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The Renaissance And Da Vinci Essay, Research Paper

Renaissance is a word used by historians to describe a period in European cultural history that began in Italy around 1400 and lasted until the end of the 1500s. This word, which is French, means rebirth. The Renaissance was the rebirth of classical literature, the rebirth of art, and the revival of learning. The entrance of Europe into the Renaissance signaled the collapse of the feudal system and the beginning of a new era in history. This period also led to new types of thinking such as Humanism, or the belief in active rather than contemplative life. The Renaissance was motivated, in part, by the results of the Crusades. The revival of trade due to the Crusades led to a great exchange of ideas throughout Europe. The invention of printing also gave rise to learning because knowledge became available to all people, not just nobility. Because of this revival of learning, a new type of man formed. He was a Renaissance man. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines renaissance man as [a] man who has broad intellectual interests and is accomplished in areas of both the arts and the sciences. There were many Renaissance men ; such as the great William Shakespeare of England, Raphael, Michaelangelo, Cervantes, and Leon Battista Alberti; but perhaps the greatest mind of the entire Renaissance was that of a man known as Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo da

Vinci had a thought process well ahead of his time, which aided him in the creation of inventions, and revolutionary theories that demonstrated his position as the epitome of the principles responsible for the Renaissance movement.

Da Vinci worked during a term of the Renaissance known as the High Renaissance. Among the artists most frequently associated with this period are Rafael and Michaelangelo, and of course, da Vinci. The three were presumably in a competition to gain the most recognition, and any could be rightfully named the greatest artist of the era. Rafael, perfected earlier Renaissance discoveries of color and composition, and created almost ideal representations of the Madonna and child. Michaelangelo and the glorious Sistine Chapel in Rome assert his artistic astuteness. However, what set da Vinci apart from the others was his diverse interest in both the intellectual and artistic. Da Vinci has been described as perhaps the most versatile genius who ever lived, Leonardo reached the heights of human achievement. Not only one of the greatest painters of the Renaissance, he was also a talented scientist, designer and musician (Who and When 46).

Da Vinci was born the son of Ser Piero da Vinci in Vinci, Italy on April 25, 1452. He was an illegitimate child. His father was a notary and his

mother a peasant. Shortly after his birth, Ser Piero took custody and decided to raise Leonardo as part of his household. His mother then moved to a neighboring town and married. Her new marriage eventually supplied Leonardo with seventeen half brothers and sisters.

Da Vinci had a keen interest in music, modeling and drawing as a child. These interests further fed by access to many scholarly texts owned by his father, were soon developed. However, da Vinci preferred direct experience and practical application as opposed to formal learning. Claiming to be an artist, Leonardo was indulged by his father to paint a round shield. On it, he decided to paint a monster head, so he went out and collected some specimens ranging from lizards to bats to maggots. He became so enthralled with his art that he failed to realize that his specimens had begun to rot. The result was a disgusting monster head exhaling smoke and gas. Upon showing the finished work to his father, Ser Piero was shocked by its realism and knew Leonardo was to be an artist ( Renaissance Man). Recognizing his son s talent and preference, Ser Piero apprenticed Leonardo to the workshop of Andrea del Verrochio in Florence. At that time, Verrochio s workshops were the most notable in Florence. Here da Vinci came to be the fellow pupil of Botticelli, Perugino, and Lorenzo di Credi. He showed an

early interest and fascination with war and machinery in drawing a silver point warrior. By far outshining his peers, and Verrochio realizing that his student was a much better painter than he, Leonardo was given the first big opportunity of his career. He was allowed to paint the kneeling angel in Verrochio s Baptism of Christ. This work is considered his first famous creation.

He stayed in Verrochio s workshop until 1477 when he set up a shingle for himself. In 1472, he became a member of the painters guild in Florence. One of the most important paintings of his career was painted in 1481. This painting was the popular Adoration of the Magi. He was employed by the monastery of San Donato a Scopeto for this project. Nevertheless, it was left unfinished because he decided to travel to Milan. The Adoration of the Magi was so important to his early works because, for the first time, Leonardo displayed a new technique that organized all of the figures into a pyramid shape. This shape caused all interest to focus on the principal subject. Da Vinci left for Milan in 1482 where he soon was employed by the Duke of Milan.

Now 23, da Vinci became concerned with other fields and diversified his scope of interest from the sole field of art. He soon devoted himself to

The Spirit of the Renaissance. Leonardo explored every area available to him. He held studies and projects in architecture, hydraulics, mechanics,

engineering, astronomy, geology, and anatomy. The Duke, who recognized Leonardo s all-around talent, still wanted him painting though. So, he asked da Vinci to paint Madonna on the Rocks. This exists in two identical versions. One is in Louvre and the other in London. The characters in the painting are again organized in a pyramid. He also painted The Last Supper. Unfortunately, in this painting, Leonardo experimented with a new fresco technique that began to show signs of decay as early as 1517. Restoration attempts were unsuccessful. Yet, the Duke could not ignore Leonardo s other interests so he employed his skills in designing weaponry, buildings, and machinery. In a list of the Duke s staff, da Vinci was described as painter and engineer of the duke. Leonardo produced studies, in his famous notebooks, that once more demonstrated his genius. These notebooks are quite unique. They for one, are written backwards, and are meticulously illustrated. They are so valuable, that Bill Gates recently paid $30 million for the Codex Leicester.

