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Leonardi Da Vinci Essay, Research Paper

Leonardi Da Vinci: Artist or Scientist?Leonardo da Vinci was born in 1452 in Vinci, the illegitemate son of Master Piero, a public notary, and his companion Caterina. Leonardo was the supreme example of Renaissance genius, who possessed one of the greatest minds of all time. As a painter, the Florentine produced such masterpieces as the “Virgin of the Rocks” (1483), the “Last Supper” (1495-97), and “Mona Lisa” (1503-06). As an architect, Leonardo worked on the cathedral of Milan and the restoration of the cathedral at Piacenza. As an engineer and scientist he investigated problems in geology, botany, hydraulics, mechanics, aerodynamics, and anatomy. At age 17, Leonardo moved with his father to Florence, where Leonardo apprenticed to Verrocchio, where his brilliance soon eclipsed that of his master. In 1472 Leonardo became a member of the painter’s guild of Florence. In 1476 he was denounced by the Night Watch, but was acquited of the charge of immoral conduct. One of his most popular early works, “The Adoration of the Magi,” was painted in 1481 for the Monastery of San Donato a Scopeto as an altar piece. It was never finished due to his departure for Milan, where he offered his services to Duke Ludovico il Moro. He worked on the Duomo in Milan and the Duomo and Castle in pavia; and painted the Madonna of the Rocks and the Last Supper at this time. He also set up festivals for the Duke and claimed to be an expert in military engineering and arms. In 1499 Ludovico il Moro fled Milan ahead of invading French troops. The Gascon bowmen of Louis XII used Leonardo’s model for the equestrian statue of Francesco Sforza for target practice. Soon afterwards, Leonardo left Milan inspite of the evident good-will of the French authorities. During the next few years, Leonardo wandered from Mantua, in the court of Isabella d’Este; Venice, where he was consultant for architectural matters from 1495 to 1499; to Florence; before becoming military engineer for Cesare Borgia between 1502 and 1503. He was imprisoned twice for same-sexual misconduct. In April, 1476 he was accused of sodomy with a 17-year-old named Jacopo Saltarelli. Leonardo’s father refused to help, but his uncle enlisted the aid of Bernardo di Simone Cortigiani, an influential Florentine, to have the charges dismissed, after Leonardo spent two months in jail. At one point later in life, Leonardo adopted a ten-year old boynamed Salai; their twenty-five year relationship was anything but typical of fathers and sons. Among Leonardo’s notes is a long-running list of items stolen from him by the mischievous Salai. When Leonardo died, he left a bequest for Salai, but he left his drawings, papers, and notes to his final companion: a young nobleman named Francesco Melzi.The death of Pope Alexander VI changed the fortunes of Duke Valentino, and Leonardo returned to Florence in 1503, remaining there until 1506. The Florentine Republic commissioned him to execute a large fresco of the battle of Anghiari for one of the walls of the Sala del Gran Consiglio in the Palazzo della Signioria facing a fresco by Michelangelo, one of his rivals. Leonardo experimented with a new technique of fresco, which deteriorated quickly and eventually was lost. It was in Florence that Leonardo had his greatest following, and it was during his years there that he painted such classics as the Mona Lisa. In 1506 Leonardo obtained temporary leave from the Florentine Republic in order to return to Milan, where he was to finish certain projects which he had left incomplete due to his earlier hasty departure. In Milan he once again came intocontact with the French, who repeatedly asked the Florentine Republic to extend Leonardo’s leave. Between 1507 and 1508 Leonardo visited Florence to settle his father’s estate. He then spent many years in Milan with the title of “peintre et ingenieur ordinarie”. He devoted much of his time to scientific studies and to the engineering projects such as the channeling of the course of the Adda river. The return of the Sforza family in 1512 forced Leonardo to leave Milan once again. From 1513 to 1516 he was in Rome at the Palazzo Belvedere under the protection of Giuliano dei Medici, the brother of Pope Leo X. Here Leonardocame into contact with Michelangelo and Raphael; both younger, and both rivals. After the death of Giuliano dei Medici, Leonardo accepted an invitation from his French friends and moved to the castle of Cloux near Amboise, where he stayed with his faithful pupil Melzi. Leonardo died on May 2, 1519, and was buried in the cloister of San Fiorentino in Amboise. Leonardo Da Vinci, an artist, scientist, inventor, mathematician, engineer, and architect, was among the first great thinkers to apply the scientific method to his philosophies. He performed detailed experiments, in particular on the nature of frictional forces, from which he made observations and followed up by making theories which lead to new experiments. His work at the end of the 1400’s preceded that of Newton by nearly 200 years. Sculpter, Engineer, Architect, Painter, Philosopher, ScientistHis father, Ser Piero da Vinci was a public notary for the city of Florence, Italy, and his mother, Catherina was a peasant girl. In Leonardo’s early years, he lived with his mother in Vinci. At the age of four, he was taken away from his mother to live with his father and his father’s wife in Florence. As a boy, Leonardo was described as being