Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (15 April 14522 May 1519) was an Italian of the who was active as a painter, , engineer, scientist, theorist, sculptor and architect. While his fame initially rested on his achievements as a painter, he also became known for , in which he made drawings and notes on a variety of subjects, including anatomy, astronomy, botany, cartography, painting, and . Leonardo's epitomized the ideal, and his compose a contribution to later generations of artists matched only by that of his younger contemporary, . Born to a successful and a lower-class woman in, or near, , he was educated in Florence by the Italian painter and sculptor . He began his career in the city, but then spent much time in the service of in Milan. Later, he worked in Florence and Milan again, as well as briefly in , all while attracting a of imitators and students. Upon the invitation of , he spent his last three years in France, where he died in 1519. Since his death, there has not been a time where his achievements, diverse interests, , and empirical thinking have failed to incite interest and admiration, making him a frequent and . Leonardo is among the greatest painters in the and is often credited as the founder of the High Renaissance. Despite having many and —including numerous —he created some of the most influential paintings in . His , the ', is his best known work and often regarded as the world's most famous painting. ' is the most reproduced religious painting of all time and his ' drawing is also regarded as a . In 2017, ', attributed in whole or part to Leonardo, was sold at auction for , setting a new record for the at public auction. Revered for his , he conceptualized flying machines, a type of , concentrated solar power, an adding machine, and the double hull. Relatively few of his designs were constructed or even feasible during his lifetime, as the modern scientific approaches to metallurgy and engineering were only in their infancy during the . Some of his smaller inventions, however, entered the world of manufacturing unheralded, such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire. He made substantial discoveries in , , , , , and , but he did not publish his findings and they had little to no direct influence on subsequent science.


Early life (1452–1472)

Birth and background

Leonardo da Vinci, properly named Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (Leonardo, son of ser Piero from Vinci), was born on 15 April 1452 in, or close to, the hill town of ; was 20 miles away. He was born to (Ser Piero di Antonio di Ser Piero di Ser Guido da Vinci; 1426–1504), a Florentine , and ( – 1494), from the lower-class. It remains uncertain where Leonardo was born; the traditional account, from a local recorded by the historian , is that he was born in , a country that would have offered sufficient privacy for the illegitimate birth, though it is still possible he was born in a house in Florence that Ser Piero almost certainly had. Leonardo's parents both married separately the year after his birth. Caterina—who later appears in Leonardo's notes as only "Caterina" or "Catelina"—is usually identified as the Caterina Buti del Vacca who married the local Antonio di Piero Buti del Vacca, nicknamed "L'Accattabriga" ("the quarrelsome one"). Other theories have been proposed, particularly that of art historian , who suggested Caterina di Meo Lippi, an orphan that married purportedly with aid from Ser Piero and his family. Ser Piero married Albiera Amadori—having been to her the previous year—and after her death in 1462, went on to have three subsequent marriages. From all the marriages, Leonardo eventually had 12 half-siblings who were much younger than he was (the last was born when Leonardo was 40 years old) and with whom he had very little contact. Very little is known about Leonardo's childhood and much is shrouded in myth, partially because of his biography in the frequently apocryphal ' (1550) from the 16th-century art historian . Tax records indicate that by at least 1457 he lived in the household of his paternal grandfather, Antonio da Vinci, but it is possible that he spent the years before then in the care of his mother in Vinci, either Anchiano or Campo Zeppi in the parish of San Pantaleone. He is thought to have been close to his uncle, Francesco da Vinci, but his father was likely in Florence most of the time. Ser Piero, who was the descendant of a long line of notaries, established an official residence in Florence by at least 1469 and led a successful career. Despite his family history, Leonardo only received a basic and informal education in () writing, reading and mathematics, possibly because his artistic talents were recognised early, so his family decided to focus their attention there. Later in life, Leonardo recorded his earliest memory, now in the . While writing on the flight of birds, he recalled as an infant when a came to his cradle and opened his mouth with its tail; commentators still debate whether the anecdote was an actual memory or a fantasy.

Verrocchio's workshop

In the mid-1460s, Leonardo's family moved to Florence, which at the time was the centre of Christian thought and culture. Around the age of 14, he became a ''garzone'' (studio boy) in the workshop of , who was the leading Florentine painter and sculptor of his time. This was about the time of the death of Verrocchio's master, the great sculptor . Leonardo became an apprentice by the age of 17 and remained in training for seven years. Other famous painters apprenticed in the workshop or associated with it include , , , and . Leonardo was exposed to both theoretical training and a wide range of technical skills, including drafting, chemistry, metallurgy, metal working, plaster casting, leather working, mechanics, and woodwork, as well as the artistic skills of drawing, painting, sculpting, and modelling. Leonardo was a contemporary of Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Perugino, who were all slightly older than he was. He would have met them at the workshop of Verrocchio or at the of the . Florence was ornamented by the works of artists such as Donatello's contemporaries , whose figurative es were imbued with realism and emotion, and , whose ', gleaming with , displayed the art of combining complex figure compositions with detailed architectural backgrounds. had made a detailed study of , and was the first painter to make a scientific study of light. These studies and 's treatise ' were to have a profound effect on younger artists and in particular on Leonardo's own observations and artworks. Much of the painting in Verrocchio's workshop was done by his assistants. According to Vasari, Leonardo collaborated with Verrocchio on his ', painting the young angel holding Jesus' robe in a manner that was so far superior to his master's that Verrocchio put down his brush and never painted again, although this is believed to be an apocryphal story. Close examination reveals areas of the work that have been painted or touched-up over the , using the new technique of , including the landscape, the rocks seen through the brown mountain stream, and much of the figure of Jesus, bearing witness to the hand of Leonardo. Leonardo may have been the model for two works by Verrocchio: the bronze statue of ' in the , and the in '. Vasari tells a story of Leonardo as a very young man: a local peasant made himself a round shield and requested that Ser Piero have it painted for him. Leonardo, inspired by the story of , responded with a spitting fire that was so terrifying that his father bought a different shield to give to the peasant and sold Leonardo's to a Florentine art dealer for 100 s, who in turn sold it to the .

