooks that demonstrate the marvelous versatility and penetration of his genius. As court artist he also organized elaborate festivals. Severe plagues in 1484 and 1485 drew his attention to problems of town planning, an interest which was revived during his last years in France. Many drawings of plans and elevations for domed churches reflect a concern with architectural problems that must have been stimulated by contact with BramanteBramante, Donato
, 1444–1514, Italian Renaissance architect and painter, b. near Urbino. His buildings in Rome are considered the most characteristic examples of High Renaissance style. In 1477 he painted frescoes in the municipal palace at Bergamo.
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 during these years. He worked c.1488 on a model for the tambour and dome of the cathedral at Milan. In 1490 he was employed with Francesco di Giorgio as consulting engineer on the restoration of the cathedral at Pavia and later on the cathedral at Piacenza.

In 1483, Leonardo, with his pupil Ambrogio de Predis, was commissioned to execute the famous Madonna of the Rocks. Two versions of the painting exist—one in the Louvre (1483–c.1486), another in the National Gallery, London (1483–1508). Leonardo's fresco of the Last Supper (Milan) was begun c.1495 and completed by 1498. This work is now badly damaged. Leonardo's own experiments with mural painting—in the Last Supper he did not use traditional frescofresco
[Ital.,=fresh], in its pure form the art of painting upon damp, fresh, lime plaster. In Renaissance Italy it was called buon fresco to distinguish it from fresco secco, which was executed upon dry plaster with pigments having a glue or casein base.
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 technique—account in part for its disintegration, which was already noticed by 1517, and subsequent deterioration and repeated restorations obliterated details and individual figures. In 1978 a major (and controversial) restoration was begun, and in 1994–95 protective air-filtration and climate-control equipment were installed. The restoration was completed in 1999, leaving the mural brightened considerably with some details clarified, but also revealing the extensive loss of the original painting. Nonetheless, the composition and general disposition of the figures, in which all lines and attention intersect at the mural's center—the head of Christ outlined against a clear sky and landscape—reveal a power of invention and a sublimity of spiritual content that mark the painting among the world's masterpieces.

While at Ludovico's court Leonardo also worked on an equestrian monument to the duke's father, Francesco Sforza. The work was never cast, and the model, admired by his contemporaries, perished during the French invasion of 1499. In 1511 he undertook a similar work with the commission of an equestrian monument for Gian Giacomo Trivulzio. This work was also never completed and known only through drawings related to the project. After the fall (1499) of Ludovico Sforza, Leonardo left Milan and, following brief sojourns in Mantua and Venice, returned to Florence in 1500.

Back in Florence Leonardo engaged in much theoretical work in mathematics and pursued his anatomical studies at the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova. In 1502 he entered the service of Cesare BorgiaBorgia, Cesare or Caesar
, 1476–1507, Italian soldier and politician, younger son of Pope Alexander VI and an outstanding figure of the Italian Renaissance.
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 as a military engineer. His engagement took him to central Italy to study swamp reclamation projects in Piombino and to tour the cities of Romagna. At Urbino he met Niccolò MachiavelliMachiavelli, Niccolò
, 1469–1527, Italian author and statesman, one of the outstanding figures of the Renaissance, b. Florence. Life

A member of the impoverished branch of a distinguished family, he entered (1498) the political service of the
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, who later became a close friend.

By 1503 he was back in Florence, where he was commissioned to execute the fresco of the battle of Anghiari. This work, like its companion piece assigned to Michelangelo, was never completed, and the cartoons were subsequently destroyed. The work exerted enormous influence on later artists, however, and some impression of the original may be had from anonymous copies in the Uffizi and Casa Horne (Florence), from an engraving of 1558 of Lorenzo Zacchia, and from a drawing by Rubens (Louvre). From about this time dates the celebrated Mona Lisa (Louvre), the portrait of the wife of a Florentine merchant.

In 1506, Leonardo returned to Milan, engaged by Charles d'Amboise in the name of the French king, Louis XII. Here he again served as architect and engineer. Gifted with a gargantuan curiosity concerning the physical world, he continued his scientific investigations, concerning himself with problems of geology, botany, hydraulics, and mechanics. In 1510–11 his interest in anatomy quickened considerably. At the same time he was active as painter and sculptor, had many pupils, and profoundly influenced the Milanese painters. A painting generally ascribed to this period is the St. Anne, Mary, and the Child (Louvre), a work that exemplifies Leonardo's handling of sfumato—misty, subtle transitions in tone.

