Leonardo da Vinci, the epitome of the Renaissance man, was born in 1452, in Vinci, a village near Florence, Italy, and was brought up by his grandfather. At the age of 15 Leonardo entered Verrocchio's studio, and in the same year became a member of the Painter's Guild. He collaborated with Verrocchio for several years, on paintings and working on individual commissions of his own. In 1478 he became an independent artist under the protection of Lorenzo the Magnificent.
In 1482 Leonardo left Florence for Milan, where he stayed for nearly twenty years. He was attached to the court of Lodovico Sforza and applied his talent to music, decorating, pageantry, portrait painting, and engineering projects, particularly of weapons for war and bridge construction. In 1500 Florence was once again home, but he traveled widely particularly in 1502-03, when he inspected and constructed rural fortifications for Cesare Borgia. During this period he painted the Mona Lisa and worked on dissection of corpses at the hospital and on theoretical mathematical problems. Leonardo returned to Milan in 1506 and was welcomed by the French governor, Charles d'Amboise.
He was sixty-one in 1513 when he entered the service of Giuliano de'Medici, brother of Pope Leo X. Leonardo applied his talents to architectural and engineering projects and continued his notes for his famous Treatise on Painting. François I of France invited him to Amboise in 1517, and Leonardo lived in the small chäteau of Cloux, enjoying great honor and the esteem of the kind and the court. He died there in 1519 and was buried in the Church of St. Florentin, which was destroyed during the French Revolution.
Leonardo's knowledge extended to such widely separated fields as philosophy, natural history, anatomy, biology, medicine, optics, acoustics, astronomy, botany, geology, flight science, mathematics, hydraulics, warfare, and the arts. His heavily illustrated notebooks are among the most fascinating documents in the world, not only for his experimental ideas and inventions, but also for his accurate anticipation of a world that would exist long after his death. For Leonardo, painting was but one of many media for communicating ideas, but it was the supreme one for expressing spiritual values. His color was warm and the landscapes behind his portrait heads or religious scenes are enveloped in a fine mist. This sfumato, a delicate gradation of light imparting an atmospheric effect, gives a three-dimensional quality to the foreground figures. The most difficult and highest aim of painting, Leonardo wrote in his notebooks, is to depict “the intention of man's soul.”
Leonardo da Vinci quotes ~ • “Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.”
• “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
• “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
• “All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.”
• “Experience does not err. Only your judgments err by expecting from her what is not in her power.”
• “For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.”
• “He who wishes to be rich in a day will be hanged in a year. ”
• “I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.”
• “The greater the man's soul, the deeper he loves.”
• “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
• “The eye is the window of the human body through which it feels its way and enjoys the beauty of the world.”
The Mona Lisa is one of the most studied and parodied art works in history. Noted for her “mysterious” smile, Mona Lisa is also fine example of composition and the illusion of depth through atmospheric and linear perspective.
The sitter, Lisa del Giocondo (née Gherardini), was born in or near Florence and was the wife of a silk and cloth merchant.
FYI: In Italian ‘ma donna’, which means ‘my lady’ was contracted to ‘madonna’, and further shortened to ‘mona’.
This portrait of a young woman named Ginevra De' Benci is one of Leonardo's earliest paintings and less well known than the “Mona Lisa.”
The name Ginevra means “juniper” and that is why Leonardo painted the spiky dark leaves of a juniper tree behind her.
There is a mystery about why this painting has a square rather than rectangular shape. Though no one will ever know for sure it may mean that the bottom of the painting, which showed Ginevra's hands, was cut off.
Da Vinci's drawing, Vitruvian Man (1487), is based on the ideal human proportions suggested by ancient Roman architect Vitruvius, thus its name.
In one image, a human (male) superimposed on the universal geometric forms of a circle and square, daVinci expressed his belief that the workings of the human body are an analogy for the workings of the universe, a microcosm in a macrocosm.
- Note: Leonardo observed individuals actual proportions, and found that the circle and square could not share the same center.
“The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci, the most famous representation of the last meal Jesus shared with his Apostles during Passover and before the Crucifixion, is painted on the wall in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.
The Christian ceremonies of the Eucharist and Holy Communion are based on the sharing of bread and wine as depicted by da Vinci; the painting is also an innovation in point of view, perspective, and is said to be the first art to authentically represent human reactions and emotions.
Leonardo: The Artist and the Man by Serge Bramly - biography reveals Leonardo to be as complicated, seductive, and profoundly sympathetic as the figures he painted. Bramly spent five years gathering evidence to reconstruct Leonardo’s life - from his early years as an illegitimate child to his death in the arms of the King of France. Four pages of color photographs; 75 B&W photos.
Inventing Leonardo by A. Richard Turner - As he examines the changing views of Leonardo since the sixteenth century, A. Richard Turner both gives the reader a cultural history in brief of western Europe during this period and provides a context for examining Leonardo's relevance to our own ways of perceiving and interpreting the world.
How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci by Michael Gelb - Here’s a personal growth guidebook called “a brilliant, practical guide to awakening and training our vast, unused resources of intelligence and ability.” Seven critical principles are discussed in relation to what da Vinci accomplished, that need to be followed for success in any endeavor:
• Curiosita: An insatiably curious approach to life.
• Dimonstratzione: A commitment to test knowledge through experience.
• Sensazione: The continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to clarify experience.
• Sfumato: A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.
• Arte/Scienza: The development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination (“whole-brain thinking”).
• Corporalita: The cultivation of ambidexterity, fitness, and poise.
• Connessione: A recognition and appreciation for the connectedness of all things and phenomena; “systems thinking.”
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown -a masterful, intelligent and lucid thriller that marries the gusto of an international murder mystery with a collection of fascinating esoteria culled from 2,000 years of Western history.
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