First Florentine period (1472–c. 1482)

By 1472, at the age of 20, Leonardo qualified as a master in the , the guild of artists and doctors of medicine, but even after his father set him up in his own workshop, his attachment to Verrocchio was such that he continued to collaborate and live with him. Leonardo's earliest known dated work is of the valley. According to Vasari, the young Leonardo was the first to suggest making the Arno river a navigable channel between Florence and . In January 1478, Leonardo received an independent commission to paint an altarpiece for the Chapel of St. Bernard in the , an indication of his independence from Verrocchio's studio. An anonymous early biographer, known as , claims that in 1480 Leonardo was living with the Medici and often worked in the garden of the , where a Neoplatonic academy of artists, poets and philosophers organized by the Medici met. In March 1481, he received a commission from the monks of for '. Neither of these initial commissions were completed, being abandoned when Leonardo went to offer his services to . Leonardo wrote Sforza a letter which described the diverse things that he could achieve in the fields of engineering and weapon design, and mentioned that he could paint. He brought with him a silver —either a or —in the form of a horse's head. With Alberti, Leonardo visited the home of the Medici and through them came to know the older Humanist philosophers of whom , proponent of ; , writer of commentaries on Classical writings, and , teacher of Greek and translator of were the foremost. Also associated with the Platonic Academy of the Medici was Leonardo's contemporary, the brilliant young poet and philosopher . In 1482, Leonardo was sent as an ambassador by to , who ruled between 1479 and 1499. File:Leonardo da Vinci Madonna of the Carnation.jpg, ', , , Munich File:Paisagem do Arno - Leonardo da Vinci.jpg, ''Landscape of the Arno Valley'' (1473) File:Leonardo da Vinci - Ginevra de' Benci - Google Art Project.jpg, ', , , Washington D.C. File:Madonna benois 01.jpg, ', , , Saint Petersburg File:Leonardo da Vinci - Hanging of Bernardo Baroncelli 1479.jpg, Sketch of the hanging of , 1479

First Milanese period (c. 1482–1499)

Leonardo worked in Milan from 1482 until 1499. He was commissioned to paint the ' for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception and ' for the monastery of . In the spring of 1485, Leonardo travelled to on behalf of Sforza to meet king , and was commissioned by him to paint a . Leonardo was employed on many other projects for Sforza, including the preparation of floats and pageants for special occasions, and wooden model for a competition to design the for (which he withdrew), and a model for a huge to Ludovico's predecessor . This would have surpassed in size the only two large equestrian statues of the Renaissance, 's ' in Padua and Verrocchio's ' in Venice, and became known as the '. Leonardo completed a model for the horse and made detailed plans for its , but in November 1494, Ludovico gave the bronze to to be used for a cannon to defend the city from . Contemporary correspondence records that Leonardo and his assistants were commissioned by the Duke of Milan to paint the in the . The decoration was completed in 1498. The project became a decoration that made the great hall appear to be a pergola created by the interwoven limbs of sixteen mulberry trees, whose canopy included an intricate labyrinth of leaves and knots on the ceiling. File:Leonardo da vinci, Head of a girl 01.jpg, ', , File:Leonardo da Vinci - Portrait of a Musician - Pinacoteca Ambrosiana.jpg, ', , , Milan File:Da Vinci Vitruve Luc Viatour (cropped).jpg, The ' () , Venice File:Study of horse.jpg, in , File:Leonardo da Vinci (attrib)- la Belle Ferroniere.jpg, ', File:Sala-Asse-18-02-2014-32.jpg, Detail of 1902 restoration, (1498)

Second Florentine period (1500–1508)