handsome, strong, and agile. He had a keen observation, an imagination, and the ability to detach himself from the world around him. As you can see, this already makes him well qualified forwhat he does later in life. At an early age, Leonardo became interested in subjects such as botany, geology, animals (particually birds), the motion of water, and shadows. He seemed to have kept those interests throughout life, as one can see in his work as a scientist. At the age of 17, Leonardo was apprenticed to a man named Andrea del Verrocchio, a local sculpter and painter of Florence. While there, Leonardo often painted small portions of Verrocchio’s paintings for him, such as the background in the Baptism of Christ. This undoubtedly was a huge stepping-stone in Leonardo’s career. In 1472, Leonardo became a member of the painter’s guild of Florence. From there he went to paint what is believed to be his first complete painting, Annunciation that same year. He went on to the aid of Duke Lodovico Sforza of Milan in 1481. There he worked on Ludovico’s castle, set up festivals, and claimed to be an expert in military engineering and arms. During the 18 years he was there, he also painted Modonna of the Rocks(1483), and the Last Supper(1497). In 1499 the French attacked Milan, and soon after Leonardo left and returned to Florence. It was at this time that he painted the Battle of Anghiari, and the Mona Lisa. In 1506, Leonardo returned to Milan to finish up some of his projects that he left behind during his hasty departure. Hestayed there until in 1516 he moved to Cloux, where he stayed with his pupil Melzi. Leonardo died on May 2, 1519, at the age of 67. It would be impossible to record all the work Leonardo did in life. He had done so much, in so many subjects, that anyone in their right mind would call him a universal genius. He was the ultimate Renasance man!Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), was the elder of the two Florentine masters. He was taught by Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-88), an engaging painter whose great achievement was his sculpture. Verrochio also had considerable influence on the early work of Michelangelo. Verrocchio’s best-known painting is the famous Baptism of Christ, famous because the youthful Leonardo is said to have painted the dreamy and romantic angel on the far left, who compares more than favorably with the stubby lack of distinction in the master’s owm angel immediately beside him.Leonardo: Renaissance polymath The Last Supper 1498 (180 Kb); Fresco, 460 x 880 cm (15 x 29 ft); Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie (Refectory), MilanThere has never been an artist who was more fittingly, and without qualification, described as a genius. Like Shakespeare, Leonardo came from an insignificant background and rose to universal acclaim. Leonardo was theillegitimate son of a local lawyer in the small town of Vinci in the Tuscan region. His father acknowledged him and paid for his training, but we may wonder whether the strangely self-sufficient tone of Leonardo’s mind was not perhaps affected by his early ambiguity of status. The definitive polymath, he had almost too many gifts, including superlative male beauty, a splendid singing voice, magnificent physique, mathematical excellence, scientific daring… the list is endless. This overabundance of talents caused him to treat his artistry lightly, seldom finishing a picture, and sometimes making rash technical experiments. The Last Supper, in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, for example, has almost vanished, so inadequate were his innovations in fresco preparation.A copy made by an apprentice of a da Vinci painting which never dried Da vinci made numerous experiments using different colours and when painting thisparticular church he failed.Yet the works what we have salvaged remain the most dazzingly poetic pictures ever created. The Mona Lisa has the innocent disavantage of being too famous. It can only be seen behind thick glass in a heaving crowd of awe-stuck sightseers. It has been reproduced in every conceivable medium: it remains intact in its magic, for ever defying the human insistence on comprehending. It is a work that we can only gaze at in silence.Portrait de Mona LisaLeonardo’s three great portraits of women all have a secret wistfulness. This quality is at its most appealing in Cecilia Gallarani, at its most enigmatic in the Mona Lisa, and at is most confrontational in Ginevra de’ Benci. It is hard togaze at the Mona Lisa, because we have so many expectations of it. Perhaps we can look more truly at a less famous portrait, Ginevra de’ Benci. It has that haunting, almost unearthly beauty peculiar to Leonardo.A withheld identity Ginevra de’ Benci c. 1474 (150 Kb); Oil on wood, 38.2 x 36.7 cm (15 1/8 x 14 1/2 in); National Gallery of Art, Washington, DCThe subject of Ginevra de’ Benci has nothing of the Mona Lisa’s inward amusement, and also nothing of Cecilia’s gentle submissiveness. The young woman looks past us with a wonderful luminous sulkiness. Her mouth is set in an unforgiving line of sensitive disgruntlement, her proud and perfect head is taut above the unyielding column of her neck, and her eyes seem to narrow as she endures the painter and his art. Her ringlets, infinitely subtle, cascade down from the breadth of her gleaming forehead (the forehead, incidentally, of one of the most gifted intellectuals of her time). These delicate ripples are repeated in the spikes of the juniper bush.

The desolate waters, the mists, the dark treess, the reflected gleams of still waves, all these surround and illuminate the sitter. She is totally fleshly and totally impermeable to the artist. He observes, rapt by her perfection of form, andshows us the thin veil of her upper bodice and the delicate flushing of her throat. What she is truly like she conceals; what Leonardo reveals to us is precisely this concealment, a self-absorption that spares no outward glance.Interior depthThe Virgin of the Rock 1503-06 (140 Kb); Oil on wood, 189.5 x 120 cm (6 x 4 ft); National Gallery, LondonWe can always tell a Leonardo work by his treatment of hair, angelic in its fineness, and by the lack of any rigidity of contour. One form glides imperceptibly into another (the Italian term is sfumato), a wonder of glazes creating the mostsubtle of transitions between tones and shapes. The angel’s face in the painting known as the Virgin of the Rocks in the National Gallery, London, or the Virgin’s face in the Paris version of the same picture, have an interior wisdom, an artistic wisdom that has no pictorial rival.This unrivalled quality meant that few artists actually show Leonardo’s influence: it is as if he seemed to be in a world apart from them. Indeed he did move apart, accepting the French King Fran ois I’s summons to live in France. Those who did imitate him, like Bernardini Luini of Milan (c.1485-1532) caught only the outer manner, the half-smile, the mistiness.The shadow of a great genius is a peculiar thing. Under Rembrandt’s shadow, painters flourished to the extent that we can no longer distinguish their work from his own. But Leonardo’s was a chilling shadow, too deep, too dark, too overpowering.Portrait of Mona Lisa (1479-1528), also known as La Gioconda, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo; 1503-06 (150Kb); Oil on wood, 77 x 53 cm (30 x 20 7/8 in); Musee du Louvre, Paris. This figure of a woman, dressed in the Florentine fashion of her day and seated in a visionary, mountainous landscape,is a remarkable instance of Leonardo’s sfumato technique of soft, heavily shaded modeling. The Mona Lisa’s enigmatic expression, which seems both alluring and aloof, has given the portrait universal fame.Reams have been written about this small masterpiece by Leonardo, and the gentle woman who is its subject has beenadapted in turn as an aesthetic, philosophical and advertising symbol, entering eventually into the irreverent parodies of the Dada and Surrealist artists. The history of the panel has been much discussed, although it remains in part uncertain. According to Vasari, the subject is a young Florentine woman, Monna (or Mona) Lisa, who in 1495 married thewell-known figure, Francesco del Giocondo, and thus came to be known as “La Gioconda”. The work shouldprobably be dated during Leonardo’s second Florentine period, that is between 1503 and 1505. Leonardo himself loved the portrait, so much so that he always carried it with him until eventually in France it was sold to Fran ois I, either by Leonardo or by Melzi.From the beginning it was greatly admired and much copied, and it came to be considered the prototype of the Renaissance portrait. It became even more famous in 1911, when it was stolen from the Salon Carr in the Louvre, being rediscovered in a hotel in Florence two years later. It is difficult to discuss such a work briefly because of the complex stylistic motifs which are part of it. In the essay “On the perfect beauty of a woman”, by the 16th-century writer Firenzuola, we learn that the slight opening of the lips at the corners of the mouth was considered in that period a sign of elegance. Thus Mona Lisa has that slight smile which enters into the gentle, delicate atmosphere pervading the whole painting. To achieve this effect, Leonardo uses the sfumato technique, a gradual dissolving of the forms themselves, continuous interaction between light and shade and an uncertain sense of the time of day.There is another work of Leonardo’s which is perhaps even more famous than The Last Supper. It is the portrait of a Florentine lady whose name was Lisa, Mona Lisa. A fame as great as that of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa is not an unmixedblessing for a work of art. We become so used to seeing it on picture postcards, and even advertisements, that we find it difficult to see it with fresh eyes as the painting by a real man portraying a real woman of flesh and blood. But it isworth while to forget what we know, or believe we know, about the picture, and to look at it as if we were the first people ever to set eyes on it. What strikes us first is the amazing degree to which Lisa looks alive. She really seems to look at us and to have a mind of her own. Like a living being, she seems to change before our eyes and to look a little different every time we come back to her. Even in photographs of the picture we experience this strange effect, but in front of the original in the Louvre it is almost uncanny. Sometimes she seems to mock at us, and then again we seem tocatch something like sadness in her smile. All this sounds rather mysterious, and so it is; that is so often the effect of a great work of art. Nevertheless, Leonardo certainly knew how he achieved this effect, and by what means. That greatobserver of nature knew more about the way we use our eyes than anybody who had ever lived before him. He had clearly seen a problem which the conquest of nature had posed to artists – a problem no less