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Leonardo Da Vinci - Artist, Inventor, Engineer

Updated on September 21, 2010

The Great Leonardo Da Vinci

His full name is Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, but most simply know him as Da Vinci or Leonardo Da Vinci. He was born on April 15, 1452 and died May 2, 1519.

Most know him as a famous painter, but he was so much more.

Three reasons to love Da Vinci

He was creative, innovative, and a genius.


He was centuries ahead of his time.


He is one of those people that is incredibly multi-talented.

The Name Da Vinci - Your first impression

What work do you think of when you hear the name Da Vinci?

See results

The Life and Times of Leonardo Da Vinci

A little history on the legend

At age 14 (although I've also read 17), Leonardo and his father moved to Florence, where he apprenticed to Andrea di Cione, known as Verrocchio. Among the painters apprenticed or associated with the workshop and also to become famous, were Ghirlandaio, Perugino, Botticelli, and Lorenzo di Credi.

According to tradition, Leonardo posed for Verrocchio's David, as seen at left.

In the studios of men like Verrocchio's, artists were regarded primarily as craftsmen and only the master such as Verrocchio had social standing in the community. It was when the student created their "masterwork" that they could themselves be considered a master.

Leonardo would have been exposed to a vast range of technical skills and had the opportunity to learn drafting, chemistry, metallurgy, leather working, carpentry, and mechanics. The study obviously included artistic skills of drawing, painting, sculpting and modeling.

Leonardo Da Vinci was a quick study and his genius soon eclipsed that of his master and by age 20 he joined the painter's guild of Florence. From there he began getting commissions to work on projects from various people of high standing and wealth throughout current day Italy.

Da Vinci Trivia

A little known bit of trivia about Leonardo Da Vinci was that he may have been dyslexic. He would often write his notes backwards, which is common with left-handed, dyslexic people.

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa

Da Vinci: The Artist

Although being most known for his paintings, he was not a prolific painter, instead he was more of a draftsmen, keeping journals filled with sketches and detailed drawings. One of the things that he is known for is his study of human emotions, often following a subject around for hours trying to get a feel for their expressions.

He was also known for his scientific approach to light and shadows, allowing his paintings to take on a three dimensional feel. Da Vinci paintings were realistic, which was not the norm for that era. His influence on painting realism became the standard for painters who followed in the 16th century.

The Last Supper represents the scene from the final days of Jesus, as narrated in the Gospel of John 13:21, when Jesus announced that one of his Twelve apostles would betray him.

The Last Supper is one of his best-known and worst-preserved pieces of art from Da Vinci. Doomed from the start by Leonardo's experimental technique, the mural began to deteriorate even before the artist's death. Within 50 years it was almost indecipherable, and it was repainted twice during the 18th century.

The painting continued to suffer, as Napoleon's soldiers almost destroyed it. If not bad enough, later the monks that cared for it actually cut a door through the bottom of the painting!

Much later, the painting miraculously survived the allied bombings of World War II. Finally, now it is well cared-for in Santa Maria delle Grazie, in Milan Italy.

Some of his flying machines

Some of his flying machines
Some of his flying machines

Da Vinci: The Inventor

He was well regarded and valued as an engineer during his time. In 1502, Leonardo produced a drawing of a single span 720-foot (240 m) bridge as part of a civil engineering project for Ottoman Sultan Beyazid II of Istanbul. The bridge was intended to span an inlet at the mouth of the Bosporus known as the Golden Horn. Beyazid did not pursue the project, because he believed that such a construction was impossible.

Leonardo's vision was resurrected in 2001 when a smaller bridge based on his design was constructed in Norway.

Golden Horn" bridge built on October 31, 2001 in Oslo, Norway

Golden Horn" bridge built on October 31, 2001 in Oslo, Norway
Golden Horn" bridge built on October 31, 2001 in Oslo, Norway

A Short List of his Inventions - He had many firsts

He was clearly a man ahead of his time. Here is a list of just a few of his inventions and ideas. He was truly an amazing man!

  • He sketched the first parachute
  • The first helicopter
  • The first airplane
  • The first tank
  • The first repeating rifle
  • A swinging bridge
  • A paddle boat
  • The first 'motor' car
  • A machine for testing the tensile strength of wire
  • A calculator
  • A double hull for ships and boats

Virtuvius

Virtuvius
Virtuvius

Da Vinci was known as an exceptional scientist. He practiced more as an observer and theorist.

Da Vinci documented scientific theories, such as a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics. During the 1490s he studied mathematics under Luca Pacioli and sketched various complex shapes, in a skeletal layout to be engraved as plates for Pacioli's book Divina Proportione, published in 1509. In the book, Da Vinci is credited with first ever published drawing of a Rhombicuboctahedron (at left) was done by Da Vinci, in the Divina Proportione.