When Ludovico Sforza was in 1500, Leonardo fled Milan for , accompanied by his assistant Salaì and friend, the mathematician . In Venice, Leonardo was employed as a military architect and engineer, devising methods to defend the city from naval attack. On his return to Florence in 1500, he and his household were guests of the Servite monks at the monastery of and were provided with a workshop where, according to Vasari, Leonardo created the cartoon of ', a work that won such admiration that "men women, young and old" flocked to see it "as if they were going to a solemn festival." In in 1502, Leonardo entered the service of , the son of , acting as a military architect and engineer and travelling throughout Italy with his patron. Leonardo created a map of Cesare Borgia's stronghold, a town plan of in order to win his patronage. Upon seeing it, Cesare hired Leonardo as his chief and architect. Later in the year, Leonardo produced another map for his patron, one of , Tuscany, so as to give his patron a better overlay of the land and greater strategic position. He created this map in conjunction with his other project of constructing a dam from the sea to Florence, in order to allow a supply of water to sustain the canal during all seasons. Leonardo had left Borgia's service and returned to Florence by early 1503, where he rejoined the on 18 October of that year. By this same month, Leonardo had begun working on a portrait of , the model for the ', which he would continue working on until his twilight years. In January 1504, he was part of a committee formed to recommend where Michelangelo's statue of ' should be placed. He then spent two years in Florence designing and painting a mural of ' for the Signoria, with Michelangelo designing its companion piece, '. In 1506, Leonardo was summoned to Milan by , the acting of the city. There, Leonardo took on another pupil, Count , the son of a aristocrat, who is considered to have been his favourite student. The wished Leonardo to return promptly to finish ''The Battle of Anghiari'', but he was given leave at the behest of , who considered commissioning the artist to make some portraits. Leonardo may have commenced a project for an equestrian figure of d'Amboise; survives and, if genuine, is the only extant example of Leonardo's sculpture. Leonardo was otherwise free to pursue his scientific interests. Many of Leonardo's most prominent pupils either knew or worked with him in Milan, including , , and . In 1507, Leonardo was in Florence sorting out a dispute with his brothers over the estate of his father, who had died in 1504. File:Leonardo da Vinci - Virgin and Child with St Anne C2RMF retouched.jpg, ', , Louvre, Paris File:Leonardo da Vinci - Plan of Imola - Google Art Project.jpg, Leonardo's map of , created for , 1502 File:Leonardo da Vinci - Study of Two Warriors' Heads for the Battle of Anghiari - Google Art Project.jpg, Study for ' (now lost), , , Budapest File:Leonardo da vinci - La scapigliata.jpg, ', (unfinished), , Parma File:Study for the Kneeling Leda.jpg, Study for ' (now lost), , , England

Second Milanese period (1508–1513)

By 1508, Leonardo was back in Milan, living in his own house in Porta Orientale in the parish of Santa Babila. In 1512, Leonardo was working on plans for an equestrian monument for , but this was prevented by an invasion of a confederation of Swiss, Spanish and Venetian forces, which drove the French from Milan. Leonardo stayed in the city, spending several months in 1513 at the Medici's villa.

Rome and France (1513–1519)

In March of 1513, Lorenzo de' Medici's son assumed the papacy (as Leo X); Leonardo went to Rome that September, where he was received by the pope's brother . From September 1513 to 1516, Leonardo spent much of his time living in the in the , where Michelangelo and were both active. Leonardo was given an allowance of 33 ducats a month, and according to Vasari, decorated a lizard with scales dipped in . The pope gave him a painting commission of unknown subject matter, but cancelled it when the artist set about developing a new kind of . Leonardo became ill, in what may have been the first of multiple s leading to his death. He practiced botany in the , and was commissioned to make plans for the pope's proposed draining of the . He also dissected s, making notes for a treatise on ; these he gave to an official in hopes of regaining the pope's favor, but was unsuccessful. In October 1515, King recaptured Milan. Leonardo was present at the 19 December meeting of Francis I and Leo X, which took place in Bologna. In 1516, Leonardo entered Francis' service, being given the use of the manor house , near the king's residence at the royal . Being frequently visited by Francis, he drew plans for an immense the king intended to erect at , and made a mechanical lion, which during a pageant walked toward the king and—upon being struck by a wand—opened its chest to reveal a cluster of lilies. Leonardo was accompanied during this time by his friend and apprentice Francesco Melzi, and supported by a pension totalling 10,000 . At some point, Melzi drew a ; the from his lifetime were a sketch by an unknown assistant on the back of one of Leonardo's studies () and a drawing by depicting an elderly Leonardo with his right arm assuaged by cloth. The latter, in addition to the record of an October 1517 visit by , confirms an account of Leonardo's right hand being paralytic at the age of 65, which may indicate why he left works such as the ''Mona Lisa'' unfinished. He continued to work at some capacity until eventually becoming ill and bedridden for several months.


Leonardo died at on 2 May 1519 at the age of 67, possibly of a stroke.; Deo, Saudamini
physical sign of stroke sequel on the skeleton of Leonardo da Vinci?"
''Neurology''. 4 April 2017; 88(14): 1381–82
Francis I had become a close friend. Vasari describes Leonardo as lamenting on his deathbed, full of repentance, that "he had offended against God and men by failing to practice his art as he should have done." Vasari states that in his last days, Leonardo sent for a priest to make his confession and to receive the . Vasari also records that the king held Leonardo's head in his arms as he died, although this story may be legend rather than fact. In accordance with his will, sixty beggars carrying tapers followed Leonardo's casket. Melzi was the principal heir and executor, receiving, as well as money, Leonardo's paintings, tools, library and personal effects. Leonardo's other long-time pupil and companion, Salaì, and his servant Baptista de Vilanis, each received half of Leonardo's s. His brothers received land, and his serving woman received a fur-lined cloak. On 12 August 1519, were interred in the Collegiate Church of Saint Florentin at the Château d'Amboise. , or Il Salaino ("The Little Unclean One," i.e., the devil), entered Leonardo's household in 1490 as an assistant. After only a year, Leonardo made a list of his misdemeanours, calling him "a thief, a liar, stubborn, and a glutton," after he had made off with money and valuables on at least five occasions and spent a fortune on clothes. Nevertheless, Leonardo treated him with great indulgence, and he remained in Leonardo's household for the next thirty years. Salaì executed a number of paintings under the name of Andrea Salaì, but although Vasari claims that Leonardo "taught him many things about painting," his work is generally considered to be of less artistic merit than others among Leonardo's pupils, such as and . Salaì owned the ''Mona Lisa'' at the time of Leonardo's death in 1524, and in his will it was assessed at 505 lire, an exceptionally high valuation for a small panel portrait. Some 20 years after Leonardo's death, Francis was reported by the goldsmith and sculptor as saying: "There had never been another man born in the world who knew as much as Leonardo, not so much about painting, sculpture and architecture, as that he was a very great philosopher."

