LEONARDO DA VINCI
A MAN OF GREAT TALENT INVENTOR, ARTIST AND SCIENTIST
Leonardo da Vinci is considered the greatest genius in history, a brilliant and multifaceted man, of ingenuity and universal talent, scientist, inventor, artist, engineer, anatomist.
He has been called a Universal Genius having made important discoveries and innovations in the most disparate fields, from mechanical engineering, to science, from anatomy to painting. Unique, fruitful, and universal genius Leonardo is considered one of the most ingenious and prolific minds of the Renaissance.
In addition to his famous paintings, Leonardo da Vinci left to posterity an enormous mass of notebooks (now called “codes“) full of notes and drawings, some still not completely deciphered today, in which the fascinating activity of the man of science, of genius and of writer.
Trained in Florence in 1500, and therefore at the height of the Florentine Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci had the extraordinary merit of tackling complex problems and ambitious projects, pursuing, for example, the dream of flying, a recurring desire in man’s thoughts since older era.
In the museum, after years of careful studies and research, starting from the construction of his famous machines and mechanisms, we intended to enhance and highlight the unity of Leonardo’s thought, which is summarized with his mechanistic vision of the world.
For Leonardo, in fact, machines, the human body and the world of nature are governed by the same iron laws. This vision finds expression in a series of masterful drawings that mark the birth of modern scientific illustration.
AN EXTRAORDINARY MAN
Talking about Leonardo da Vinci means delving into the roots of the Renaissance and reconstructing his character by contextualizing him at the dawn of the scientific revolution that will transform the vision of the modern world.
Leonardo had immediate fortunes as a painter but over time he was appreciated for his extraordinary personality. Skilled and affable conversationalist, described by historians as very handsome, tall, well dressed, even extravagantly with clothes that he designed himself, he knew how to range in many genres of human interest.
Legends were born around him, still cultivated today, which find fruitful aspirations in the interpretation of his designs.
Impossible to tell in a few lines the rich and complex existence of this extraordinary man, much has been written about him. We therefore prefer to reveal some details of his personality and his great genius.
Let’s think, for example, of Leonardo’s first work.
Vasari, a historian of 1500, says that Leonardo, having to decorate a wooden shield at the request of his father, decided to represent a winged monster as an effigy. To do it in the most realistic way possible, he combined distinct parts of dead animals and insects, such as lizards, grasshoppers, snakes, and crickets without even noticing the stench they emanated, such was the artistic passion that moved him.
The father, struck by the realism of the work, sold the shield for one hundred ducats to merchants who, in turn, sold it to the Duke of Milan for three hundred ducats.
This was the first known work of Leonardo da Vinci, a work that revealed his aptitude for combining imagination and observation, a gift that accompanied him throughout his life.
Leonardo is a willing and helpful young man and immediately understands that he can redeem himself from his condition as an illegitimate son by learning as much as possible to master the various artistic disciplines: from painting to sculpture, from Goldsmithing to architecture to be able to attend the most important Italian courts. Which only the best artists could access.
In a short time, his skill surpasses that of the master. Vasari says that Verrocchio, having commissioned the young assistant Leonardo to paint one of the angels of the Baptism of Christ, was amazed by the beauty of the result, so much so that he said he no longer wanted to pick up a brush, almost resentful that a boy she knew more than him.
When Leonardo Da Vinci leaves Verrocchio’s workshop, Ludovico il Moro calls him to Milan. Curiously, he presents himself as an excellent singer and musician, carrying with him a gold lyre with a bow, built by him, in the shape of a horse’s head.
Here begins a period of intense work, not only artistic, but also technological and military, and Leonardo opens his own workshop surrounding himself with young students.
One in particular catch his attention: the beautiful, but lively and turbulent Gian Giacomo Caprotti known as Salaì, from the term Saladino which means devil.
Often used as a model, he seems to be the one to give the face, in the following years, to San Giovanni Battista.
Among the various and important works commissioned from Leonardo Da Vinci in this period, the stenographic arrangements of the court parties at The Palazzo Sforza stand out for their originality.
One of these, for the celebration of the marriage between Gian Galeazzo Sforza and Isabella d’Este, is the Feast of Paradise, in which the seven known planets then turned, personified by poets who praised the Duchess Isabella.
While dedicating himself to the creation of the famous horse, he also works on the decorations of the Sala delle Asse of the Castello Sforzesco and on the Last Supper in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
As a gesture of gratitude for the various works created for Ludovico il Moro, he receives as a gift from him a vineyard of sixteen Milanese “pertica”, about one hectare, in the Porta Vercellina area.
The historical events of the early sixteenth century led Leonardo to pass from one commission to another: from the Medici, lords of Florence, to the powerful Borgias of Rome, up to the Amboise, new governors of Milan.
He broadened his knowledge in the fields of architecture, town planning and hydraulics, even designing innovative solutions to make the Milanese Navigli navigable.
In this period, he is accompanied by Francesco Melzi who will become one of his most faithful students, remaining with him until his death in Amboise.
Upon the death of Giuliano de’ Medici, Leonardo accepted the invitation of the French king Francis I, who entrusted him with the task of designing his new royal residence.
Later the King of France offered Leonardo a residence at the Castle of Clos Lucé and an annuity, he admired him as an artist but also as a philosopher.
On April 23, 1519, Leonardo summons the royal notary bureau to dictate his will. He leaves nothing to chance. He gives a detailed description of his legacies and how his funeral will be carried out, the choice of the church of Saint Florentin in Amboise and the funeral procession that will be opened by the rector and the prior of the church, accompanied by 60 poor people, each with a torch in hand, each of which will be paid 70 money tornesi. After the ceremony, three large and thirty low masses must be celebrated according to the Gregorian rite. Each church that celebrates the service will receive ten pounds of wax in large candles.
