of Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was a Florentine
artist, one of the great masters of the High Renaissance,
who was also celebrated as a painter, sculptor, architect,
engineer, and scientist. His innovations in the field
of painting influenced the course of Italian art for
more than a century after his death.
Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452,
in the small Tuscan town of Vinci, near Florence. He
was the son of a wealthy Florentine notary and a peasant
woman. In the mid-1460s the family settled in Florence,
where Leonardo was given the best education that Florence,
the intellectual and artistic center of Italy, could
offer. He rapidly advanced socially and intellectually.
About 1466 he was apprenticed as a garzone (studio boy)
to Andrea del Verrocchio. In Verrocchio's workshop Leonardo
was introduced to many activities, from the painting
of altarpieces and panel pictures to the creation of
large sculptural projects in marble and bronze. In 1472
he was entered in the painter's guild of Florence, and
in 1476 he is still mentioned as Verrocchio's assistant.
In 1478 Leonardo became an independent master. His first
commission, to paint an altarpiece for the chapel of
the Palazzo Vecchio, the Florentine town hall, was never
executed. His first large painting, The Adoration of
the Magi (begun 1481, Galleria degli Uffizi), left unfinished,
was ordered in 1481 for the Monastery of San Donato
a Scopeto, Florence.
From 1495 to 1497 Leonardo labored
on his masterpiece, The Last Supper, a mural in the
refectory of the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie,
Milan. Unfortunately, his experimental use of oil on
dry plaster (on what was the thin outer wall of a space
designed for serving food) was technically unsound,
and by 1500 its deterioration had begun. Since 1726
attempts have been made, unsuccessfully, to restore
it; a concerted restoration and conservation program,
making use of the latest technology, was begun in 1977
and is reversing some of the damage. Although much of
the original surface is gone, the majesty of the composition
and the penetrating characterization of the figures
give a fleeting vision of its vanished splendor.
During this second Florentine period,
Leonardo painted several portraits, but the only one
that survives is the famous Mona Lisa. One of the most
celebrated portraits ever painted, it is also known
as La Gioconda, after the presumed name of the woman's
husband. Leonardo seems to have had a special affection
for the picture, for he took it with him on all of his
In 1506 Leonardo went again to Milan,
at the summons of its French governor, Charles d'Amboise.
The following year he was named court painter to King
Louis XII of France, who was then residing in Milan.
For the next six years Leonardo divided his time between
Milan and Florence, where he often visited his half
brothers and half sisters and looked after his inheritance.
In 1516 he traveled to France to enter
the service of King Francis I. He spent his last years
at the Château de Cloux, near Amboise, where he
died on May 2, 1519. Although Leonardo produced a relatively
small number of paintings, many of which remained unfinished,
he was nevertheless an extraordinarily innovative and
influential artist. During his early years, his style
closely paralleled that of Verrocchio, but he gradually
moved away from his teacher's stiff, tight, and somewhat
rigid treatment of figures to develop a more evocative
and atmospheric handling of composition.
the Leonardo Da Vincit Gallery >>