Personal life

Despite the thousands of pages Leonardo left in notebooks and manuscripts, he scarcely made reference to his personal life. Within Leonardo's lifetime, his extraordinary powers of invention, his "great physical beauty" and "infinite grace," as described by , as well as all other aspects of his life, attracted the curiosity of others. One such aspect was his love for animals, likely including and according to Vasari, a habit of purchasing caged birds and releasing them. Leonardo had many friends who are now notable either in their fields or for their historical significance, including mathematician , with whom he collaborated on the book ' in the 1490s. Leonardo appears to have had no close relationships with women except for his friendship with and the two Este sisters, and . While on a journey that took him through , he drew a portrait of Isabella that appears to have been used to create a painted portrait, now lost. Beyond friendship, Leonardo kept his private life secret. His sexuality has been the subject of satire, analysis, and speculation. This trend began in the mid-16th century and was revived in the 19th and 20th centuries, most notably by in his '. Leonardo's most intimate relationships were perhaps with his pupils and . Melzi, writing to inform Leonardo's brothers of his death, described Leonardo's feelings for his pupils as both loving and passionate. It has been claimed since the 16th century that these relationships were of a sexual or erotic nature. Court records of 1476, when he was aged twenty-four, show that Leonardo and three other young men were charged with in an incident involving a well-known male prostitute. The charges were dismissed for lack of evidence, and there is speculation that since one of the accused, Lionardo de Tornabuoni, was related to Lorenzo de' Medici, the family exerted its influence to secure the dismissal. Since that date much has been written about his presumed homosexuality and its role in his art, particularly in the and manifested in ' and ' and more explicitly in a number of erotic drawings.


Despite the recent awareness and admiration of Leonardo as a scientist and inventor, for the better part of four hundred years his fame rested on his achievements as a painter. A handful of works that are either authenticated or attributed to him have been regarded as among the great masterpieces. These paintings are famous for a variety of qualities that have been much imitated by students and discussed at great length by connoisseurs and critics. By the 1490s Leonardo had already been described as a "Divine" painter. Among the qualities that make Leonardo's work unique are his innovative techniques for laying on the paint; his detailed knowledge of anatomy, light, botany and geology; his interest in and the way humans register emotion in expression and gesture; his innovative use of the human form in figurative composition; and his use of subtle gradation of tone. All these qualities come together in his most famous painted works, the ''Mona Lisa'', the ''Last Supper'', and the ''Virgin of the Rocks''.

Early works

Leonardo first gained attention for his work on the ', painted in conjunction with Verrocchio. Two other paintings appear to date from his time at Verrocchio's workshop, both of which are s. One is small, long and high. It is a "" to go at the base of a larger composition, a painting by Lorenzo di Credi from which it has become separated. The other is a much larger work, long. In both Annunciations, Leonardo used a formal arrangement, like two well-known pictures by of the same subject, of the sitting or kneeling to the right of the picture, approached from the left by an angel in profile, with a rich flowing garment, raised wings and bearing a lily. Although previously attributed to Ghirlandaio, the larger work is now generally attributed to Leonardo. In the smaller painting, Mary averts her eyes and folds her hands in a gesture that symbolised submission to God's will. Mary is not submissive, however, in the larger piece. The girl, interrupted in her reading by this unexpected messenger, puts a finger in her bible to mark the place and raises her hand in a formal gesture of greeting or surprise. This calm young woman appears to accept her role as the , not with resignation but with confidence. In this painting, the young Leonardo presents the humanist face of the Virgin Mary, recognising humanity's role in God's incarnation.

Paintings of the 1480s

In the 1480s, Leonardo received two very important commissions and commenced another work that was of ground-breaking importance in terms of composition. Two of the three were never finished, and the third took so long that it was subject to lengthy negotiations over completion and payment. One of these paintings was ', which Bortolon associates with a difficult period of Leonardo's life, as evidenced in his diary: "I thought I was learning to live; I was only learning to die." Although the painting is barely begun, the composition can be seen and is very unusual. , as a , occupies the middle of the picture, set on a slight diagonal and viewed somewhat from above. His kneeling form takes on a trapezoid shape, with one arm stretched to the outer edge of the painting and his gaze looking in the opposite direction. J. Wasserman points out the link between this painting and Leonardo's anatomical studies. Across the foreground sprawls his symbol, a great lion whose body and tail make a double spiral across the base of the picture space. The other remarkable feature is the sketchy landscape of craggy rocks against which the figure is silhouetted. The daring display of figure composition, the landscape elements and personal drama also appear in the great unfinished masterpiece, the ', a commission from the Monks of San Donato a Scopeto. It is a complex composition, of about Leonardo did numerous drawings and preparatory studies, including a detailed one in linear perspective of the ruined that forms part of the background. In 1482 Leonardo went to Milan at the behest of Lorenzo de' Medici in order to win favour with Ludovico il Moro, and the painting was abandoned. The third important work of this period is the ', commissioned in Milan for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception. The painting, to be done with the assistance of the , was to fill a large complex . Leonardo chose to paint an apocryphal moment of the infancy of Christ when the infant , in protection of an angel, met the Holy Family on the road to Egypt. The painting demonstrates an eerie beauty as the graceful figures kneel in adoration around the infant Christ in a wild landscape of tumbling rock and whirling water. While the painting is quite large, about , it is not nearly as complex as the painting ordered by the monks of St Donato, having only four figures rather than about fifty and a rocky landscape rather than architectural details. The painting was eventually finished; in fact, two versions of the painting were finished: one remained at the chapel of the Confraternity, while Leonardo took the other to France. The Brothers did not get their painting, however, nor the de Predis their payment, until the next century. Leonardo's most remarkable portrait of this period is the ', presumed to be (), lover of Ludovico Sforza. The painting is characterised by the pose of the figure with the head turned at a very different angle to the torso, unusual at a date when many portraits were still rigidly in profile. The ermine plainly carries symbolic meaning, relating either to the sitter, or to Ludovico who belonged to the prestigious .

