Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci is one of the greatest and most ingenious men that history has produced. His contributions in the areas of art, science, and humanity are still among the most important that a single man has put forth, definitely making his a life worth knowing.
Da Vinci, born on April 15, 1452, is credited as a master painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer, and scientist. He was born a child to Catherina, a peasant girl. His father was Ser Piero da Vinci, a public notary for the city of Florence, Italy. For the first four years of his life he lived with his mother in the small village of Vinci, directly outside of the great center of the Renaissance, Florence. Catherina was a poor woman, with possible artistic talent, the genetic basis of Leonardo's talents. Upon the realization of Leonardo's potential, his father took the boy to live with him and his wife in Florence. This was the start of the boy's education and his quest for knowledge. Leonardo was recognized by many to be a "Renaissance child" because of his many talents. As a boy, Leonardo was described as being handsome, strong, and agile. He had observation, an imagination, and the ability to detach himself from the world around him.
At the age of 17, in about 1469, Leonardo was apprenticed as a garzone to Andrea del Verrocchio, the leading Florentine painter and sculptor of his day. In Verrocchio's workshop Leonardo was introduced to many techniques, from the painting of altarpieces and panel pictures to the creation of large sculptural projects in marble and bronze.
In 1472 he was accepted in the painter's guild of Florence, and worked there for about six years. There, Leonardo often painted portions of Verrocchio's paintings, such as the background and the kneeling angel on the left in the Baptism of Christ. Leonardo's sections of the painting have soft shadings, with shadows concealing the edges. Leonardo's more graceful approach of this style marked the beginning of the High Renaissance. However, this style did not become more popular in Italy for another 25 years. Leonardo actually started the popularization of this style. For this reason Leonardo could be called the "Father of the High Renaissance." Leonardo's talents soon drew him away from the Guild, and in 1472 Leonardo finished his first complete painting, Annunciation. In 1478 Leonardo reached the title of an Independent Master. His first large painting, The Adoration of the Magi, which was left unfinished, was ordered in 1481 for the Monastery of San Donato a Scopeto, Florence. Other works ascribed to his youth are the Benois Madonna (1478), the portrait Ginevra de' Benci (1474), and the unfinished Saint Jerome (1481).
Leonardo expanded his skills, and in 1481 Leonardo wrote an astonishing letter to the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza. In this letter he stated that he knew how to build portable bridges; that he knew the techniques of constructing bombardments and of making cannons. Also, he could build ships as well as armored vehicles, catapults, and other war machines; and that he could execute sculpture in marble, bronze, and clay.
Thus, he entered the service of the Duke in 1482, working on Ludovico's castle, organizing festivals, and he became recognized as an expert in military engineering and arms. Under the Duke, Leonardo served many positions. He served as principal engineer in the Duke's numerous military enterprises and was active as an architect. As a military engineer Leonardo designed artillery and planned the diversion of rivers. He also improved many inventions that were already in use such as the rope ladder. Leonardo also drew pictures of an armored tank hundreds of years ahead of its time. His concept failed because the tank was too heavy to be mobile and the hand cranks he designed were not strong enough to support such a vehicle.
As a civil engineer, he designed revolving stages for pageants. As a sculptor he planned a huge monument of the Duke's father mounted up on a leaping horse. The Horse, as it was known, was the culmination of 16 years of work. Leonardo was fascinated by horses and drew them constantly. In The Horse, Leonardo experimented with the horses' forelegs and measurements.
The severe plagues in 1484 and 1485 drew