Leonardo da Vinci
What little is known of his early life has been gathered from tax records and other documents of the period. What is known is that he was the illegitimate son of Ser Piero da Vinci and a woman who is only known by her first name, Catrina. Some speculate that she was possibly a slave from the Middle East or perhaps just a lowly servant that worked in the household.
Leonardo (christened Lionardo) lived with his grandfather in 1457 and was not raised by his father, a notary. Later her went to live with his father or his father's younger brother, Francesco. What became of his mother is unknown.
Because of the circumstances of his family, his educational prospects were limited. His early training was probably conducted by his step-mother, Donna Albiera but most of his early education was self-taught. Later in his life his illegitimacy would also influence his prospects for obtaining a higher education and the means to earn a living. When his father noted his artistic talent he was taken away to Florence to work as an apprentice for Andrea del Verrocchio at around the age of 16 or 17.
Under del Verrocchio's tutoradge Leonardo studied painting and sculpture. During this time he probably also learned geometry and worked with other students and artists of the time such as Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), Cosimo Rosselil (1439-1507), and Lorenzo di Credi (1459-1537). And it was during this time that he was assigned his first task of painting the angel in the Baptism of Christ (c.1472-75). After seeing Leonardo's angel it is said that Verrocchio swore "to never pick up a paintbrush again".
At the age of about 20 Leonardo's apprenticeship with Verrocchio came to an end. In 1472 he joined the artist's guild Compagnia de San Luca, but probably continued to work with Verrocchio for about four more years.
During his first Florentine period ( 1478 – 1483) Leonardo received some of his first commissions. He became known for his artistic talents with his work on Madonna and Child (c. 1478), Small Annunciation (1480-1481), and Adoration of the Magi (c. 1481-82).
Leonardo was known to be kind and generous and probably also homosexual. In 1476 he was arrested on the charge of sodomy. After about two months of incarceration he was released due to a lack of evidence. The question of his sexuality still remains a mystery.
After his release by the authorities in 1478, Leonardo left Florence for the first time, and traveled to Milan. There he joined a new patron, Ludovico Sforza. Initially Leonardo was to have been a military engineer, but instead became the court artist. He had designed several machines such as catapults and armored cars but none of these machines were ever built. It was during this period that the bronze horse was commissioned and started. However, as with many of his projects, it was never finished. Also, during this time, Leonardo painted one of his most famous frescoes The Last Supper.
In late 1499, Leonardo left Milan and returned to Florence where he accepted a commission for an altar painting for the friars of the Order of the Servites at Santissima Annunziata. It was for this painting that Leonardo created one of his unfinished masterpieces The Burlington House Cartoon (c.1499-1500). It was also during this second Florentine period that he started two of his most famous works of art, The Battle of Anghiari, and The Mona Lisa (1503). The Battle of Anghiari was never finished and The Mona Lisa was never delivered to the client, Francesco del Giocondo.
In 1506 he headed back to Milan and it appears that during the six years he remained there he continued his anatomy studies that he had started while in Florence. He also revived his plans for a grand equestrian statue for Glen Giacomo Trivulzio. Again the statue remained unfinished.
In 1511, Leonardo moved to Rome where he continued his experiments with flight, optical puzzles as well as botany and the scientific mixing of oil paints and varnishes.
In 1516 Leonardo joined the then King of France, Francois I, in the Loire Valley. The aging artist was sickly and suffering the results of a stroke. Unable to paint any longer he undertook several projects including a mechanical lion that was able to walk a few steps. Instead of a heart, the lion's chest opened to reveal a fleurs-de-lis. He also designed a palace at Romorantin, reorganized his notebooks, and several other smaller projects.
On May 2, 1519, Leonardo died and was buried in Saint-Forentine in Amboise. During the Wars of Religion Leonardo's remains were moved several times. Eventually he was buried in the Chapel of St. Hubert in the castle of Amboise.
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