Paintings of the 1490s

Leonardo's most famous painting of the 1490s is ', commissioned for the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria della Grazie in Milan. It represents the shared by Jesus with his disciples before his capture and death, and shows the moment when Jesus has just said "one of you will betray me", and the consternation that this statement caused. The writer observed Leonardo at work and wrote that some days he would paint from dawn till dusk without stopping to eat and then not paint for three or four days at a time. This was beyond the comprehension of the of the convent, who hounded him until Leonardo asked Ludovico to intervene. Vasari describes how Leonardo, troubled over his ability to adequately depict the faces of Christ and the traitor , told the duke that he might be obliged to use the prior as his model. The painting was acclaimed as a masterpiece of design and characterization, but it deteriorated rapidly, so that within a hundred years it was described by one viewer as "completely ruined." Leonardo, instead of using the reliable technique of fresco, had used tempera over a ground that was mainly , resulting in a surface subject to mould and to flaking. Despite this, the painting remains one of the most reproduced works of art; countless copies have been made in various mediums. Toward the end of this period, in 1498 da Vinci's trompe-l'œil decoration of the was painted for the Duke of Milan in the Sforza Castle.

Paintings of the 1500s

In 1505, Leonardo was commissioned to paint ''The Battle of Anghiari'' in the (Hall of the Five Hundred) in the , Florence. Leonardo devised a dynamic composition depicting four men riding raging war horses engaged in a battle for possession of a standard, at the in 1440. Michelangelo was assigned the opposite wall to depict the . Leonardo's painting deteriorated rapidly and is now known from a copy by . Among the works created by Leonardo in the 16th century is the small portrait known as the ' or ''La Gioconda'', the laughing one. In the present era, it is arguably the most famous painting in the world. Its fame rests, in particular, on the elusive smile on the woman's face, its mysterious quality perhaps due to the subtly shadowed corners of the mouth and eyes such that the exact nature of the smile cannot be determined. The shadowy quality for which the work is renowned came to be called "," or Leonardo's smoke. Vasari wrote that the smile was "so pleasing that it seems more divine than human, and it was considered a wondrous thing that it was as lively as the smile of the living original." Other characteristics of the painting are the unadorned dress, in which the eyes and hands have no competition from other details; the dramatic landscape background, in which the world seems to be in a state of flux; the subdued colouring; and the extremely smooth nature of the painterly technique, employing laid on much like , and blended on the surface so that the brushstrokes are indistinguishable. Vasari expressed that the painting's quality would make even "the most confident master ... despair and lose heart." The perfect state of preservation and the fact that there is no sign of repair or overpainting is rare in a panel painting of this date. In the painting ', the composition again picks up the theme of figures in a landscape, which Wasserman describes as "breathtakingly beautiful" and harkens back to the St Jerome picture with the figure set at an oblique angle. What makes this painting unusual is that there are two obliquely set figures superimposed. Mary is seated on the knee of her mother, St Anne. She leans forward to restrain the Christ Child as he plays roughly with a lamb, the sign of his own impending sacrifice. This painting, which was copied many times, influenced Michelangelo, Raphael, and , and through them and . The trends in composition were adopted in particular by the Venetian painters and .


Leonardo was a prolific draughtsman, keeping journals full of small sketches and detailed drawings recording all manner of things that took his attention. As well as the journals there exist many studies for paintings, some of which can be identified as preparatory to particular works such as ''The Adoration of the Magi'', ''The Virgin of the Rocks'' and ''The Last Supper''. His earliest dated drawing is a ''Landscape of the Arno Valley'', 1473, which shows the river, the mountains, Montelupo Castle and the farmlands beyond it in great detail. Among his famous drawings are the ', a study of the proportions of the human body; the ''Head of an Angel'', for ' in the ; a botanical study of ''Star of Bethlehem''; and a large drawing (160×100 cm) in black chalk on coloured paper of ' in the National Gallery, London. This drawing employs the subtle ' technique of shading, in the manner of the ''Mona Lisa''. It is thought that Leonardo never made a painting from it, the closest similarity being to ' in the Louvre. Other drawings of interest include numerous studies generally referred to as "caricatures" because, although exaggerated, they appear to be based upon observation of live models. Vasari relates that Leonardo would look for interesting faces in public to use as models for some of his work. There are numerous studies of beautiful young men, often associated with Salaì, with the rare and much admired facial feature, the so-called "Grecian profile." These faces are often contrasted with that of a warrior. Salaì is often depicted in fancy-dress costume. Leonardo is known to have designed sets for pageants with which these may be associated. Other, often meticulous, drawings show studies of drapery. A marked development in Leonardo's ability to draw drapery occurred in his early works. Another often-reproduced drawing is a macabre sketch that was done by Leonardo in Florence in 1479 showing the body of , hanged in connection with the murder of Giuliano, brother of Lorenzo de' Medici, in the . In his notes, Leonardo recorded the colours of the robes that Baroncelli was wearing when he died. Like the two contemporary architects (who designed the Belvedere Courtyard) and , Leonardo experimented with designs for centrally planned churches, a number of which appear in his journals, as both plans and views, although none was ever realised.