Da Vinci s designs contained within these notebooks from this time have sketches for everything from a military tank to a submarine to accurate

depictions of body systems. For the Duke, Leonardo was also chief architect. He proposed fortresses and cathedrals that at that time were not even possible to construct. He increased his knowledge of architectural calculation by the reading of Leon Battista Alberti s books on architecture and Pacioli s Suma. He quickly became engrossed and obsessed with finding solutions and discovering the limits of geometry. He proposed several methods of squaring the circle using mechanical solutions.

In 1499, French armies invaded Italy and his patron was defeated. Over the next 16 years, Leonardo searched for a new patron. He traveled throughout Italy working for short periods for a number of employers. For a small amount of time he worked for Cesare Borgia as a senior military architect and general engineer ( Leonardo da Vinci). For Borgia, he designed a bridge to span the golden horn in Constantinople. By 1503, he was back in Florence serving as an adviser in the undertaking of diverting the River Arno behind Pisa. Following this endeavor, he began plans to create a canal to allow Florence access to the sea. But, as usual, Leonardo became lead away from his project for a new interest and neither the diversion nor the canal were completed. The cause of his distraction was the combination of his beginning of the most famous Mona Lisa and the news

of the death of his father. He received no inheritance from his father s death due to the struggling of his half brothers and sisters over his estate. But, at the death of an uncle, Leonardo was triumphant in securing the valuable land and money.

On June 6, 1505, he started work on the Battle of Anghiari. He once again chose an experimental technique that was unsuccessful and caused the abandonment of the project. In 1513, the French were removed from Italy and da Vinci moved, this time to Rome. Once again, he returned to scientific studies, now being under the employ of the Pope. Here Leonardo tried to make advancements in human anatomy and physiology, but the Pope did not allow him to dissect cadavers. In turn, his work suffered. Deciding to try something more socially acceptable, he studied nature. His observations and experiments into the workings of nature included the stratification of rocks, the flow of water, the growth of plants, and the action of light. The mechanical devices that he sketched and described were also concerned with the transmission of energy. Leonardo was so intellectually astute that he even satisfied the possibility of constructing a telescope. In his notebook, Codex Atlanticus, he speaks of making a glass to see the moon

enlarged. In the later work of Codex Arundul, he makes an observation of how the telescope could be made. He says,

in order to preserve the nature of the planets, open the roof and bring the image of a single planet onto the base of a concave mirror. The image of the planet reflected by the base will show the surface of the planet much magnified.

He also discovered that the Moon shone because of the reflected light of the Sun on its surface. He correctly explained the old Moon in the new Moon s arms as the Moon s surface illuminated by light reflected from the Earth.

Leonardo da Vinci had an obsession with knowledge that led him to studies and hypothesis in hundreds, maybe even thousands, of areas of science and art. He had no limit to his range of contemplation. He predated Sir Isaac Newton in understanding the laws of gravity and inertia. In his notes on applied mechanics, da Vinci covered everything from friction and gearing, to the science of wheels and weight. He was the first to comprehend pulleys and other simple machines that are taken for granted today. Despite all of his masterpieces and inventions, what da Vinci is most respected for in the world of science today is his collections of notes and drawings dealing with flight. His notebooks contain designs for flying

machines that were not even created until the 1900s. He based his flight model on that of a bird s wing and body movement. He wrote,

to speak of the subject, you must in the first book explain the nature of the resistance of air, in the second the anatomy of the bird and its wings, in the third the method of working the wings in their various movements, in the fourth the power of the wings and of the tail when the wings not being moved and when the wind is favorable to serve as a guide in various movements.

In his later life, Leonardo moved to France under the service of Francis I. Here he was treated with kindness and respect while he continued to study and invent. He was given the title of First painter, architect and mechanic of the King. Da Vinci did not begin any new paintings but only finished those he brought with him. As he aged, he also suffered from paralysis of the right hand but was still able to draw, paint, and teach because he was left-handed. Da Vinci died on May 2, 1519 in Cloux, France. It has been said that King Francis was at his side, cradling Leonardo s head in his arms at death.

Although many other scientists and artists and renaissance men lived their lives in such a way that contributed to society, none come close to

da Vinci s wide array of interests, accomplishments, masterpieces, or inventions. He was the quintessential renaissance man. His scientific studies have been almost a guide in the development of technology. His innovations were the basis for many of the developments in modern science, especially aerodynamics and biology. The scope of da Vinci s abilities was so vast that one could go on and on almost indefinitely, explaining the similarities between his discoveries and the actual trek of scientific achievement. One can not help to realize the gift this man was given by his creator. Leonardo da Vinci should serve as an example to all of the limitless possibilities of the human mind, something not even he could grasp, yet all the while developing and cultivating its potential. His gift showed in his work, and one Algernon Charles Swinburne wrote of da Vinci s paintings in 1869,

Of Leonardo, the examples are choice and few; full of that indefinable grace and grave mystery which belonged to his slightest and wildest world. Fair strange faces of women full of dim doubt and faint scorn; touched by the shadows of an obscure fate; eager and weary as it seems at once, pale and fervent with patience and passion; allure and perplex the eyes and thoughts of men.


Hutchinson Educational Encyclopedia

2000, Renaissance

Hutchinson Educational Encyclopedia

2000 da Vinci

Leonardo da VinciRenaissance Man



www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/ history/Mathematicians/Leonardo.html

Leonardo da Vinci


The Renaissance. Who and When? The Renaissance: Artists and Writers


Richter, Irma A. The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952.

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