Late Life and Work: Rome and France

In 1513 Leonardo went to Rome, attracted by the patronage of the newly elected Medici pope, Leo XLeo X,
1475–1521, pope (1513–21), a Florentine named Giovanni de' Medici; successor of Julius II. He was the son of Lorenzo de' Medici, was made a cardinal in his boyhood, and was head of his family before he was 30 (see Medici).
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, and his brother Giuliano. Here he found the field dominated by MichelangeloMichelangelo Buonarroti
, 1475–1564, Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet, b. Caprese, Tuscany. Early Life and Work

Michelangelo drew extensively as a child, and his father placed him under the tutelage of Ghirlandaio, a respected artist of the day.
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 and RaphaelRaphael
, archangel. He is prominent in the book of Tobit, as the companion of Tobias, as the healer of Tobit, and as the rescuer of Sara from Asmodeus. Milton made him a featured character of Paradise Lost. Feast: Sept. 29 (jointly with the other archangels).
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. The aging master was assigned to various architectural and engineering projects at the Vatican and received commissions for several paintings. It was perhaps in this period that he executed the enigmatic painting of the young St. John the Baptist (Louvre). Giuliano de' Medici left Rome in 1515 and died at Fiesole in the following year.

It is conjectured that Leonardo left with him, attached to his household, and that soon afterward he accepted an invitation of Francis I of France to settle at the castle of Cloux, near Amboise. Here the old master was left entirely free to pursue his own researches until his death. Although there is no certain record of his last years, he seems to have been active with festival decoration and to have been interested in a canal project. Notes and drawings ascribed to this late period show his continued interest in natural philosophy and experimental science.


In 1965 two previously lost notebooks were discovered in the National Library of Spain, Madrid. The first is a vast work concerning technological principles; the second is an intellectual diary spanning 14 years. The lost notebooks were published as The Madrid Codices (1974).

See also L. Goldschneider, ed., Leonardo da Vinci: Life and Work, Paintings and Drawings (8th ed. 1967), P. C. Marani, Leonardo da Vinci: The Complete Paintings (2001), C. C. Bambach, Leonardo da Vinci: Master Draftsman (2003), F. Zöllner, Leonardo da Vinci: 1452–1519, The Complete Paintings and Drawings (2003), and M. Clayton and R. Philo, Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist (2012); The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, ed. by J. P. Richter (2 vol., 1970), The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci, ed. by J. P. Richter (3d ed. 1970), and M. Kemp, ed., Leonardo on Painting: Anthology of Writings by Leonardo da Vinci (1989); biographies by K. Clarke (rev. by M. Kemp, 1989), C. Nicholl (2004), and M. Kemp (rev. ed. 2011); I. B. Hart, The World of Leonardo da Vinci (1962, repr. 1977), P. R. Ritchie-Calder, Leonardo and the Age of the Eye (1970), C. Pedretti, Leonardo: A Study in Chronology and Style (1973), L. Reti, ed., The Unknown Leonardo (1974), A. R. Turner, Inventing Leonardo (1993), and R. King, Leonardo and the Last Supper (2012).

Vinci, Leonardo da:

see Leonardo da VinciLeonardo da Vinci
, 1452–1519, Italian painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer, and scientist, b. near Vinci, a hill village in Tuscany. The versatility and creative power of Leonardo mark him as a supreme example of Renaissance genius.
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Leonardo da Vinci

He built nothing, but he produced a number of influential architectural schemes and designs.

Leonardo da Vinci


Born Apr. 15, 1452, in Vinci, near Florence; died May 2, 1519, in the castle of Cloux, near Amboise, Touraine, France. Italian painter, sculptor, architect, scientist, and engineer. Son of a wealthy notary.

Combining new means of artistic expression with theoretical generalizations, Leonardo da Vinci created a harmonious image of man that corresponded to humanist ideals. He thus summed up the experience of the quattrocento and laid the foundations for the art of the High Renaissance.

Leonardo was an apprentice of Andrea del Verrocchio from 1467 to 1472. Young Leonardo’s scientific interests were fostered by the methods of the 15th-century Florentine workshop, where artistic practices were combined with technical experimentation, as well as by his friendship with the astronomer P. Toscanelli. In his early works (the head of the angel in Verrocchio’s Baptism of Christ, after 1470, Uffizi Gallery, Florence; The Annunciation, c. 1474, Uffizi Gallery; Madonna Benois, c. 1478, Hermitage, Leningrad), Leonardo developed quattrocento traditions, emphasizing the sculptural quality of forms with gentle chiaroscuro and sometimes animating faces with a barely perceptible smile. In Adoration of the Magi (1481–82, unfinished; underpainting in the Uffizi Gallery) he transformed a religious subject into a mirror of diverse human emotions. In this composition he worked out innovative methods of preparatory drawing. As a result of countless observations recorded in various media (black chalk, silverpoint, red chalk, pen) in sketches and studies from nature, Leonardo succeeded in accurately depicting facial expressions (sometimes resorting to the grotesque) and brought anatomical features and the movements of the human body into perfect harmony with the spiritual atmosphere of the composition.