Journals and notes

recognised no mutually exclusive polarities between the sciences and the arts, and Leonardo's studies in science and engineering are sometimes considered as impressive and innovative as his artistic work. These studies were recorded in 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, which fuse art and (the forerunner of modern science). They were made and maintained daily throughout Leonardo's life and travels, as he made continual observations of the world around him. Leonardo's notes and drawings display an enormous range of interests and preoccupations, some as mundane as lists of groceries and people who owed him money and some as intriguing as designs for wings and shoes for walking on water. There are compositions for paintings, studies of details and drapery, studies of faces and emotions, of animals, babies, dissections, plant studies, rock formations, whirlpools, war machines, flying machines and architecture. These notebooks—originally loose papers of different types and sizes—were largely entrusted to Leonardo's pupil and heir Francesco Melzi after the master's death. These were to be published, a task of overwhelming difficulty because of its scope and Leonardo's idiosyncratic writing. Some of Leonardo's drawings were copied by an anonymous Milanese artist for . After Melzi's death in 1570, the collection passed to his son, the lawyer Orazio, who initially took little interest in the journals. In 1587, a Melzi household tutor named Lelio Gavardi took 13 of the manuscripts to Pisa; there, the architect reproached Gavardi for having taken the manuscripts illicitly and returned them to Orazio. Having many more such works in his possession, Orazio gifted the volumes to Magenta. News spread of these lost works of Leonardo's, and Orazio retrieved seven of the 13 manuscripts, which he then gave to for publication in two volumes; one of these was the . The other six works had been distributed to a few others. After Orazio's death, his heirs sold the rest of Leonardo's possessions, and thus began their dispersal. Some works have found their way into major collections such as the Royal Library at , the Louvre, the , the , the in Milan, which holds the 12-volume Codex Atlanticus, and the in London, which has put a selection from the (BL Arundel MS 263) online. Works have also been at , the , and in the private hands of and . The is the only privately owned major scientific work of Leonardo; it is owned by and displayed once a year in different cities around the world. Most of Leonardo's writings are in cursive. Since Leonardo wrote with his left hand, it was probably easier for him to write from right to left. Leonardo used a variety of shorthand and symbols, and states in his notes that he intended to prepare them for publication. In many cases a single topic is covered in detail in both words and pictures on a single sheet, together conveying information that would not be lost if the pages were published out of order. Why they were not published during Leonardo's lifetime is unknown.

Science and inventions

Leonardo's approach to science was observational: he tried to understand a phenomenon by describing and depicting it in utmost detail and did not emphasise experiments or theoretical explanation. Since he lacked formal education in and mathematics, contemporary scholars mostly ignored Leonardo the scientist, although he did teach himself Latin. His keen observations in many areas were noted, such as when he wrote "Il sole non si move." ("The Sun does not move.") In the 1490s he studied mathematics under Luca Pacioli and prepared a series of drawings of regular solids in a skeletal form to be engraved as plates for Pacioli's book ', published in 1509. While living in Milan, he studied light from the summit of . Scientific writings in his notebook on fossils have been considered as influential on . The content of his journals suggest that he was planning a series of treatises on a variety of subjects. A coherent treatise on is said to have been observed during a visit by Cardinal Louis d'Aragon's secretary in 1517. Aspects of his work on the studies of anatomy, light and the landscape were assembled for publication by Melzi and eventually published as ' in France and Italy in 1651 and Germany in 1724, with engravings based upon drawings by the Classical painter . According to Arasse, the treatise, which in France went into 62 editions in fifty years, caused Leonardo to be seen as "the precursor of French academic thought on art." While Leonardo's experimentation followed scientific methods, a recent and exhaustive analysis of Leonardo as a scientist by Fritjof Capra argues that Leonardo was a fundamentally different kind of scientist from , and other scientists who followed him in that, as a "", his theorising and hypothesising integrated the arts and particularly painting.

Anatomy and physiology

Leonardo started his study in the of the under the apprenticeship of Verrocchio, who demanded that his students develop a deep knowledge of the subject. As an artist, he quickly became master of ''topographic anatomy'', drawing many studies of s, s and other visible anatomical features. As a successful artist, Leonardo was given permission to human corpses at the in Florence and later at hospitals in Milan and Rome. From 1510 to 1511 he collaborated in his studies with the doctor . Leonardo made over 240 detailed drawings and wrote about 13,000 words toward a treatise on anatomy. Only a small amount of the material on anatomy was published in Leonardo's ''Treatise on painting''. During the time that Melzi was ordering the material into chapters for publication, they were examined by a number of anatomists and artists, including Vasari, and , who made a number of drawings from them. Leonardo's anatomical drawings include many studies of the and its parts, and of muscles and sinews. He studied the mechanical functions of the skeleton and the muscular forces that are applied to it in a manner that prefigured the modern science of . He drew the heart and , the and other internal organs, making one of the first scientific drawings of a ''in utero''. The drawings and notation are far ahead of their time, and if published would undoubtedly have made a major contribution to medical science., ''Daily Telegraph'', 28 July 2013

accessed 29 July 2013.
Leonardo also closely observed and recorded the effects of age and of human emotion on the physiology, studying in particular the effects of rage. He drew many figures who had significant facial deformities or signs of illness. Leonardo also studied and drew the anatomy of many animals, dissecting cows, birds, monkeys, bears, and frogs, and comparing in his drawings their anatomical structure with that of humans. He also made a number of studies of horses. Leonardo's dissections and documentation of muscles, nerves, and vessels helped to describe the physiology and mechanics of movement. He attempted to identify the source of 'emotions' and their expression. He found it difficult to incorporate the prevailing system and theories of , but eventually he abandoned these physiological explanations of bodily functions. He made the observations that humours were not located in cerebral spaces or . He documented that the humours were not contained in the heart or the liver, and that it was the heart that defined the circulatory system. He was the first to define and liver . He created models of the cerebral ventricles with the use of melted wax and constructed a glass to observe the circulation of blood through the aortic valve by using water and grass seed to watch flow patterns. published his work on anatomy and physiology in ' in 1543.

Engineering and inventions

During his lifetime, Leonardo was also valued as an engineer. With the same rational and analytical approach that moved him to represent the human body and to investigate anatomy, Leonardo studied and designed many machines and devices. He drew their “anatomy” with unparalleled mastery, producing the first form of the modern technical drawing, including a perfected "exploded view" technique, to represent internal components. Those studies and projects collected in his codices fill more than 5,000 pages. In a letter of 1482 to the lord of Milan , he wrote that he could create all sorts of machines both for the protection of a city and for siege. When he fled from Milan to Venice in 1499, he found employment as an engineer and devised a system of moveable barricades to protect the city from attack. In 1502, he created a scheme for diverting the flow of the Arno river, a project on which also worked. He continued to contemplate the canalization of while in Louis XII's company and of the and its tributaries in the company of Francis I. Leonardo's journals include a vast number of inventions, both practical and impractical. They include , , hydraulic pumps, reversible crank mechanisms, finned mortar shells, and a . Leonardo was fascinated by the phenomenon of for much of his life, producing many studies, including ' (), as well as plans for several flying machines, such as a flapping and a machine with a helical . A 2003 documentary by British television station , titled ''Leonardo's Dream Machines'', various designs by Leonardo, such as a and , were interpreted and constructed. Some of those designs proved successful, whilst others fared less well when tested. Research performed by revealed older prototypes for more than 100 inventions that are ascribed to Leonardo. Similarities between Leonardo's illustrations and drawings from the Middle Ages and from Ancient Greece and Rome, the Chinese and Persian Empires, and Egypt suggest that a large portion of Leonardo's inventions had been conceived before his lifetime. Leonardo's innovation was to combine different functions from existing drafts and set them into scenes that illustrated their utility. By reconstituting technical inventions he created something new. In his notebooks, Leonardo first stated the ‘laws’ of sliding in 1493. His inspiration for investigating friction came about in part from his study of , which he correctly concluded was not possible. His results were never published and the friction laws were not rediscovered until 1699 by , with whose name they are now usually associated. For this contribution, Leonardo was named as the first of the 23 "Men of Tribology" by .


