Leonardo Da Vinci is one of the smartest people of all time and one of the great creative minds of the Italian Renaissance along with Titan, Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello and many others. In his time he was a hugely influential artist and sculptor but also an immensely talented Engineer, Scientist and Inventor. The fact that Leonardo was largely self-educated makes everything that he has accomplished so much more magnificent. The dozens of secret note books with inventions, observations and theories just prove what a magnificent mind this man had. The combination of his intelligence and imagination lead him to create, at least on paper, inventions such as the bicycle, helicopter and even an air-plane which he invented based on the physiology and flying capability of a bat. This proves just how smart he actually was, these inventions are way ahead of his time but he was still able to make accurate sketches of them. Leonardo was born on the 15th April 1452 near the Tuscan town of Vinci, which provided the surname we associate with him today.
Leonardo received no formal education beyond basic reading, writing and maths, but his father appreciated his artistic talent so apprenticed him to the noted sculptor and painter Andrea Del Verrocchio at the age of around 15 where he refined his painting and sculpting techniques for a decade. Leonardo was asked to create a magnificent 16 foot tall equestrian statue, Da Vinci worked on the project off and on for 12 years and in 1493 a clay model was ready to be displayed. Unfortunately a war meant that the bronze for the sculpture was re-purposed and made into cannons and the clay model was destroyed when Sforza fell from power. Although very few of Da Vinci’s paintings and sculpture survived to recent time, mainly to do with the fact his total output was already quite small, but two of his surviving paintings are now some of the most known and admired paintings around to this day, well I’m sure you known what paintings they are.
The first is his painting of ‘The Last Supper’ which he painted during his time in Milan, from around 1495-1498. ‘The Last Supper’ was created for the refectory of Milan’s Monastery of Santa Maria Delle Grazie, also known as ‘The Cenacle’ this is Leonardo’s only surviving fresco painting. The second is the famous ‘Mona Lisa’ which is one of the world’s most known piece of art, and every time it is discussed the question is always whether she is smiling or not. The ‘Mona Lisa’ was painted approximately from 1503 to 1517, this is the only Leonardo Da Vinci portrait from this period that survived and it resides at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France where it attracts millions of visitors each year. Da Vinci’s interests ranged from beyond fine art, he studied nature, mechanics, anatomy, physics, architecture, weaponry and more! Leonardo often created accurate and workable designs for machines such as the bicycle, helicopter, submarine and military tanks which did not come into function until centuries later. If you did not believe he was smart this should change your mind! His imagination and way of thinking was centuries in front of his time and he was giving detail drawings using technology that had not even been invented in his time. Da Vinci spent a great deal of time immersing himself in nature, testing scientific laws, dissecting bodies both humans and animals, thinking and writing about all of his observations.
Leonardo Da Vinci left Italy for good in 1516 when the French ruler Francis I generously offered him the title of ‘Premier Painter, Architect and Engineer to the King’ which allowed him to paint and draw at his leisure while living in a county manor house, which must have given him a feeling of accomplishment considering he came from nothing and worked his way up. Leonardo Da Vinci died at Cloux in 1519 at the age of 67 which is a long life to live in the time he was around. He was buried nearby in the palace church of Saint-Florentin, the French Revolution nearly obliterated the church and the remains were completely demolished in the early 1800s, making it impossible to identify Leonardo Da Vinci’s exact gravestone. He may not have a recognised resting place, however, every day thousands of people flock to admire his works.
Image: Francesco Melzi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons