Leonardo da Vinci, the ultimate Renaissance man

Leonardo da Vinci, a self-portrait.
Leonardo da Vinci, a self-portrait. | Source
The Vitruvian Man, drawing by Leonardo da Vinci.  So named for the Roman architect, Vitruvius, it described how the human body could be the basis for a system of proportions.  An example of High Renaissance harmony.
The Vitruvian Man, drawing by Leonardo da Vinci. So named for the Roman architect, Vitruvius, it described how the human body could be the basis for a system of proportions. An example of High Renaissance harmony. | Source
The Baptism of Christ, painted by Verrocchio and da Vinci. Verrocchio ceased to paint after da Vinci's genius painting of the angel to the left of the painting.
The Baptism of Christ, painted by Verrocchio and da Vinci. Verrocchio ceased to paint after da Vinci's genius painting of the angel to the left of the painting. | Source

1452 - 1519

Leonardo da Vinci. The name is all that needs to be said to indicate the term coined by his genius, the Renaissance man. His artistic works brought in the High Renaissance period in Italy and he is considered the greatest painter of all times and the most diversely talented person who has ever lived.

da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath, painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer. His more than four thousand pages of personal manuscripts and notebooks, unknown to his contemporaries, prove that his genius was the epitome of the Renaissance humanist idea.

His drawings portraying the human body and his medical dissections led to our knowledge of the human anatomy as we know it today. His breadth of knowledge during his lifetime in nearly all of academia has never been surpassed by anyone.

da Vinci was so far ahead of his time that few of his inventions and designs were even feasible during his lifetime. He is revered, even today, for his technological ingenuity and genius for his drawings and writings of: flying machines, tanks, concentrated solar power, adding machines and even plate tectonics. He understood during his lifetime geologically why earthquakes occurred.

da Vinci was and is the universal man. He began life inauspiciously as Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, the illegitimate son of Piero da Vinci and a peasant woman named, Catarina, in the village of Vinci in the region of Tuscany in Italy. The 'ser' in his name indicates his father was a wealthy gentleman, a Florentine legal notary.

At the age of sixteen his father had him apprenticed to the artist Andrea di Cione known publicly as Verrocchio, who ran the finest artist workshop in all of Florence. Here the young da Vinci learned drafting, chemistry, metallurgy, metal working, plastic casting, leather working, mechanics and carpentry, as well as the artistic skills of drawing, painting, sculpting and modeling.

According to Vasari, da Vincie collaborated with Verrocchio on his painting, The Baptism of Christ, painting the young angel holding Jesus' robe to the left of the painting. da Vinci painted his part of the painting so far superior to Verrocchio that Verrocchio ceased to ever paint again, recognizing da Vinci's painting genius.

By the age of twenty, da Vinci qualified as a master in the Guild of St. Luke, a guild of artists and doctors of medicine, and so his father started him in his own artist's workshop. Because of having his own workshop, da Vinci is best-known primarily as a painter.

Surprisingly, only around fifteen of da Vinci's paintings survive today because of his constant experimentation with new painting techniques and his chronic procrastination which caused his paintings to be constant 'works in progress.'

His famed portrait, Mona Lisa, was never given to her husband, who commissioned him to paint it, as da Vinci was constantly working on it to bring it to bring it to perfection. In fact, da Vinci had it with him at the time of his death in France. Today, the diminutive Mona Lisa hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris. France, protected behind bullet proof glass.

da Vinci's other greatest painting, The Last Supper, painted in Milan at the convent at Santa Maria della Grazie, still hangs there today, but has been recently restored. It is considered the greatest religious painting of all time.

The last three years of his life, da Vinci spent in France living in a manor house given to him by Francis I. He died here and is buried in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert in Chateau d'Amboise in France.

da Vinci never married and had no close relationships with women thought he painted many of them. Beyond mere friendships with three women, da Vinci kept his private life secret. His most intimate relationships were with two of his workshop pupils, Salai and Melzi.

da Vinci's sexuality has always been a mystery an over the ages under much speculation. At the age of twenty-two, he was arrested for sodomy of a male prostitute, but the charges were dropped for lack of evidence. Following this, da Vinci disappeared off the radar for two years and today historians have no idea what he did or where he went.

da Vinci always described his feelings for Salai and Melzi as both loving and passionate and it has been claimed since the 16th century that these relationships were sexual or erotic in nature.

Melzi was with da Vinci when he died in France and he inherited all his scientific works, manuscripts, and collections and was named executor of da Vinci's estate.