Although he had no formal academic training, many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime exemplar of the "" or "Renaissance Man", an individual of "unquenchable curiosity" and "feverishly inventive imagination." He is widely considered one of the most diversely talented individuals ever to have lived.See the quotations from the following authors, in section "Fame and reputation": Vasari, Boltraffio, Castiglione, "Anonimo" Gaddiano, Berensen, Taine, Fuseli, Rio, Bortolon. According to art historian , the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent in recorded history, and "his mind and seem to us superhuman, while the man himself mysterious and remote." Scholars interpret his view of the world as being based in logic, though the empirical methods he used were unorthodox for his time. Leonardo's fame within his own lifetime was such that the King of France carried him away like a trophy, and was claimed to have supported him in his old age and held him in his arms as he died. Interest in Leonardo and his work has never diminished. Crowds still queue to see his best-known artworks, T-shirts still bear his most famous drawing, and writers continue to hail him as a genius while speculating about his private life, as well as about what one so intelligent actually believed in. The continued admiration that Leonardo commanded from painters, critics and historians is reflected in many other written tributes. , author of ' (''The Courtier''), wrote in 1528: "...Another of the greatest painters in this world looks down on this art in which he is unequalled..." while the biographer known as "Anonimo Gaddiano" wrote, : "His genius was so rare and universal that it can be said that nature worked a miracle on his behalf..." Vasari, in his ' (1568), opens his chapter on Leonardo:
In the normal course of events many men and women are born with remarkable talents; but occasionally, in a way that transcends nature, a single person is marvellously endowed by Heaven with beauty, grace and talent in such abundance that he leaves other men far behind, all his actions seem inspired and indeed everything he does clearly comes from God rather than from human skill. Everyone acknowledged that this was true of Leonardo da Vinci, an artist of outstanding physical beauty, who displayed infinite grace in everything that he did and who cultivated his genius so brilliantly that all problems he studied he solved with ease.
The 19th century brought a particular admiration for Leonardo's genius, causing to write in 1801: "Such was the dawn of modern art, when Leonardo da Vinci broke forth with a splendour that distanced former excellence: made up of all the elements that constitute the essence of genius..." This is echoed by A.E. Rio who wrote in 1861: "He towered above all other artists through the strength and the nobility of his talents." By the 19th century, the scope of Leonardo's notebooks was known, as well as his paintings. wrote in 1866: "There may not be in the world an example of another genius so universal, so incapable of fulfilment, so full of yearning for the infinite, so naturally refined, so far ahead of his own century and the following centuries." Art historian wrote in 1896: "Leonardo is the one artist of whom it may be said with perfect literalness: Nothing that he touched but turned into a thing of eternal beauty. Whether it be the cross section of a skull, the structure of a weed, or a study of muscles, he, with his feeling for line and for light and shade, forever transmuted it into life-communicating values." The interest in Leonardo's genius has continued unabated; experts study and translate his writings, analyse his paintings using scientific techniques, argue over attributions and search for works which have been recorded but never found. Liana Bortolon, writing in 1967, said: "Because of the multiplicity of interests that spurred him to pursue every field of knowledge...Leonardo can be considered, quite rightly, to have been the universal genius par excellence, and with all the disquieting overtones inherent in that term. Man is as uncomfortable today, faced with a genius, as he was in the 16th century. Five centuries have passed, yet we still view Leonardo with awe." The is a special collection at the . Twenty-first-century author based much of his biography of Leonardo on thousands of notebook entries, studying the personal notes, sketches, budget notations, and musings of the man whom he considers the greatest of innovators. Isaacson was surprised to discover a "fun, joyous" side of Leonardo in addition to his limitless curiosity and creative genius. On the 500th anniversary of Leonardo's death, the Louvre in Paris arranged for the largest ever single exhibit of his work, called ''Leonardo'', between November 2019 and February 2020. The exhibit includes over 100 paintings, drawings and notebooks. Eleven of the paintings that Leonardo completed in his lifetime were included. Five of these are owned by the Louvre, but the ''Mona Lisa'' was not included because it is in such great demand among general visitors to the Louvre; it remains on display in its gallery. ''Vitruvian Man'', however, is on display following a legal battle with its owner, the in Venice. ' was also not included because its Saudi owner did not agree to lease the work. The ''Mona Lisa'', considered Leonardo's , is often regarded as the most famous portrait ever made. ''The Last Supper'' is the most reproduced religious painting of all time, and Leonardo's ''Vitruvian Man'' drawing is also considered a . More than a decade of analysis of Leonardo's , conducted by and Agnese Sabato, came to a conclusion in mid-2021. It was determined that the artist has 14 living male relatives. The work could also help determine the authenticity of remains thought to belong to Leonardo.

Location of remains

While Leonardo was certainly buried in the of Saint Florentin at the Château d'Amboise in 12 August 1519, the current location of his remains is unclear. Much of Château d'Amboise was damaged during the , leading to the church's demolition in 1802. Some of the graves were destroyed in the process, scattering the bones interred there and thereby leaving the whereabouts of Leonardo's remains subject to dispute; a gardener may have even buried some in the corner of the courtyard. In 1863, fine-arts received an imperial commission to excavate the site and discovered a partially complete skeleton with a bronze ring on one finger, white hair, and stone fragments bearing the inscriptions "EO", "AR", "DUS", and "VINC"—interpreted as forming "Leonardus Vinci". The skull's eight teeth corresponds to someone of approximately the appropriate age and a silver shield found near the bones depicts a beardless , corresponding to the king's appearance during Leonardo's time in France. Houssaye postulated that the unusually large skull was an indicator of Leonardo's intelligence; author describes this as a "dubious deduction." At the same time, Houssaye noted some issues with his observations, including that the feet were turned toward the , a practice generally reserved for , and that the skeleton of seemed too short. Art historian wrote in 1874 that the height would be appropriate for Leonardo. The skull was allegedly presented to before being returned to the Château d'Amboise, where they were in the chapel of Saint Hubert in 1874. A plaque above the tomb states that its contents are only presumed to be those of Leonardo. It has since been theorized that the folding of the skeleton's right arm over the head may correspond to the paralysis of Leonardo's right hand. In 2016, it was announced that DNA tests would be conducted to determine whether the attribution is correct. The DNA of the remains will be compared to that of samples collected from Leonardo's work and his half-brother Domenico's descendants; it may also be . In 2019, documents were published revealing that Houssaye had kept the ring and a lock of hair. In 1925, his great-grandson sold these to an American collector. Sixty years later, another American acquired them, leading to their being displayed at the beginning on 2 May 2019, the 500th anniversary of the artist's death.


;General ;Dates of works



;Early ;Modern

Works cited


* in * in * *


;Books * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * volume 2: . A reprint o
the original 1883 edition
* * * * * * * * * ;Journals and encyclopedia articles * * * * * *

Further reading

See and for extensive bibliographies * * * *

External links

Universal Leonardo
a database of Leonardo's life and works maintained by and Marina Wallace
Leonardo da Vinci
on the website ;Works
Biblioteca Leonardiana
online bibliography (in Italian)
e-Leo: Archivio digitale di storia della tecnica e della scienza
archive of drawings, notes and manuscripts * *

* ttps://www.fulltextarchive.com/page/The-Notebooks-of-Leonardo-Da-Vinci-Complete1 The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci {{Good article Writers who illustrated their own writing