Leonardo spares no expense and is also the director of his funeral, he dies on May 2, 1519.
“Leonardo, a man who wakes up too early from the darkness while other men were still asleep” (Sigmund Freud)
The young Leonardo, proved to be extremely gifted for drawing and painting, and thanks to this precocious talent, in 1467 his father, Ser Piero da Vinci, let him enter as an apprentice in the workshop of his friend Andrea del Verrocchio in Florence.
The years spent in the workshop were fundamental for Leonardo’s training, as Verrocchio was not only a painter but also a sculptor, carver, goldsmith, metallurgist, expert in mixing techniques of colours and the preparation of paints.
After about ten years he leaves Verrocchio and embarks on a career as an independent artist. Leonardo uses drawing as an even more valid means of expression and communication than words.
He is a great innovator: he deepens and develops the precepts of perspective, already introduced by his predecessor Leon Battista Alberti.
He develops the theory of aerial perspective, considering the blurring of objects at distance and the change of their colours.
The deep observation of nature leads him to capture landscapes so rich in detail that they seem photographed and allows him to describe flowers and plants with a precision worthy of a botanical treatise.
In portraits of people, Leonardo introduces the concept of the opposite: that is, it shows a different torsion of the head and torso with respect to the main axis, a revolutionary technique since the portraits until then were drawn only from the front or in profile.
His studies of anatomy and the proportions of the human body are extremely valuable even when he paints portraits that will make him famous all over the world.
In fact, he draws with scrupulous attention the individual parts, hands, arms, eyes, mouth: he uses them as a means capable of communicating feelings to the observer.
He introduces the concept of nuance, chiaroscuro, glazing which are the techniques that make his paintings so alive and true, and which will henceforth be adopted by the great names of art such as Michelangelo Merisi known as Caravaggio.
Leonardo da Vinci has the insatiable desire to understand and then draw everything he sees, spending his life exploring everything, including the human body: “this perfect machine”.
Much more complicated than his machines made of gears, the body fascinates him, he wants to understand what’s inside, how it works and what happens when it finally stops.
To study it, he dissects bodies, of men and women without families or of those executed in the basement of Santa Maria Nuova (hospital a few steps from the Museum, in the historic centre of Florence, still operational).
Study and draw their bones, veins and arteries, muscles and tendons, eye, and nerves.
Leonardo planned to finish the treatise on human anatomy entitled “De figura umana” for the winter of 1510, but unfortunately, he failed.
In September 1513 he left Milan for Rome, wanting to resume his research after the death of the professor of anatomy at the University of Pavia, Marcantonio della Torre, who had taught him so much.
However, you must suspend them because they are accused of “improper practices”. In 1516 he moved to France to the court of King Francis I where he died two years later without ever returning to anatomical studies.
All the beautiful and numerous anatomical drawings by Leonardo da Vinci are the property of the Queen of England, well preserved at Windsor Castle. These sheets are among the most surprising works of the great genius, both artistic and scientific, as it is displayed through the use of the image what was previously described only in words.
Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15 in Anchiano, a small town near Florence, the illegitimate son of the Notary Ser Piero and Caterina, a peasant or tavern servant, a woman of humble origins. Leonardo is welcomed in his paternal house, in the village of Vinci.
He moves with his father to Florence, where he lives in a house in front of Palazzo Vecchio.
He enters as an apprentice in the workshop of Verrocchio, an illustrious painter of the time. He works with Botticelli, Perugino, Girlandaio, all artists of great fame. Among the many disciples of Verrocchio, Leonardo will be the only one to inherit the versatility of the master.
He collaborates in the creation of the angel on the left, in the painting “The Baptism of Christ” by Verrocchio.
Leonardo began his independent artistic career, enrolling in the Compagnia dei Pittori di San Luca.
He works on the altarpiece “Adoration of the Magi” at the Church of San Donato in Scopeto, a work that will nevertheless remain unfinished.
He was hired as a “court engineer” at the Lordship of Ludovico il Moro. He deepens his studies of engineering and architecture, paints, and teaches.
Study the construction of the monumental “equestrian statue”. He only makes the terracotta model, which was then destroyed by the French with the invasion of Milan in 1499.
He creates the portrait of Cecilia Gallerani, lover of Ludovico il Moro, known as “The Lady with the Ermine”.
He works at the painting of the “Last Supper” with a particular fresco technique. The work, however, is destined to deteriorate over time.
Leonardo returned to Florence where he exhibited on cardboard the Sant’Anna at the Church of the Annunciation.
Leonardo entered the service of Cesare Borgia with the title of military engineer.
Together with Michelangelo he decorates the Salone del Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio: he starts the mural painting depicting the battle of Anghiari, which however will not be finished. He works to make “La Gioconda”.
Leonardo moved back to Milan at the invitation of Charles d’Amboise, the new governor of Milan. He takes up his studies on flight again, deals with physics, optics, and hydraulic engineering. In Pavia he resumes his anatomy studies by dissecting other cadavers
He moved to Rome at the invitation of Giuliano de Medici. He sees Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and continues his studies of geometry and hydraulic engineering.
Appointed first royal painter, engineer, and architect by Francis I, he moved to Cloud Castle in Amboise.
He died on 2 May in Cloux, the current castle-museum of Clos Lucé, leaving the manuscripts, drawings and tools to his disciple and main heir Francesco Melzi. Of his paintings, mysteriously, there is no mention.