Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Italian High Renaissance painter, scientist, mathematician and inventor Leonardo da Vinci was born and raised near Vinci, Italy. He is often described as the quintessential Renaissance Man because of his endless curiosity and diverse talents, not to mention being one of the greatest painters to ever live.

In 1466, da Vinci was the apprentice to Verrocchio, one of the most proficient artists of the time, who himself had learned from the great Donatello. At this workshop, da Vinci gained training in drafting, chemistry, metallurgy, and carpentry in addition to the artistic skills of painting, drawing, sculpting and modeling. After his years of training and creating paintings that even his teacher could not match, da Vinci opened his own studio in Florence in 1476. It was here that he was commissioned to paint two of his most famous paintings, The Virgin of the Rocks and The Last Supper. It was also later in Florence where da Vinci met Caterina Sforza, who some believe was the model for the Mona Lisa, the da Vinci painting central to art history and one of the most viewed portraits of all time.

Although vastly talented in anything he attempted, Leonardo da Vinci s paintings are what made him most famous. His Mona Lisa and The Last Supper paintings are cultural icons and the most illustrated and imitated portrait and religious painting of all time. His drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also iconic.

As an inventor, da Vinci was centuries ahead of his time; he essentially postulated the helicopter, calculator and the use of solar power. His sketchbooks show blueprints for flying machines, wings, the human anatomy, as well as numerous ruminations on such subjects that can only be described as extraordinary. Da Vinci was a man that truly had and has no equal.

Twenty years after his death in 1519, da Vinci s close friend Franois I, the King of France said of da Vinci, No man ever lived who had learned as much about sculpture, painting, and architecture, but still more that he was a very great philosopher.

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