It is his paintings on which da Vinci's fame rests and all of his paintings are considered masterpieces. It is the following paintings that best represent his genius,

The Virgin of the Rocks painted by Leonardo da Vinci
The Virgin of the Rocks painted by Leonardo da Vinci | Source

The Virgin of the Rocks 1483

This is da Vinci's first great painting commissioned by Lodovico Sforza il Moro de Milan (Duke of Milan) while da Vinci was working for him in Milan as a military engineer, architect and sculptor.

da Vinci's paintings are highly refined and novel as this one portrays. He was constantly on a search for complex and perfect balance in his compositions. His paintings show the qualities of grace, balance and restraint of High Renaissance art. He used the pyramidal grouping of figures and tondo, or circular form in his paintings. da Vinci conveyed great skill with which tones and color are merged into volume that his mysterious individuals evoked and are considered remarkable and unparalleled.

The unique qualities of da Vinci's works are:

  • innovative techniques he used in laying the paint on the canvas
  • detailed knowledge of anatomy, light, botany, mathematics and geology that he included in his paintings
  • his interest in physiognomy, a way in which humans register emotion in expression and gesture
  • innovative use of the human form in figurative composition
  • use of subtle gradation of tone and color

When viewing The Virgin of the Rocks, the viewer can see the pyramidal group of figures with the eyes centered on the Madonna. It is set in a fantastic landscape, dark and mysterious, and only illuminated by a mysterious soft twilight. This painting became the source of inspiration for the painter, Rafael's The Madonna della Sedia.

There are no hard lines or contours in the painting because of the Italian technique called sfumato (smoke) in which there are only seamless transitions between light and dark.

All these techniques were the genius of da Vinci's paintings and became the hallmarks of all paintings during the High Renaissance. His techniques also came down the line in art history.

The Last Supper painted by Leonardo da Vinci, the most famous religious painting ever painted.  It hangs at the convent of Santa Maria della Grazie in Milan, Italy.
The Last Supper painted by Leonardo da Vinci, the most famous religious painting ever painted. It hangs at the convent of Santa Maria della Grazie in Milan, Italy. | Source

The Last Supper 1492-1498

This painting, also one of the most famous in the world, was commissioned by Sforzo (Duke of Milan) and painted in Milan. The Last Supper is one of the most influential paintings of the Renaissance. It conveys the psychological drama of a moment in crisis, something that had never before been expressed in a painting.

da Vinci captures the exact moment just as Christ tells his apostles that one of them will betray him at the institution of the Eucharist. The viewer sees from the expressions and gestures of the apostles the effect the statement causes and the visible reaction and response of the apostles. They are highly agitated at what they have just heard Christ say.

Each apostle's reaction expresses what da Vinci called the "motions of the mind." He imposes a sense of order on the scene by placing Christ at the center of the painting framed by a halo-like architectural opening.

Christ's head becomes the vanishing point toward which all lines of this perspective setting converge. da Vinci arranges the apostles around Christ in four groups of three and they are united by posture and gesture. He painted Judas set apart from the others and the viewer knows this by his shadowed face.

It was da Vinci and during the High Renaissance period in Italy that these techniques were first used in painting. This is one of the reasons da Vinci's paintings are considered examples of his genius.

The Mona Lisa, first portrait painting by Leonardo da Vinci.  Today, it hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.
The Mona Lisa, first portrait painting by Leonardo da Vinci. Today, it hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. | Source

The song, "Mona Lisa" by Nat King Cole

Mona Lisa 1503 - 06

The most famous portrait painting in the world even today is the Mona Lisa. Songs have been written about her because of her mysterious, enigmatic half-smile and roving eyes that never leave the viewer.

Today, Mona Lisa is known as Lisa Gioconda, the wife of Francesco del Gioconda, a wealthy Florentine merchant who commissioned da Vinci to paint her. However, Francesco never received his finished portrait because it was forever a 'work in progress' by da Vinci. He kept the painting all his life in his attempt at perfection and it was found among his things in France where da Vinci died.

da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa in a soft light and he creates and atmosphere of enchantment that lends to the mystery of the painting. He uses the sfumato technique here, too, as there are no hard lines or contours, only soft seamless transitions between light and dark.

Her ambiguous half-smile is the most important feature of the paintings and she looks directly at the viewer, but her arms, torso, and head each twist subtly in a different directions. She conveys a sense of arrested movement.

His portrait is painted in oil paint evident in the soft folds of drapery, her texture of skin and the contrasting light and dark of the paintings known as chiaroscuro.

He painted the background as deeply receding with winding rivers and rock formations similar to The Virgin of the Rocks. This is da Vinci's personal view of the natural world and a world filled with movement and energy.

