Leonardo da Vinci

By: Allison Swearingin

Leonardo's Background

Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452, in Vinci, Italy. His father, a respected notary, and his mother, a young peasant woman, he was raised by his father, Ser Piero, and his stepmothers. At 14, he began apprenticeship for an artist, named Verrocchio in Venice, Italy. For the next 6 years, he learned from Verrocchio and by the age 20, he was qualified as a master artist in the Guild of Saint Luke and established his own workshop. He died at age 67 in Amboise, France.

Connection to Humanism

Leonardo's observations and inventions were recorded in 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, including designs for flying machines (some 400 years before the Wright brothers' first success), plant studies, war machinery, anatomy and architecture. His ideas, mainly theoretical explanations, laid out in exacting detail, but they were rarely experimental. His drawings of a fetus in utero, the heart and vascular system, sex organs, and other bone and muscular structures, are some of the first on human record. One of da Vinci's last commissioned works was a mechanical lion that could walk and open its chest to reveal a bouquet of lilies.


In 1482, Lorenzo de' Medici, a man of an Italian family, commissioned da Vinci to create a silver lyre and bring it to Ludovico il Moro, the Duke of Milan, as a gesture of peace. Da Vinci accepted and then wrote Ludovico a letter describing how his engineering and artistic talents would be of great service to Ludovico's court. His letter endeared him to Ludovico, and from 1482 until 1499, Leonardo was commissioned to work on a great many projects. It was during this time period that da Vinci painted "The Last Supper" in Milan, Italy. The "Mona Lisa," was a privately commissioned work and was completed sometime between 1505 and 1507 and was painted when Leonardo was living in Venice.

Connection to Today

Leonardo was a person who thought outside of the box and learned new things that most people didn't understand. He made contributions to modern tools like scissors. da Vinci made breakthroughs in flight and engineering and created many designs for airplanes and made contributions to the making of the parachute. Leonardo also painted one of the world’s most famous paintings, the Mona Lisa, which sparked ideas for art in the future. Leonardo was also into the study of anatomy and how the body works. He drew out what the body looked like and how it worked which made made ideas available for the future.


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