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A Man of Many Choices
Leonardo da Vinci was a man who did a lot of things in his life. One of the most inspiring things about Leonardo is the amount of perseverance and courage he uses to overcome the hardships and trials in his life.
Leonardo was born on April 14th, 1452 in the Vinci which is located in the Arno River’s lower valley. Born to Caterina, a peasant women, and Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci, a notary, Leonardo had a double life childhood. Not much is noted on his early childhood, but it is known that he spent the first five years of his life living with his mother. After that, he moved to his father’s house. Living with a father who had three failed marriages and was working on a fourth, Leonardo focussed on his studies, even though he was taught in an informal environment. When he was fourteen years old he realized that he wanted to study art, so his father sent him to train under Andrea di Cione, who was more commonly known as Verrocchio. For the next six years Verrocchio taught Leonardo a wide variety of art skills including: Carpentry, sculpting, painting, metallurgy, chemistry moulding, metal and leather working. Learning from Verrocchio was a great honor for Leonardo. He was known for teaching well known artists like Perugino and Sandro Botticelli (Leonardodavinci.net).
One of the most important works that Leonardo worked on with Verrocchio was the oil painting of the Baptism of Jesus. In the painting it shows Jesus being baptized while angels kneel by his side, holding his robe. Verrocchio was impressed by Leonardo’s oil painting technique. It was unlike any other style Verrocchio or anyone else in the 15th century had seen. By the time he was twenty, he qualified to join the Guild of st. Luke, which was a group populated by doctors of medicine and artists. But Leonardo decided to work with Verrocchio for five more years instead (Leonardodavinci.net).
1482 to 1499 was a time in Leonardo’s life known as the First Milanese Period. In this time Leo moved to Milan to work for the duke of the city, Ludovico Sforza who had a handful of powerful projects that he had set up for Leo. Possessing the title “Painter and engineer of the Duke”, Leo spent three years in Milan working on a painting titled:“The Virgin of the Rocks”. This painting showed Mary, the mother of Jesus, being surrounded by infant Jesus and John the Baptist while an angel watches nearby. This painting provides more evidence of how revolutionary Leo’s painting style was. The Virgin of the Rocks now resides in the Louvre in Paris. Leo’s next project was painting one of the most monumental pieces of art in history: The Last Supper. Leo started working on this painting in 1495 and completed it three years later in 1498. The painting portrays Jesus telling his disciples that he was going to be arrested by the Romans and persecuted. According to Giorgio Vasari, an Italian painter and historian, Leo wanted to paint the last supper to express what each disciple was feeling when Jesus told them that he was going to be betrayed. Their feelings ranged from feeling loved to confusion or fear. Leonardo did accomplish what he was trying to show in this painting extremely well (Lives of artists, 1568). Today, The Last Supper hangs in the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Italy where very few people have the privilege of viewing it. Both the Virgin of the Rocks and The Last Supper were Leonardo’s best work while he was employed by the Duke of Milan. Leo stayed in Milan until the Duke fell out of power when the French occupied Milan.
The years 1500 to 1507 were the Second Florentine Period for Leonardo. In 1500 Leo was still living in Milan where his reputation was growing rapidly. He was employed by the much feared son of the Pope, Cesare Borgia, who hired Leo as a senior military architect and general engineer. His job was to travel around the country, inspecting the lands and sketching up early maps and city plans. He did this for a year before he changed his mind and decided to moved back to Florence where he was commissioned to create a mural in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio. Across from where Leo was painting was an incomplete mural created by Leo’s rival, Michelangelo. Leo’s mural was titled “The Battle of Anghiari”. Unfortunately, Leo decided to moved back to Milan, leaving the mural unfinished to go and work for the French governor. However, before Leo left for Milan he was approached by rich Florentine merchant by the name of Francesco del Giocondo. Giocondo hired Leo to paint a picture of his wife, Mona Lisa. Starting in 1503, Leonardo began working on what would become what is argued as the most famous painting in history. Like his previous painting, the Last Supper, it took Leo three years to complete this piece of art. Some scholars don’t believe that the story of the merchant’s wife is true, but that’s what the evidence points to. Regardless of who the women is, it’s impossible to deny that the Mona Lisa painting is one of the most revolutionary painting in history. Along with the Virgin of the Rocks, the Mona Lisa hangs in the Louvre in Paris.
After finishing up the Mona Lisa, Leo moved back to Milan in 1507. This part of his life is known as the Second Milanese Period. In Milan, Leo was employed by Charles d’Amboise, the French governor, as an architect planner and advisor. He didn’t paint much in this time. Instead, he focussed on designing buildings such as governor Charles’ palace. Even though Leo’s painting career was done at this point, he still had pupils and old art friends that would come to learn from him. And of course Leo was always happy to spend time with them, teaching them what he knew.
One day, Gian Giacomo Trivulzio came to Leo to hire him. Just coming back to Milan as marshal of the French army, Gian wanted Leo to sculpt his tomb. This was a great honor for Leo. He spent years working with Gian, designing a huge monument that would be placed in San Nazaro Maggiore. Unfortunately, the project was taking so much time that Gian decided to abandon the project and go with a more humble grave. Gian’s tomb was only Leo’s second uncomplete project next to the Florentine mural of the Battle of Anghiari. (Da Vinci Life)
Years later in 1513, the French were forced out of Milan. Leo headed to Rome to connect with an old friend, Giuliano de’Medici, who was the brother of Pope Leo the tenth. Giuliano gave Leo a living space in the Vatican. While Michelangelo and Raphael had a lot of commissions, Leo spent 3 years without any projects.
In 1516, Leo was employed by the king of France, Francis the first. So, Leo left his homeland Italy, for the last time. When he got to France the king gave him the title of first architect, painter, and engineer to the king. He was placed in a small village called Cloux that was near the king’s palace. In 1519 at the age of 67, Leo died while he was living in France. He was buried in the San-Florentin church. Sadly, the church was destroyed during the French Revolution. These days we don’t know where Leonardo’s grave is. (Da Vinci Life)
Leonardo da Vinci’s life has influenced millions of architects, artists, and inventors throughout history. Personally, he’s been one of the biggest people in history who’s influenced my life. When I learned about Leonardo when I was a child was fascinating. Seeing how he persevered through every hardship he faced motivated me to do the same. He also showed me that I don’t have to be great at one thing. I can be an incredible artist, athlete, and student instead of having to choose one category to excel at. Leonardo da Vinci has changed millions of people’s lives, including mine. He is an excellent role model for living lives filled with courage, creativity, humility, and passion.