It is through all his paintings that da Vinci established that the artist was no longer just an artisan but an independent creator just as important as the poet and humanist was during the Renaissance. He influenced all the painters of his time and those who have come after him.

Because of Leonardo da Vinci, the concept of the artist as genius was born.


Sources:

www.metmuseum.org.

Piper, David. The Illustrated History of Art. 2004. Octopus Publishing Group: UK

© 2014 Suzette Walker suzettetaos

More by this Author


Comments 39 comments

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Superb hub, Dear Suzzette, He was certainly a man ahead of his time! You have provided a lot of great insight into this man of many talents and a lot of interesting facts about his life unknown to me. Up and more and sharing. Blessings, Faith Reaper. Sorry cannot that "me" off there at the end using this phone. me.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

I am privileged to have seen his work in Rome. Both the Sistine Chapel of course and at 7 am I stood alone in front of Chapel of the Pieta. Your artist series must be gathering large amounts of interest.


jhamann profile image

jhamann 2 years ago from Reno NV

It amazes me the amount of work and knowledge this man was able to display in his lifetime. I cannot think of one who can compare. Thank you for this great hub. Jamie


Mr. Colin of Stewart 2 years ago

Wow is the first word which comes to mind my sensational Suzette as you spoil us with yet another world class hub presentation and I sincerely know of the ultimate renaissance lady - You!!!!!!!! thank you for always taking me 'inside' the subject and treating me with new details and unknown facts - I just put an apple on your desk Miss S because you are my favorite teacher in the whole wide world. Canada time 2:38pm and sharing , of course on FB.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

And here I thought I was a true Renaissance man. LOL Not even close, Bill, but nice try!

Great read; learned some new stuff and that is always a good thing. Thank you Suzette.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

Has to be top among all men and you give us even more insight. Beautifully done. ^+


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

A wonderful hub Suzette. I have always been in awe of Leonardo da Vinci. As your hub said he is perhaps the most widely talented man of all time. He excelled in so many fields, designed so many incredible inventions, and procedures that were too advanced for his time. This was a joy to read and a wonderful tribute to this man. Voted awesome.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Faith: I am so glad enjoyed reading this on da Vinci. He was an incredible man and so interesting. I love innovative people that change the course of history and in this case, also art. Thanks for your support and your comments - most appreciated.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

mckbirdbks: LOL! You are talking about Michelangelo, which is fine, because he is a 'Renaissance man' also. Both of these men were amazing artists and still revered today. I too, have seen the Sistine Chapel and the Pieta in Rome also. Their works are certainly worth the trips! Thanks so much for reading this!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

jamie: I agree with you, it is amazing what one man could study and accomplish in one lifetime. No one does compare then or since. Talk about a man for all ages. Thanks so much for reading this and I am glad you enjoyed it. Your comments are most appreciated.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Dear Sir Colin: You are too kind with your comments. Glad you enjoyed reading this and I am happy to be your 'teacher' anytime. You are much like da Vinci with your poetry and ever inquiring mind. So glad you stopped by and enjoyed this!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Bill: You are a present day 'Renaissance Man' With all your blogs, your chickens, your self-sufficient garden, you've been a teacher, a businessman, had your own business etc. - you are the epitome of da Vinci - with a hand in every pot. Don't underestimate yourself! We all here on HP think you should run for POTUS, so you are giving da Vinci some real competition. Glad you enjoyed reading this and thanks so much for stopping by.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thanks so much Jackie and I appreciate your reading this and your comments. Most appreciated.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Jodah: da Vinci was one of a kind that is for sure. Thank you so much for reading this and I am so glad you enjoyed it. He was quite a man and certainly deserved of all our tributes to him. Thanks for your comments - most appreciated.


cmoneyspinner1tf profile image

cmoneyspinner1tf 2 years ago from Austin, Texas

@suzettenaples - Liked the HUB but especially appreciate the title.

When one says Leornardo da Vinci, the ultimate Renaissance man, you can almost hear a chorus of voices in the background singing!

They swapped out the words "jolly good fellow" for the words "Renaissance man" and started bellowing heartily:

- For he's a Renaissance man.

- For he's a Renaissance man.

- For he's a Renaissance man.

- Which nobody can deny!!

