Life of a Genius
Where to start when talking about someone of the caliber of Leonardo da Vinci? An inventor and an artist, Leonardo will always be remembered for his revolutionary approach to age old subjects.
Da Vinci, the quintessential Renaissance man, was born in 1452, an illegitimate child. Since a very early age, he was able to attend one of Florence’s most prestigious workshops, which gave him the opportunity to learn to paint. At the workshop,Leonardo also learned about other forms of art: it was here, indeed, he gained his first knowledge and possibly conceived some of his first inventions. In time Leonardo would become one of the most creative minds to ever live.
The stimulating atmosphere of the workshop, as well as the leading presence of great minds within it, allowed Leonardo to grasp the basics of engineering, and gave him the skills to create perfectly understandable sketches of his ideas. Leonardo’s curiosity caused him to cross fields in a bid to satisfy his curiosities. While this was part of Leonardo’s uniqueness it was also a flaw in that taking on too much often caused delays on the projects he was working on. Leonardo’s interests were so vast that it was often difficult to concentrate on one thing.
In his lifetime the artist traveled a lot, especially to Milan, where he had a house and created many of his best works, including the very famous Last Supper, which is enjoying renewed popularity thanks to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. The Last Supper, along with Da Vinci’s La Gioconda (better known as the Mona Lisa) is among the most famous and recognizable paintings in the world. The Mona Lisa is, of course, known especially for her incredible smile, which is real, captivating and enigmatic, all at the same time. Her eyes, too, almost coquettishly smile to the observer, with a hint of mystery and dash of malice; the Mona Lisa is so mesmerizing that some believe the painting hides secret codes to be interpreted and passed on to the next generations. This mystery only serves to heighten the myth of Leonardo and his masterpieces.
If Leonardo’s brush strokes were second to none, neither were his commitment to science and scientific subjects. Da Vinci’s notes and drawings are gathered in several collections, but one above all contains the most impressive series of annotations: the “Hammer Code,” now owned by Bill Gates. This is a unique journal and a testimony of Leonardo’s mind, even more impressive to look at because Leonardo, born left-handed, used to write the way left handed people would naturally do: from right to left. These documents represent a treasure for humanity, but they also narrate Da Vinci’s style and his ideas, revealing a man that liked to observe nature and science more than actually experimenting on it. Da Vinci treated science as art, as something that from his inner soul would be shown and revealed to the rest of the world. His interest in science also quickly moved to human anatomy, and Da Vinci was known to open and study corpses, dissecting them to get a clear understanding of the human body and its organs.
While Mona Lisa and The Last Supper defined Da Vinci’s art, his “Virtuvian Man” is without a doubt the symbol of his scientific side. The Vitruvian Man is a great combination of art and science, just like Da Vinci himself: the man who so ably caught the wisp of a woman’s smile, also created drawings that would later become what we know of as a helicopter. It was truly amazing for Da Vinci to imagine a flying object without wings, especially in his day and age. Along with all this one must never forget Da Vinci’s love of music (he was the creator of the Italian Lyre, a mother to the harp), the third in his triumvirate of talents and specialties, that has left a truly indelible print on the world as we know it. While Leonardo da Vinci passed away in 1519 it is no surprise that his legacy, ideas and his creations still live on and will for generations to come.