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Leonardo Da Vinci biography

Leonardo Da Vinci

BIOGRAPHY

The dawn of the Renaissance saw the birth of one whose name would be etched on the pages of history for generations to come. His name was LW. He was a great painter, writer, scientist, a mechanical and civil engineer, mathematician and a natural leonardo DA VINCIphilosopher that the world would only come to revere after his death.
Painting was the only field in which Leonardo’s genius was acknowledged in his time. But here too he was not without competitors like Michelangelo and Raphael.
Born on April 15, 1452 at Anchiano, Leonardo was born out of wedlock. His mother was Caterina, sixteen year old daughter of a peasant family. His father was Piero da Vinci a lawyer. As was the custom Piero da Vinci married another girl of a well known family, bought Leonardo from his mother and raised him as a legitimate son. Thus, the early years of Leonardo were spent on the family estate near Florence. Amongst the lovely countryside of parasol pines and winding streams, crags and wild flowers natures best made impressions on him that were to blossom into the breathtaking beauty of his landscape paintings. How often he must have gone back in his mind's eye to capture that freshness of pulsating nature that has now become synonymous with Leonardo’s name. It was at the feet of mother nature that Leonardo seems to have found a substitute of a mother he was never allowed to meet.
For the first few years of his life Leonardo was an only child. He was thoroughly spoilt. But the startling combination of good looks and a quick wit made it impossible for anyone to wield the stick on him. It was this child of nature with music in his heart who captured the very essence of nature in his drawings. It was at this time that Piero da Vinci discovered his boy's gift for recreating the world on his canvas. He placed him as an apprentice in the studio of Verrocchio in Florence.
Leonardo grew up into a handsome man with an enviable combination of beauty and brains. Florence was the place where Leonardo‘s genius found an outlet and an audience. At Verrocchio's studio he met other artists like Botticelli. They became good friends Leonardo studied mathematics, physics, botany, anatomy, geography and astronomy not as essentially different to art but as a part of it. He saw no difference between art and science for both were different ways of describing God's universe. Often he would wander through the courts and churches of Florence studying the architecture of the place and the mingling of the different hues at different times of the day. He was an observer who studied his subject in detail. To clothe his naked canvass with the essence of beauty he would follow beautiful or grotesque people and study them. He visited the hospitals to see the old men die and hastened to watch criminals hanged. The tenderness of motherhood as the baby suckled greedily at his mother’s breast, the painfully contorted faces of soldiers dying, the serene beauty of a young woman kneeling in prayer are some of the many observations he took down on paper. He was a man who was in love with life and missed no opportunity to capture any impression of life however fleeting it might be.
Surprisingly, it was not as a painter that put him on the path of recognition but as lyre player. He was recommended by Lorenzo Medici, called The Magnificent, to Ludovico Sforza, called The Moor. Sforza was the tyrant behind the throne of Milan. it is here that the scientist in da Vinvi found an expression. On taking charge of his duties he realized that it was not only painting the cold, brutish face of the Stone that was part of his charter of duties but also the instillation of pluming of the Duchess's bath. This transfer to The Moor's kingdom proved to be a blessing in disguise. It afforded opportunities to the young da Vinci that had never seemed possible. During his tenure at Milan he built an elaborate system of canals for the city and drew up plans never to be adopted, for two levels highways to handle different kinds of traffic. He also planned and executed fortification in the Alps. It was to be their defense against their invasion from the north. ln military science he was indeed a genius. His note books prove that he could cast cannon with thirty three barrels, of which eleven could be fired at a time. He designed and planned conical shells, grape, sharpnel, gas bombs and gas masks. He made time fuses, hand grenades, mounted his artillery on wheels, and invented a breech-loading gun to replace the clumsy muzzle-loaders.
Today it is known that Leonardo more than four centuries ago understood why birds take off into the wind and how the slotted wing helps them mount more steeply. He experimented with paper models and was the first person ever to hit upon the idea of a propeller for locomotion. He foresaw the machine and had sound theories but lacked the knowledge of a light engine imperative for such a flight. He was the first man to mount a magnetic needle on a horizontal axis. This gave us the compass. History has put him down as the inventor of a differential gear and a wind guage. It has been recorded that he planned large submarines but later destroyed the pans for he thought that there was too much wickedness in the hearts of men to entrust such a secret to them. He wanted to prevent the practice of assassination at the bottom of the seas. To Leonardo goes the credit of pioneering studies in geology. He understood the significance of fossils. Long before Galilio discovered the telescope Leonardo realized that the earth moved around the sun and that it was not the center of the universe as it was believed to be during his time. He had in his lifetime discovered that general configuration of the solar system as we know it today.