If they try to deny it, this HUB makes it extremely difficult. :)


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello suzettenaples. LOL Don't get old.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

cmoneyspinner: Your article and question about 'renaissance men and women' actually inspired this hub! da Vinci is the original and no one has been able to achieve what he did in his lifetime. We can only hope and look at his great genius for inspiration. Thanks so much for stopping by to read this. I appreciated your comments!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Oh Mike, tell me about it. I am easily confused at this stage of my life! LOL! Thanks for commenting again.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Wow…this is one of the best articles on DaVinci I have ever read. Very comprehensive, and well written. And as Jackie said, “You gave us more insight” into this mysterious genius and legend. Voted up and shared.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

I so enjoyed reading this, Suzette, you have laid out the hub in a very pleasing and easy to follow format. Your critique of the different paintings is so interesting. It reminds me of a fantastic art teacher I had in college. About da Vinci, my teacher often said the same things you did, that da Vinci conveyed movement and energy in his paintings and had a profound sense of expression of the human face, distance in the landscape backgrounds, the pyramidal grouping which brings the eye to focus on the main subject. Well done, Suzette.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Now your talking Suzette! lol! Da Vinci was and is my hero, I have so many books on him, and most about his life, but his inventions totally fascinate me, what a guy, from bridges to war machines, airoplane plans to all sorts of designs for everyday use, and of course his paintings. If we could go back in time to meet one person from the middle ages he would be the one, fantastic hub, nell


mylindaelliott profile image

mylindaelliott 2 years ago from Louisiana

Great information. I love your choice of which pictures of his to show.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

So interesting Suzette and I wish you a great weekend.

Eddy.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Genna: Thanks so much for your lovely comments. I am so happy you enjoyed reading this. He was some kind of genius. The Renaissance is my favorite time in history. Thanks for the comments and your visit - most appreciated.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Phyllis: Thank you so much for your lovely comments. I took a Western Civilization class in college and have been interested in the Renaissance period since then. His paintings that survived are few but they are genius. I think I was an art historian in another life. LOL! I have visited some of the great art museums in Europe and the U.S. and that is where my knowledge comes from. The Cleveland Museum of Art gives great art classes and workshops where I have taken quite a few. Thanks for your visit and I am glad you enjoyed an appreciated this hub.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Nell: You know how to pick your heroes! LOL! I love the Renaissance period and da Vinci is just a genius that will never be replicated again. So glad you enjoyed reading this. His inventions are something else and how could he have the vision then to see airplanes and helicopters flying? I find him amazing. I love his paintings and I am an 'art junkie' I guess, especially about the Renaissance. Thanks so much for your comments and for stopping by to read. So glad you enjoyed and appreciated this hub!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

mylindaelliott: Thanks so much for stopping by to read this. I am so glad you enjoyed reading it. I love da Vinci's paintings and his work in genius. Thanks for your comments - most appreciated.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Eddy: Thanks so much and I hope you have a great weekend too. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. Most appreciated.


Ashok Rao profile image

Ashok Rao 2 years ago from Mumbai, India

He was not only an artist but a sculptor, scientist, inventor and an engineer. He was a creative genius. People remember him for the painting - Mona Lisa, but he was more than that. I think this article does justice to this multifaceted personality- another feather in your cap.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi Ashok: I think da Vinci will never be surpassed in his genius and creative works. He is the most unique figure in history, in my opinion. Thanks so much for reading this and I am glad you enjoyed it.


therunningman profile image

therunningman 2 years ago from Rhode Island

Absolutely amazing man. Imagine what he would be doing were he alive today. Great article.


kerlund74 profile image

kerlund74 2 years ago from Sweden

Interesting hub about a fascinating artist.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

kerlund: I am so glad you found this interesting! da Vinci is quite the Renaissance man - the most genius and diverse of men. Thanks so much for your comments and for your visit - most appreciated.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 2 years ago from Dubai

Great hub about Leonardo Da Vinci, he was a great artist with a unique vision. Voted up.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Vellur: I am so glad you enjoyed reading this. da Vinci's genius, I believe, will never be surpassed. To be so talented in so many areas is really something. Thanks so much for reading and for your comments. Most appreciated.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 20 months ago from sunny Florida

You have shared one of the most fascinating artists that I have read about ..extensively but no matter how often I do, every time I read a new article I learn new things. This is true in your article as well.

He is a master and you have showcased him nicely.

Voted up++++ and shared

Angels are on the way to you this evening ps


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 20 months ago from New Delhi, India

Great hub about a great artist and the ultimate Renaissance man!

A very well written hub with good analysis of his work. I learnt few more things about Leonardo-da-Vinci from your hub.

Thanks for sharing and voted up!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 20 months ago from Taos, NM Author

pstraubie: Thank you so much for your lovely comments. da Vinci will never be surpassed as an artist or Renaissance man. Thanks so much for visiting and angels are with you also.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 20 months ago from Taos, NM Author

Chitrangada: Thank you so much for your kind comments and I am glad you enjoyed reading this. Thanks for your visit.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working