Leonardo Da Vinci

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Leonardo Da Vinci is one of the greatest and most ingenious men that history has produced. His contributions in the areas of art, science, and humanity are still among the most important that a single man has put forth, definitely making his a life worth knowing. Da Vinci, born on April 15, 1452, is credited with being a master painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer, and scientist. He was born an illegitimate child to Catherina, a peasant girl. His father was Ser Piero da Vinci, a public notary for the city of Florence, Italy. For the first four years of his life he lived with his mother in the small village of Vinci, directly outside of the great center of the Renaissance, Florence. Catherina was a poor woman, with possible artistic talent, the genetic basis of Leonardo's talents. Upon the realization of Leonardo's potential, his father took the boy to live with him and his wife in Florence (Why did). This was the start of the boy's education and his quest for knowledge. Leonardo was recognized by many to be a "Renaissance child" because of his many talents. As a boy, Leonardo was described as being handsome, strong, and agile. He had keen powers of observation, an imagination, and the ability to detach himself from the world around him. At an early age Leonardo became interested in subjects such as botany, geology, animals (specifically birds), the motion of water, and shadows (About Leonardo).

At the age of 17, in about 1469, Leonardo was apprenticed as a garzone (studio boy) to Andrea del Verrocchio, the leading Florentine painter and sculptor of his day. In Verrocchio's workshop Leonardo was introduced to many techniques, from the painting of altarpieces and panel pictures to the creation of large sculptural projects in marble and bronze.

In 1472 he was accepted in the painter's guild of Florence, and worked there for about six years. While there, Leonardo often painted portions of Verrocchio's paintings for him, such as the background and the kneeling angel on the left in the Baptism of Christ (Encarta). Leonardo's sections of the painting have soft shadings, with shadows concealing the edges. These areas are distinguished easily against the sharply defined figures and objects of Verrocchio, which reflect the style called Early Renaissance. Leonardo's more graceful approach marked the beginning of the High Renaissance. However, this style did not become more popular in Italy for another 25 year (Gilbert 46). Leonardo actually started the popularization of this style. For this reason Leonardo could be called the "Father of the High Renaissance." Leonardo's leading skills emerged through his paintings and his techniques. Leonardo's talents soon drew him away from the Guild and in 1472 Leonardo finished his first complete painting, Annunciation. In 1478 Leonardo reached the title of an Independent Master. His first large painting, The Adoration of the Magi (begun in 1481), which was left unfinished, was ordered in 1481 for the Monastery of San Donato a Scopeto, Florence. Other works ascribed to his youth are the Benois Madonna (1478), the portrait Ginevra de' Benci (1474), and the unfinished Saint Jerome (1481). Leonardo expanded his skills to other branches of interest and in 1481 Leonardo wrote an astonishing letter to the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza. In this letter he stated that he knew how to build portable bridges; that he knew the techniques of constructing bombardments and of making cannons; that he could build ships as well as armored vehicles, catapults, and other war machines; and that he could execute sculpture in marble, bronze, and clay.

Thus, he entered the service of the Duke in 1482, working on Ludovico's castle, organizing festivals, and he became recognized as an expert in military engineering and arms. Under the Duke, Leonardo served many positions. He served as principal engineer in the Duke's numerous military enterprises and was active as an architect (Encarta). As a...
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