Leonardo da Vinci
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Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Kevin J. Benoy
Early Life • Leonardo was born in Vinci, a short distance from Florence. • He was the illegitimate son of a notary. • His father married four times and had 11 children – but Leonardo was 20 before the 2nd child was born The village of Vinci
Training • His father apprenticed him to Andrea del Verrocchio (True Eyes) in Florence. • Leonardo was likely the model for Verocchio’s David.
A Young Master • By the age of 20 he surpassed his master, painting The Baptism of Christ in 1472. • It is rumoured that Verrochio never painted again after this.
A Young Master
Preliminary Sketch for the painting
The Adoration of the Magi
• By 1474 he had his own workshop, producing The Adoration of the Magi, which artists studied from his time onward.
A Flawed Genius • Leonardo was witty, charming and exceedingly handsome. He sang and played music brilliantly. • He was a superb host and organizer, but he was reluctant to get close to anyone – probably because of his homosexuality, which was a crime at the time. • He thought sex with women hideous, though he admired their ability to produce life. • He was twice charged with sodomy, though each time the charge was dropped.
A Flawed Genius
Salai as John the Baptist
• At 38, a 10 year old boy, Gian Gicomo de’ Caprotti , was sent to his workshop and a strange relationship developed. Leonardo called him Salia – “little Satan,” and he described him as “thievish, lying, obstinate and greedy,” yet the artist doted on him.
A Universal Man • There was little that Leonardo did not excel at. • He was a painter, a sculptor, an engineer, a musician, a singer, a mathematician, a physicist, a botanist, an anatomist, a cartographer, a geologist, a geographer, a poet, a town planner and an athlete.
A Universal Man • He always wanted to write a treatise on painting (like Alberti), but never did. • He seems to have not mastered Latin, the language of scholarship. • - or perhaps he was simply too busy.
The Notebooks • Leonardo kept notes on everything. • Around 5,000 pages still exist. • However, he used mirror-writing to ensure privacy while and after he wrote. • More mundanely, perhaps he did so because he was left handed and found this easier.
The Notebooks • Leonardo made notes on everything. • His notes and sketches reveal a mind constantly searching for understanding. • He was constantly examining and disecting the world.
The Notebooks • His studies were large and small – from anatomical studies of the human arm to plans for a bridge to cross the Golden Horn in Istanbul.
The Notebooks • Curiously, the Sultan declined building Leonardo’s span, thinking it impossible. • In 2006 the Turkish government commissioned Bulent Gungor to build the structure. Leonardo’s design
Poor Completion Record • He had a reputation for not completing works. • Involved in so many things, he could not manage his time. • When given the commission for the Virgin of the Rocks, he promised it within 7 months but did not deliver it until 25 years later.
The Great Horse • In the 1480’s he began work on the largest equestrian statue ever attempted, at 26 feet in height and requiring 100 tons of bronze. • The clay model was not completed until 1493. • His bronze stockpile was cast into canons to fight the French. • In 1499, the French used his clay model for target practice. • Until 1965 it was assumed that the statue was never caste because of technological problems. However, close study of his notebooks reveal that he solved the problem on paper.
The Last Supper • Leonardo was commissioned to paint this for the refectory of a Dominican monastery. • He disastrously decided to use oils, instead of fresco, on the damp walls. • It deteriorated almost immediately.
The Last Supper • Painting in fits and starts, and usually with hired musicians playing for him, the project dragged on to the point where the monks threatened to lock him in until the work was finished. • Legend has it that Leonardo retaliated by painting the abbot as the image of Judas.
In Florence. • From 1500 to 1513 he lived productively in Florence. • There he competed, with Michelangelo, for a large battle mural for the town hall. • This work was lost when he again attempted a new medium – oil and varnish. • Michelangelo also failed to complete his work.
The Mona Lisa (La Giaconda) • This oil on panel is his most famous work. • Begun in 1503, it was still in his possession when he died in France. • Salai sold it to the French King for 4,000 ecus, and so it now resides in the Louvre.
The Mona Lisa (La Giaconda) • The subject is Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo. • The pyramidic design is one often employed by Leonardo. • The etherial landscape reveals his characteristic sfumato and the path reinforces the tendency of the eye to follow a triangular pattern.
The Mona Lisa (La Giaconda) • The enigmatic smile is most frequently commented on. • His capture of this transient expression displays unparalleled virtuosity.
The Mona Lisa (La Giaconda) • There is a hypothesis that this is actually not a direct portrait of a Florentine woman at all – or that da Vinci has placed elements of his own image in the portrait..
Leonardo in Rome • In 1513, Leonardo departed to Rome, to avoid being hounded to complete the civic mural. • Pope Leo X was loathe to commission the great artist, knowing his reputation for not completing his work.
Leonardo in France
Clos-Luce – given to Leonardo by Francis I
• In 1516, Leonardo was invited to join the court of France’s Francis I – a great patron of the arts. • There, he spent his last years in luxury, chatting with the King and fussing with his manuscripts.
Leonardo in France • Leonardo’s home was just a short distance from Francis’chateau at Amboise. • He is rumoured to have died in Francis’ arms. • Francis said of him: “no man has been born who knew as much as Leonardo.