In 1481 or 1482, Leonardo entered the service of the duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro, working as a military engineer, hydraulic engineer, and organizer of court pageants. For more than ten years he worked on a monument to Francesco Sforza, Ludovico’s father; the life-size clay model for this equestrian statue was destroyed in 1500 by French troops during the storming of Milan (it is known only through preparatory studies).

Leonardo’s years in Milan marked the height of his development as a painter. In Madonna of the Rocks (1483–94, Louvre, Paris; second version, 1497–1511, National Gallery, London) the extremely soft chiaroscuro, or sfumato, preferred by Leonardo, serves as a spiritual connection, emphasizing the warmth of the relationships among the figures. The artist’s geological observations are reflected in the fantastic rocky landscape depicted in this painting. Leonardo painted The Last Supper (1495–97) in the refectory of the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Because of the particular technique used by Leonardo—mixing oil and tempera pigments—the painting deteriorated badly (it has been restored in the 20th century). The extremely ethical content of The Last Supper is expressed within the strict mathematical regularities of its composition, which takes precedence over real architectural space, and within the limits of a clear system of gestures and facial expressions. The Last Supper is one of the pinnacles in the development of European art.

Leonardo, who was interested in architecture, worked out several versions of the “ideal city” and of a centrally domed church. In Milan a circle of pupils (the Lombard school) arose around him. In 1499, Leonardo left Milan and spent several years traveling (Florence, 1500–02, 1503–06, 1507; Mantua and Venice, 1500; Milan, 1506, 1507–13; Rome, 1513–16; France, 1517–19).

In Florence, Leonardo worked on a wall painting for the Palazzo Vecchio (Battle of Anghiari, 1503–06, unfinished, known from copies of the cartoon), which was one of the first battlepieces of the modern period. In this work the “brutal madness” of war (as Leonardo himself expressed it) is reflected in the frenzied skirmish of the mounted warriors. In the portrait Mona Lisa (La Gioconda, c. 1503, Louvre) the figure of the wealthy townswoman embodies ideal femininity, yet there is no loss of intimate human charm. The cosmically vast landscape, fading into a cold haze, serves as an important compositional element.

Leonardo’s later works include designs for a monument to Marshal G. G. Trivulzio (1508–12); the bronze equestrian statuette in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest resembles these designs. In St. Anne and Mary With the Christ Child (c. 1500–07, Louvre) the artist solved the problems of aerial perspective and pyramidal composition. The cloying ambiguity of the image in St. John the Baptist (c. 1513–17, Louvre) attests to the increasing appearance of elements of crisis in Leonardo’s work. In the series of drawing Deluges (black chalk and pen, c. 1514–16, Royal Library, Windsor), which depict universal catastrophe, contemplation of the smallness of man in the face of mighty elements is combined with rationalistic ideas concerning the cyclical pattern of natural processes.

Leonardo’s notebooks and manuscripts (about 7,000 sheets), written in colloquial Italian, are the most important source materials for the study of his views. Leonardo himself did not leave a systematic exposition of his ideas. The Treatise on Painting, which was written after Leonardo’s death by his pupil F. Melzi and which had an enormous influence on European artistic practice and theoretical thought, consists of fragments, many of which were arbitrarily extracted from Leonardo’s notes and presented out of context. Leonardo viewed art and science as being indissolubly connected. He conceived painting, to which he awarded the palm in the “dispute of the arts,” as a universal language (similar to mathematics in science), which by means of proportions and perspectives embodies all the diverse manifestations of the rational principle that reigns in nature.

As a scientist and engineer, Leonardo enriched nearly all the scientific fields of his time with his keen observations; he regarded his own notes and drawings as preparatory drafts for a giant encyclopedia of human knowledge. Skeptical of the ideal of the scientist-scholar that was popular during his time, he was the most brilliant representative of a new natural scientific method based on experimentation. He devoted particular attention to mechanics, calling it the “paradise of the mathematical sciences” and seeing in it the primary key to the secrets of the universe. He attempted to determine the frictional and slip coefficients, studied the resistance of materials, and was interested in hydraulics. His numerous hydraulic-engineering experiments (innovative designs of canals and irrigation systems) enabled him to describe accurately the equilibrium of fluid in communicating vessels. Leonardo’s passion for theoretical model-making led him to form brilliant conjectures that were far ahead of their time. For example, he designed metallurgical furnaces, rolling mills, looms, printing presses, woodworking machines, digging machines, a submarine, and a tank, as well as flying machines and a parachute, which he developed after carefully studying the flight of birds.