In addition, he quickly became master of topographic anatomy, drawing many studies of muscles, tendons and other visible anatomical features, as seen to the right. Leonardo's formal training in the anatomy of the human body began with his apprenticeship to Verrocchio. His teacher insisted that all his students learn anatomy. Leonardo closely observed and recorded the effects of age and of human emotion on the physiology, in particular; rage.

His practice was to describe it in utmost detail.

Since he had no formal training in science, his scientific genius was less highly regarded by his contemporaries than it would have been otherwise.

Even though he studied his subjects by careful observations, he did take part in dissecting human and animal corpses, after being given permission by various hospitals.

A page from Leonardo's journal showing his study of a foetus in the womb (c. 1510), as seen at left.

Da Vinci Videos

Pink

Da Vinci was often known to wear pink to make his complexion look more "fresh"

Books about Da Vinci

Your thoughts on Da Vinci? - Any suggestions or comments on the lens?

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    • Michelllle profile image

      Michelllle 4 years ago

      I love the kid book you chose about Da Vinci. There are a couple of other great kid books about Da Vinci. "Leonardo and the Flying Boy" by Laurence Anholt (my favorite) and "leonardo Da Vinci" by Diane Stanley. -Loved this lens.

    • Bella Stella profile image

      Bella Stella 6 years ago

      This was an interesting lens with a wealth of important information. You did a great job!

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

      Da Vinci was an incredible man, it is hard to believe one person would have so many talents, and sad that he was so ahead of his time that many of his plans and inventions were never fully realised. He is one of those people you wish you could bring forward in time so that he could see some of his amazing ideas brought to life. Blessed by a Renaissance History Angel.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      He had to be a genius to do all that he did so well. I wonder if he found a way to squeeze more hours out of a day some how and died before he let that secret be known. I love how concise you are while also covering your topic so well. Well done.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Excellent ! Best wishes

    • newbizmau profile image

      Maurice Glaude 7 years ago from Mobile, AL

      You can learn so much in just a short lens. That's why I love it.

    • profile image

      Light-in-me 8 years ago

      He was brilliant and fascinating and so is this lens.

      Very nice!

      Robin

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 8 years ago

      Cool lens on Da Vinci! Blessed by an angel!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Truly a remarkable man and a classic!

    • profile image

      qlcoach 8 years ago

      A wonderful and uplifting lens. More than 5 stars worth. I am a fan. Hope you will visit. Sincerely: Gary Eby, author and therapist.

    • profile image

      foreverme 8 years ago

      Awesome! Leonardo Da Vinci has long been my favorite historical figure and I love your lens.

    • RolandTumble profile image

      RolandTumble 8 years ago

      I voted for the Mona Lisa, but it's just by a hair. Actually, the first thing I think of is his extraordinary versatility.

    • BarryKrost profile image

      BarryKrost 8 years ago

      Very Cool.

    • profile image

      ratso 8 years ago

      excellent lens of one of my favorite idols. 5*

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Excellent lens, really enjoyed reading it. I would love it to include more detailed information... although I think you covered everything already so that could be difficult!

    • Bianconeri profile image

      Bianconeri 8 years ago

      very good lens 5*..... He was just amazing

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 9 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      great lens about my favorite artist

    • Tower LM profile image

      Tower LM 9 years ago

      Great lens! Reminds me there was time I loved to learn about artists and their work and Da Vinci was one of my favourite. 5 stars for you.

    • Andy-Po profile image

      Andy 9 years ago from London, England

      Excellent lens. My hero. I model myself on da Vinci (well some aspects anyway) I'm a physicist with artistic tendencies. I'm even trying to grow a beard

    • profile image

      prems 9 years ago

      great lens, i rate *****

    • dc64 lm profile image

      dc64 lm 9 years ago

      I'm glad you did one on Leonardo Da Vinci. I also admire him, and am in awe at how his mind worked. What things could he accomplish if he were alive today? Who knows...

    • profile image

      tokyobabydoll 9 years ago

      Great lens, very informative.

    • Tiddledeewinks LM profile image

      Tiddledeewinks LM 9 years ago

      Interesting lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      This is one of art lense i love. Thanks for your great work. Give you 5 stars :)

    • monarch13 profile image

      monarch13 9 years ago

      5 stars and lensrolled on my Churchill lens. Thanks for comprehensive background!

    • papawu profile image

      papawu 9 years ago

      I don't know about dyslexic. I would teeter more toward being extremely secretive and wary of the "The Church." I believe he was also a member of the infamous "Illuminati," made infamous by The Church.But I really enjoyed this lens and give it 5*****

    • profile image

      GregGiordano 9 years ago

      My son just finished a short study of Da Vinci. I will forward this lens to him. Great job!

    • triathlontraini1 profile image
      Author

      triathlontraini1 9 years ago

      Thank you! :)

      Big thank you to Everything Mouse. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Nice article on this Renaissance painter and original thinker -- good work. Best to you and your lens projects.