intricate than the one of combining correct drawing with a harmonious composition. The great works of the Italian Quattrocento masters who followed the lead given by Masaccio have one thing in common: their figures look somewhat hard and harsh, almost wooden. The strange thing is that it clearly is not lack of patience or lack of knowledge that is responsible for this effect. No one could be more patient in his imitation of nature than Van Eyck; no one could know more about correct drawing and perspective than Mantegna. And yet, for all the grandeur and impressiveness of their representations of nature, their figures look more like statues than living beings. The reason may be that the more conscientiously wecopy a figure line by line and detail by detail, the less we can imagine that it ever really moved and breathed. It looks as if the painter had suddenly cast a spell over it, and forced it to stand stock-still for evermore, like the people in The Sleeping Beauty. Artists had tried various ways out of this difficulty. Botticelli, for instance, had tried to emphasize in his pictures the waving hair and the fluttering garments of his figures, to make them look less rigid in outline. But only Leonardo found the true solution to the problem. The painter must leave the beholder something to guess. If the outlines are not quite so firmly drawn, if the form is left a little vague, as though disappearing into a shadow, this impression of dryness and stiffness will be avoided. This is Leonardo’s famous invention which the Italians call sfumato- the blurred outline and mellowed colors that allow one form to merge with another and always leave something to our imagination.If we now return to the Mona Lisa, we may understand something of its mysterious effect. We see that Leonardo has used the means of his ’sfumato’ with the utmost deliberation. Everyone who has ever tried to draw or scribble a faceknows that what we call its expression rests mainly in two features: the corners of the mouth, and the corners of the eyes. Now it is precisely these parts which Leonardo has left deliberately indistinct, by letting them merge into a soft shadow. That is why we are never quite certain in what mood Mona Lisa is really looking at us. Her expression always seems just to elude us. It is not only vagueness, of course, which produces this effect. There is much more behind it. Leonardo has done a very daring thing, which perhaps only a painter of his consummate mastery could risk. If we look carefully at the picture, we see that the two sides do not quite match. This is most obvious in the fantastic dream landscape in the background. The horizon on the left side seems to lie much lower than the one on the right. Consequently, when we focus on the left side of the picture, the woman looks somehow taller or more erect than if we focus on the right side. And her face, too, seems to change with this change of position, because, even here, the two sides do not quite match. But with all these sophisticated tricks, Leonardo might have produced a clever piece of jugglery rather than a great work of art, had he not known exactly how far he could go, and had he not counterbalanced his daring deviation from nature by an almost miraculous rendering of the living flesh. Look at the way in which he modelled the hand, or the sleeves with their minute folds. Leonardo could be as painstaking as any of his forerunners in the patient observation of nature. Only he was no longer merely the faithful servant of nature. Long ago, in the distant past, people had looked at portraits with awe, because they had thought that in preserving the likeness the artist could somehow preserve the soul of the person he portrayed. Now the great scientist, Leonardo, had made some of the dreams and fears of these first image-makers come true. He knew the spell which would infuse life into the colors spread by his magic brush.Recent computer analysis, documented in Scientific American (April, 1995), demonstrates that “Mona Lisa” is in fact a self-portrait of Leonardo as a mysterious woman. We are all familiar with the genius of Leonardo Da Vinci. He is renown as a painter, sculptor and inventor. Few people, however, are aware that he also described an instrument to teach drawing in his treatise on painting. After three years of studying Leonardo’s notebooks, Alfred Merolla, the inventor of the Spectra Sketch art training instrument is offering a portable model of Leonardo’s perspective frame to aspiring artists. According to Mr. Merolla, the instrument that Leonardo described in his treatise was used to train the novice when he entered his apprenticeship in the artist guild. It is Mr. Merolla’s theory that this instrument was kept as a trade secret. Leonardo, who foresaw the wars of the reformation, tried to preserve the knowledge of this instrument in his notebooks.The guild system grew throughout Europe during the middle ages. A young man who wished to learn an art would serve a master, who in turn would teach him. The guild system also included many of the arts such as painting, music, glass making, silk manufacturing, architecture, etc.Many people believe Leonardo wrote backwards because he feared the censure of the church. But, Mr. Merolla believes that the guild system protected its secrets under the penalty of death, and in his own way, Leonardo was divulging many guild secrets, which he felt would be lost in the coming cataclysm.


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