The observations Leonardo gathered concerning the influence of transparent and translucent media on the coloration of objects—observations reflected in his painting—resulted in the establishment of the principles of aerial perspective in the art of the High Renaissance. For Leonardo, the universality of optical laws was connected with the notion of the uniformity of the universe; like Nicholas of Cusa he was close to creating a heliocentric system, regarding the earth as a “speck in the universe.” Studying the structure of the human eye, Leonardo made an accurate conjecture on the nature of binocular vision.

In his anatomic research, generalizing the results of postmortem examinations, Leonardo laid the foundations of modern scientific illustration with his detailed drawings, which tended toward the illusion of stereometry. Moving from the simple inventory of organs (in medieval medicine) to the study of their functions, he viewed an organism as a model of “natural mechanics.” Leonardo was the first to describe a number of bones and nerves. He also made innovative suppositions concerning the antagonism of muscles and devoted particular attention to problems of embryology and comparative anatomy. In experiments with the removal of various organs from animals, he strove to introduce the experimental method into biology.

Leonardo was the first to consider botany as an independent biological discipline. Dealing primarily with structural and functional features, he provided a description of leaf arrangement, heliotropism, geotropism, root pressure, and the movement of sap. Speaking of natural necessity, of the “law of minimal action” and the “rational basis” of nature, Leonardo systematically excluded from his theories of natural philosophy the idea of god (allowing it only as a conception of a “prime mover”). He questioned the legend of the “great flood,” particularly in his discussion of fossils found on mountain peaks. A tireless scientist-experimenter and an artist of genius, Leonardo traditionally is considered a symbol of the era “which required titans and which gave birth to titans in terms of power of thought, of passion, and of character, in terms of many-sidedness and erudition” (F. Engels, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 20, p.346).


Tutti gli scritti, vol. 1. Milan, 1952.
In Russian translation:
Kniga o zhivopisi. Moscow, 1934.
Izbrannye proizvedeniia, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1935.
Izbrannye estestvenno-nauchnye proizvedeniia. Moscow, 1955.
Anatomiia: Zapisi i risunki. Moscow, 1965.


Lazarev, V. N. Leonardo da Vinchi. Leningrad-Moscow, 1952.
Zubov, V. P. Leonardo da Vinchi. Moscow-Leningrad, 1961.
Gukovskii, M. A. Leonardo da Vinchi. Leningrad-Moscow, 1967.
Raccolta Vinciana. Milan, 1905—.
Heydenreich, L. H. Leonardo da Vinci, vols. 1–2. Basel, 1954.
Pedretti, C. Studi vinciani. Genoa, 1957.
Esche, E. Leonardo da Vinci: Das anatomische Werk. Basel, 1961.
Hart, I. B. The Mechanical Investigations of Leonardo da Vinci. Berkeley-Los Angeles, 1963.
Heydenreich, L. H. Leonardo architetto. Florence, 1963.
Clark, K. Leonardo da Vinci. Cambridge, 1969.
Leonardo’s Legacy. An International Symposium [1966]. Berkeley-Los Angeles, 1969.
Verga, E. Bibliografia vinciana: 1493–1930, vols. 1–2. Bologna, 1931.


Leonardo da Vinci

(1452–1519) created prototypes for parachutes, submarines, tanks, helicopters. [Ital. Hist.: Plum, 185–200]

Leonardo da Vinci

(1452–1519) painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, engineer. [Ital. Hist.:NCE, 1561–1562]

Leonardo da Vinci

1452--1519, Italian painter, sculptor, architect, and engineer: the most versatile talent of the Italian Renaissance. His most famous paintings include The Virgin of the Rocks (1483--85), the Mona Lisa (or La Gioconda, 1503), and the Last Supper (?1495--97). His numerous drawings, combining scientific precision in observation with intense imaginative power, reflect the breadth of his interests, which ranged over biology, physiology, hydraulics, and aeronautics. He invented the first armoured tank and foresaw the invention of aircraft and submarines
References in periodicals archive ?
These two paintings may be the same ones mentioned on the undated Codex Atlanticus sheet commonly believed to be an inventory list of items brought by Leonardo to Milan.
The portrait of a male head in profile comes from the Codex Atlanticus, the most numerous collection of Leonardo da Vinci's folios.
26) The general principle of construction for the anamorphic view of the head sotto in su in the Dresden sheet may be based on Leonardo's proportional projection of grids, of a circle with respect to an oval ('De quadratura della figura ovale'), as the design in the Dresden sheet seems to more or less conform to what is described and illustrated in a treatise-like passage of writing by Leonardo in the Codex Atlanticus, vol.

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