    • AlisonMeacham profile image

      AlisonMeacham 9 years ago

      I will use this as a great resource for teaching. You did a wonderful job with this lens. 5 stars and Angel Blessed

    • profile image

      roysumit 9 years ago

      I knew a few things about Da Vinci - the scientist; now I learnt a lot more about him. He was an exception with so many exceptional qualities, a master painter, an intutive inventor, a scientist and what not! Thanks for presenting such an excellent lens. Five star to you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Aw! Da Vinci's art will always be an example of "fine art". Another nice lens that is a work of art, Mr Triathlontraining! Cheers!

    • profile image

      andrphilip 9 years ago

      Wow! This lense is a masterpiece in its self. This is an excellent template for me to follow.

    • CherylK profile image

      Cheryl Kohan 9 years ago from Minnesota

      I just read the entire lens, again, and enjoyed it just as much this time as the first. It's really beautiful...you're brilliant.

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      RuthCoffee 9 years ago

      Such a brilliant and talented man, excellent tribute.

    • CrypticFragment1 profile image

      Tammy Winand 9 years ago from McleodGanj HP India

      Brilliant! DaVinci is an inspiration.

    • profile image

      miragana 9 years ago

      Good day! I like your lens. It is very informative.

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      I have some new improvements.

      If you don't.

      Squidoo Lens

      Will you please visit my site also.

      mliragana.blogspot.com

      Thank you very much for your time.

    • triathlontraini1 profile image
      Author

      triathlontraini1 9 years ago

      Thank you for all the nice compliments! :)

      I agree, I think the world could always use a few more of these folks with this level of talent. Maybe they're out there, but just not known yet.

    • Spook LM profile image

      Spook LM 9 years ago

      Lovely lens, I admire gifted people and he was one of the finest, so bright and talented, we could do with a few more today.

    • GypsyPirate LM profile image

      GypsyPirate LM 9 years ago

      Spectacular use of the SquidWho format. I love Da Vinci's work, and thoroughly enjoyed reading your work here.

    • profile image

      Zarea 9 years ago

      Awesome lens on one of the most intriguing people in history!

    • profile image

      ageofz 9 years ago

      Great lens! 5 stars from me

    • Steve Dizmon profile image

      Steve Dizmon 9 years ago from Nashville, TN

      Enjoyed the lens. I am one of those few that thinks more of Da Vinci as an inventor, engineer and visionary. I am fascinated by his futuristic, for his time, concepts and proposed mechanical perceptions.

      Great subject.

    • beeobrien lm profile image

      beeobrien lm 9 years ago

      Wonderful lens. It's clear and so easy to read. Thank you. I'll have to come back later for the video.

    • Springbok LM profile image

      Springbok LM 9 years ago

      This is a brilliant lens, the content is king and theeasy to read and follow. 5*****

    • triathlontraini1 profile image
      Author

      triathlontraini1 9 years ago

      Contact lenses, eh? He was so far ahead of his time, who knows!

    • PleasantValley LM profile image

      PleasantValley LM 9 years ago

      Wonderful glorious lens! By the way, I am under the impression that LDV toyed around with the idea of contact lenses.

    • profile image

      spiritartist 9 years ago

      P.S. Just lensrolled ya. Tag, you're it!

    • profile image

      spiritartist 9 years ago

      DaVinci Rules! *****!

    • profile image

      cowgirlup1123 9 years ago

      Wonderful lense yes wonderful lense. I love Da Vinci I have always enjoyed his work.

    • profile image

      JoeR 9 years ago

      Da Vinci's portraits are great to draw and learn from. I have gone back to his work repeatedly in my life.

      I didn't know he was the model for Verrocchio's David. Nor did I know that he may have been dyslexic. Good info Tri-man. Thanks!

      Joe

    • caketech profile image

      caketech 9 years ago

      Great lens! 5*'s! Da Vinci has always been interesting to me not only because of his paintings, but because of his inventions.

    • CherylK profile image

      Cheryl Kohan 9 years ago from Minnesota

      So interesting! I learned lots. He really was a genius.

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 9 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      A 5* lens on da Vinci - excellent.

    • profile image

      drawinglines 9 years ago

      Historians actually speculate that he may have written backwards to keep his notebooks private. No one else could read them.

    • SherryHolderHunt profile image

      SherryHolderHunt 9 years ago

      Wonderful lens about one of my favorites. He was phenomenal, you did an excellent lens in his honor!

    • profile image

      lhiller 9 years ago

      Great lens about an exceptional man!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 9 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Really nice lens, a very nice description of the achievements of this phenominal man.

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 9 years ago

      I love his art but its his interest in science that fascinated me. The man was ahead of his time.

      5 stars

      Liz

    • carrieokier profile image

      carrieokier 9 years ago

      Wonderful job on your lens. I didn't know he was the discoverer of so many things!

    • gurneywagon profile image

      gurneywagon 9 years ago

      You're right, he was ahead of his time. Excellent, informative compilation!

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      RuthCoffee 9 years ago

      An amazing man for sure. Fabulous lens!