1452-1519, and this partly accounts for its damage.Despite

1452-1519, and this partly accounts for its damage.Despite

1452-1519, Italian painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer, andscientist, probably the supreme example of Renaissance genius. Born in Vinci,Tuscany, he was the illegitimate son of a Florentine notary and a peasant girl.

His precocious artistic talent brought him to Verrocchio’s workshop in 1466,where he met Botticelli and Ghirlandaio. The cul mination of his art in thisfirst period in Florence is seen in the magnificent, unfinished Adoration of theMagi (Uffizi), with its characteristic dramatic movement and chiaroscuro. Inc.1482 Leonardo went to the court of Ludovico Sforza in Milan and there composedmost of his Trattato della pittura and the notebooks that demonstrate his versatile genius.

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The severe plagues in 1484 and 1485 drew his attention to townplanning, and his drawings and plans for domed churches reflect his concern witharchitectural problems. In 1483, Leonardo and his pupil Ambrogio de Predis werecommissioned to execute the famous Madonna of the Rocks (two versions:1483-c.1486, Louvre; 1483-1508, National Gall.

, London). The now badly damagedLast Supper (c.1495-1498; Milan) was executed during the period when he wasexperimenting with the Fresco medium, and this partly accounts for its damage.Despite this, a sublime spiritual content and power of invention mark it as oneof the world’s masterpieces.

Leonardo’s model for an equestrian monument toFrancesco Sforza was never cast, and in 1500 he returned to Florence, where hedid much theoretical work in mathematics andpursued his anatomical studies in the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova. As amilitary engineer for Cesare Borgia he studied swamp reclamation and met NiccoloMachiavelli. In c.1503 he executed the celebrated Mona Lisa (Louvre).

Then, asarchitect and engineer in Milan to the French king Louis Xii, he continued hisscientific investigations into geology, botany, hydraulics, and mechanics. In1510-11 he painted St. Anne, Mary, and the Child (Louvre), a work thatexemplifies his handling of sfumato-misty, subtle transitions in tone. Hisenigmatic St. John the Baptist (c.1513; Louvre) was executed for Pope Leo X andhis brother Giuliano de’ Medici in Rome. Shortly after 1515, Leonardo acceptedan invitation from Francis I of France to settle in the castle of Cloux.

Here hepursued his own researches until his death. His versatility and creative power,as well as the richness and originality expressed in his notebooks, drawings,and paintings, mark him as one of the great minds of all time.

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