Most of da Vinci's discoveries would have remained unknown had it not been for the persistent effort of collectors all over the world who compiled and published all that could be retrieved. After da Vinci's death his notes became scattered and collectors valued them not for their invaluable findings but for their authors precious autograph. It is interesting to note that this multifaceted genius had an eccentric ster of writing. He was to begin with left handed and later became ambidextrous. He also wrote right to left. 80, to read what he wrote one had to hold it in front of the mirror.
One of the most astonishing records of this great mind was his familiarization with the atomic theory of matter. He wrote: “There shall come forth from beneath the ground that which by its terrific report shall stun all who are near it and cause men to drop dead at its breath, and it shall devastate cities and castles. It shall seem to men that they shall see new destruction in the sky, and flames descending there from”.
Today Leonardo da Vinci holds a position in the annals of history as a supreme artist. His name is synonymous with great art. it was in the breathtaking Engadine, that he saw the smoky twirl of waterfall cascade through the rocks and born from therein the very freshness of nature This impression fused with the boyhood remenencies brought to life his masterpiece the Virgin of the Rocks. Betwixt this sensational mingling of the flora and fauna the adorable Mother, the beautiful Angel, the Child curling baby fingers in blessing over his playmate St. John have been immortalized. This picture was bought by the King of France and hung in his palace at Louver in Paris. Leonardo had done a copy of the same painting . This is the one we find in London's National Gallery today.
The famous The Last Supper was painted by Leonardo on the walls of a convent’s refractory. The plaster of the wall was unsuited for pigments and within twenty years the mildew and the flaking began disfiguring the painting. Later a door was cut into the wall and Napoleon's soldiers took great pleasure at taking pet shots at Christ and his Apostles. The painting was greatly damaged. Today what we have is the painstaking work of the restorers who after consulting the numerous sketches and drawings of Leonardo tried to recreate the original passion and essence of the work.
There are only a few paintings that Leonardo actually finished, though he sketched voluminously. It seems that he never considered any work well done or actually finished. This may be the reason he almost never signed his name.
Historical happening disrupted his peaceful existence in Milan. The French invasion drove the Sfrozas out of Milan. Leonardo escaped to Mantua, then to Venice, Rome and Florence. He finally came back to Milan only to find himself in a financial tight spot. The Moor had neglected to pay his salary. so da Vinci accepted odd jobs as an engineer and a free lance artist. It is at this point in his life that the famous Mona Lisa was produced. It is the portrait of Lisa Ghererdini, wife of Messier Giocondo of Florence. She wears severe black in the picture as a mark of mourning for a baby she had recently lost. She was twenty one when she started to sit for the portrait and when Leonardo finished six years had elapsed. Mona Lisa seems to be an embodiment of one of da Vinci's fantasies. In the painting she seems to be looking over your right shoulder and smiling. Leonardo considered it his masterpiece and never actually delivered the painting. He took it with him to France when King Francis I invited him to take up residence in France. The King bought the picture for twelve thousand francs and hung it in Louver.
Leonardo's last years were spent near Amboise in central France. At the age of fifty eight he looked quite an old man. From a self portrait done in 1510 an aged man with tired eyes looks on. The fatigue of packing up so much in one life time shows. Though one of the world's greatest prodigies Leonardo was at heart a lonely man . He probably never could meet another human being on his level. But nevertheless his agile mind must never have had a second’s boredom. To the last, though his hands were paralyzed Leonardo always was brimming with some latest project that he had just conceived. His lively conversation, his courtly style and understanding smile gave him the charismatic status of a pop icon of today's world. People would gather for hours simply to get a glimpse of him.
On May 2. 1519 Leonardo da Vinci passed away. He lived in another age but to us today he still adorns the; mantis of) master from whom we have yet a lot to Iearn.

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