Da Vinci not only developed his skill in drawing, painting and sculpting during his apprenticeship, but through others working in and around the studio, he picked up knowledge in such diverse fields as mechanics, carpentry, metallurgy, architectural drafting and chemistry. In 1473, when he was more than halfway through his studies with Verrocchio, he completed Landscape Drawing for Santa Maria della Neve, a pen and ink depiction of the Arno River valley. It is the earliest work that is clearly attributable to da Vinci.
Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” – By Leonardo da Vinci
It is primarily as a painter that Leonardo was and is renowned. Two of his works, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper occupy unique positions as the most famous, most reproduced and most parodied portrait and religious painting of all time, their fame approached only by Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. Leonardo’s drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also iconic. Perhaps fifteen of his paintings survive, the small number due to his constant, and frequently disastrous, experimentation with new techniques, and his chronic procrastination. Nevertheless, these few works together with his notebooks, which contain drawings, scientific diagrams, and his thoughts on the nature of painting, comprise a contribution to later generations of artists only rivalled by that of his contemporary, Michelangelo.
Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the “Renaissance man”, a man whose seemingly infinite curiosity was equalled only by his powers of invention. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.
Leonardo da Vinci was known for his notebooks filled with sketches, drawings, ideas, texts and so on. The Codex on the Flight of Birds is a rare treat that is rarely on display. It is kept out of display in order to protect it and allow it be around for future generations. What makes the work even more special is that in 2009, researches discovered what they believe to be a self-portrait of a younger Leonardo hidden among some of the handwriting.
Trying to authenticate a centuries-old piece of art is never going to be an easy task, and oftentimes what one expert believes to be true another one will disagree with. Case in point — La Bella Principessa (The Beautiful Princess), which after a lot of research by Martin Kemp, world-renowned expert on Leonardo, and Pascal Cotte, was deemed to be by the Renaissance great. Depicting Bianca Sforza in profile, who was mostly likely a young teenager at the time, this artwork is a drawing of colored chalk and ink. And while not every expert agrees with Kemp, there are many who do believe it.
Leonardo’s pen-and-ink drawing Vitruvian Man comes from one of the many notebooks that he kept on hand during his mature years. It is accompanied by notes, written in mirror script, on the ideal human proportions that the Roman architect Vitruvius laid out in a book on architecture from the 1st century BCE. The drawing illustrates Vitruvius’s theory that the ideal human could fit within a circle and a square, two irreconcilable shapes. Leonardo resolved the concept by drawing a male figure in two superimposed positions—one with his arms outstretched to fit in a square and another with his legs and arms spread in a circle. The work shows not only Leonardo’s effort to understand significant texts but also his desire to expand on them. He was not the first to illustrate Vitruvius’s concepts, but his drawing later became the most iconic, partly because its combination of mathematics, philosophy, and art seemed a fitting symbol of the Renaissance. The drawing is now housed in the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice, where it is not typically on display but kept in a climate-controlled archive.
The world’s most famous artwork, the Mona Lisa draws thousands of visitors to the Louvre Museum each day, many of whom are compelled by the sitter’s mysterious gaze and enigmatic smile. The seemingly ordinary portrait of a young woman dressed modestly in a thin veil, somber colors, and no jewelry might also confound its viewers, who may wonder what all the fuss is about. The painting’s simplicity belies Leonardo’s talent for realism. The subject’s softly modeled face shows his skillful handling of sfumato, an artistic technique that uses subtle gradations of light and shadow, rather than line, to model form. The delicately painted veil, the finely wrought tresses, and the careful rendering of folded fabric reveal Leonardo’s tireless patience in recreating his studied observations. Moreover, the sitter’s perplexing expression only adds to her realism. Her smile might be engaging or it might be mocking—viewers can’t quite figure it out because, like a human, she is a complex figure, embodying contrary characteristics simultaneously.
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (Italian: [leoˈnardo di ˌsɛr ˈpjɛːro da (v)ˈvintʃi] ( listen); 15 April 1452 – 2 May 1519), more commonly Leonardo da Vinci or simply Leonardo, was an Italian Renaissance polymath whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of palaeontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter and tank, he epitomised the Renaissance humanist ideal.
Feeling stifled and dissatisfied in Florence, Leonardo decided to seek new challenges, and in 1482, he moved to Milan, where he would spend the next 17 years. One of his early commissions was the altar painting The Virgin of the Rocks (1483-1486) for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception. However, the parties got into a dispute over payment, and Leonardo sold the painting to someone else. After ten years of litigation, the confraternity persuaded Leonardo to paint a second version, The Virgin of the Rocks (1495-1508). During this first Milanese period (1482-1499), Leonardo completed six paintings, including the masterpiece, The Last Supper (1495), at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. He also worked for the Sforza family (the ruling family in Milan) on a monumental sculptural project: a huge equestrian monument honoring the founder of the Sforza dynasty, Francesco Sforza. Leonardo devoted 12 years to the project, creating a clay model of the horse and preparing to cast the 5-meter high figure. However, this great undertaking was never realized: in 1499 the French army invaded Milan and the Sforza family fell from power sealing the fate of the monument (the clay model made by Leonardo was destroyed during the war).