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Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) Italy

Leonardo Da Vinci was born in 1452 just outside the town of Vinci in Tuscany. His extraordinary talents in various areas, such as music and poetry, were evident already when he was a child. His family eventually moved to Florence, which was a major center for art at the time. At the age of 14, his cultural interests led to his apprenticeship with Andrea del Verrocchio, a leading sculptor, painter, and goldsmith. Leonardo studied with Verocchio for seven years and during that time, he helped paint The Baptism of Christ. The painting was deeply impressive to his teacher, who swore never to paint again. Three years later, at the age of 20 in 1472, Leonardo qualified as a master and he joined the Guild of St Luke. The Renaissance was just beginning, and a new way of thinking was emerging. The more one knew, the better, and better yet if one could be extremely talented at everything. Leonardo da Vinci was one of the most important men of the Renaissance, and he is sometimes called “the man with the gifts of ten men”, a nickname to which he very much lived up. While pursuing his painting practice, he also studied astronomy, technology, mechanics, anatomy, biology, zoology, ornithology, paleontology, botany, mathematics, geometry and physics. In addition, he was a sculptor, water engineer, instrument maker, and a mechanical, military and civil engineer. He was ahead of his time in many ways, and drew well-developed inventions such as a diving suit, a pyramid-shaped parachute and a helicopter-like flying machine with sails intended to rotate. Leonardo was an innovative painter, and he developed a new technique in which paints and colors were fused together. The gentle transitions between shadow and light prevent the eye from distinguishing individual lines and areas of color. He also invented a new kind of paint, which he used for The Last Supper. He experimented with a new kind of oil tempera, which he applied to dry plaster rather than wet plaster, the traditional base for a fresco. Unfortunately, the technique did not work very well and the painting already began to deteriorate in da Vinci’s lifetime. Da Vinci is probably best known for the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. In 1482, he went to Milan, where he began working for Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. He worked there as a court painter, sculptor, architect and army engineer until the fall of the Sforza family in 1499. During this period, he was tasked with painting the Virgin of the Rocks and The Last Supper for the Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery. The Last Supper is a mural depicting the last supper of Jesus; it was painted from 1495 to 1498 and is considered an ideal High Renaissance painting. The Mona Lisa is a painting that has been studied for a
long time. Some people believe it to be a depiction of Leonardo as a woman. Others think the Mona Lisa is a study of a large collection of women, and that the painting is the result of the “average woman”. In other words, da Vinci measured the mouth of each woman and then painted an average-sized mouth. The process of painting the Mona Lisa spanned from 1503 to 1506, but he continued working on the mouth for a few years more. Da Vinci was not always so appreciated in his home country of Italy. He therefore spent the final years of his life in France, where he was deeply admired. Leonardo da Vinci died in 1519 in Amboise, France.

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Leonardo da Vinci: Oil paints and Sfumato

There are currently only 20 known oil paintings by the Renaissance legend Leonardo da Vinci - and some of them are not yet formally attributed to him. Here we take a look at Da Vinci's oil painting: the technique, the motives, and the symbolism.