Leonardo da Vinci: biography, professional life, famous paintings

  1. Who is Leonardo da Vinci?

  2. Leonardo da Vinci Biography.

  3. Professional Life.

  4. Artworks.

  5. Leonardo Most Famous Paintings. 

  6. Inventions of Leonardo.

  7. Da Vinci's Influence on Life and Art. 

Who is Leonardo da Vinci

There are many names in history that have achieved legendary status for their contributions and exploits in a particular field or at a particular endeavor and Leonardo da Vinci is definitely one of them. However, one of the factors that set Leonardo da Vinci apart from most of the other great names in history is the fact that he had great accomplishments in many fields. Leonardo da Vinci could best be described as a polymath as he was very knowledgeable in a comprehensive list of disciplines. In addition to the fact that he was knowledgeable, the Italian enigma also made practical and noteworthy contributions in various fields as well. When you consider the fact that this man had a reputation as a painter, architect, originator, scientist, engineer, geologist, cartographer, writer and more, it becomes clear that Leonardo da Vinci's greatest achievement is the only way by which he can truly be remembered.  Using these criteria, it can be overly asserted that Leonardo da Vinci is best remembered for his works and contributions as an artist and a painter in particular. Leonardo da Vinci Mona Lisa painting appears to be one of the greatest works of Leonardo.

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This painting is undoubtedly one of the most expensive and celebrated paintings of all time. While Mona Lisa remains Leonardo da Vinci most famous painting, there are other highly esteemed paintings of Leonardo such as The Last Supper. While his drawing was what brought him attention, fame, and adulation in his era, it should be pointed out that he was, in fact, a mastermind. While the level of his intelligence and ingenuity could not be assessed or understood by his generation, it is increasingly apparent in the contemporary age that Leonardo da Vinci was way ahead of his era. Most of his writings were not understood by his generation and his innovations were far more removed from the comprehension of people in his era. While he did not actually invent the airplane or bicycle, it is evident that he was one of the earliest persons to have a created these inventions on paper. Leonardo was indeed a visionary and would have been the father of most of the inventions he sketched.

Leonardo da Vinci's most famous invention was the flying machine. Even though he was unable to create a functioning flying machine, it can be asserted that it was largely because the world was largely developing and he didn’t have the required materials for its completion. Nonetheless, his works contained in the flying machine certainly paved the way for the modern-day helicopter. Let us explore Leonardo da Vinci life history for an adequate insight into this exceptional character.

Leonardo da Vinci biography

Salvator Mundi by Leonard.

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The beautiful settlement of Tuscan helmet is the birthplace of Leonardo. Leonardo da Vinci early life began without any extraordinary deeds or occurrences. Just like many other youngsters his age, he took up traineeship in one of the popular crafts in the city. Leonardo was born outside a proper marriage which happened to be an illicit affair between his father and a peasant woman.  He was later raised by his father and stepmother before he went in to become a student at age 14. He was a trainee under Andrea del Verrocchio who was a celebrated sculptor, painter, and goldsmith in Italy. It is expected that Leonardo earliest influences and inspirations came during his involvement with Andrea.

Leonardo had a humble beginning where he was under the guidance of Verrocchio. He started by sanitizing the workshop and soon he began learning some of the painting and sculpting processes too. After a long time in this phase, Leonardo advanced into learning and replicating Verrocchio’s paintings and is expected that was he was certified to be an expert in the field, he worked in partnership with other students and his teacher in the creation of many impressive paintings and sculptures.

It was during this period of da Vinci’s life that he embarked on a lot of self-learning processes. While he was under the guidance of Andrea del Verrocchio to learn painting and other forms of artistry, Leonardo expanded his knowledge and began studying many other disciplines like engineering, architecture, metallurgy, science and many more. At the midway point during his training with Verrocchio, Leonardo da Vinci had made giant strides in painting as he finalized a scenery drawing for Santa Maria Della Neve. This work is believed to be one of the oldest works of Leonardo.

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It is worth mentioning that the popularity and admiration of Leonardo Da Vinci stemmed from his artistic mastery. While he had many paintings for which he was revered and loved there were some that achieved legendary status till this very day. With the skillful and intricate application of the painting technique known as Sfumato, Leonardo was able to create some of the most captivating works of art that the world has ever seen till date.

It is the norm for a student’s works to be accredited to his teacher and so much of his artistic endeavors during his apprenticeship years were as such ascribed to Verrocchio irrespective of the fact that they along with other students worked on projects together. Using contemporary science and expert analysis, many such teams works like the Baptism of Christ, have been evaluated and the contributions of Leonardo to such paintings were identified. Leonardo renaissance art continues to be a marvel to the world however it must be mentioned that his master’s teachings and mentorship greatly influenced and nurtured his art into a masterpiece!

While he was still a part of the Florence painters' guild in 1472, he was still worked for his master in the capacity of a helper before becoming independent in 1476. An investigation into In Leonardo da Vinci early life reveals that he was once accused of sodomy and later declared innocent by the court. At the young age of twenty, Leonardo became a member of the guild of St Luke before he traveled to Milan to kick-start his professional career in 1482 in Millan where he worked for the wealthy families.  

Professional life

Mona Lisa.

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Leonardo da Vinci professional life began in 1476 when he stopped working for his master and became fully independent. It was during this period that Leonardo da Vinci most famous painting was created. Leonardo began his professional career with a job that was offered to him in Florence where he worked in a school of artists, poets, and thinkers that was created by the powerful banding and political dynasty of the Medici. He got his first assignment to paint the altarpiece for the chapel of St. Bernard. This was followed by another assignment in 1481 which was a completely independent order. This order was for the creation of the adoration of the magi which was for the monastery in San Donato. However, both assignments were not finalized as the great Leonardo was soon bound for Milan.

Soon, Leonardo began handling many projects in Milan where he worked for a period spanning from 1482 to 1499. During this period of eleven years, Leonardo handled many paintings like the Virgin of the Rocks which was for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception. In a similar manner, he handled was is regarded as one of his most revered painting and artworks, the last supper. It is worth mentioning that this painting is amongst Leonardo’s top five most celebrated artworks and its last location is the Santa Maria Delle Grazie. While it may not be up for sale, the worth of this painting is currently set at an estimated 150 million dollars. This painting was originally created for the monastery of Santa Maria Delle Grazie.

The expertise, artistry, and skill of Leonardo were hired for many diverse undertakings for Ludovico. Some of the many jobs he worked on include the designing of floats and parades for special events, plans for a ceiling for Milan Cathedral as well as a prototype for a gigantic equestrian monument to Francesco Sforza. Gran Cavallo which is otherwise known as Leonardo’s horse was initiated to in 1492 was intended to be significantly bigger than two of the biggest riding horses sculptures of the Renaissance. Various preliminary steps were taken by Leonardo towards the creation of this spectacle however, the undertaking was aborted due to the invasion of Milan by French forces in 1499. This major political event forced Leonardo to flee from Milan thus abandoning this work.

The story of the Gran Cavallo ended with it being used for training by the French troops who fired projectiles at it as training. Soon, Leonardo’s professional journey took soon took an unlikely turn following the invasion of France and ousting of Ludovico Sforza. Leonardo and his acquaintance ran to Venice where they worked in the capacity of military architect and engineer with the duty of creating techniques to protect the city from marine attack.

The Lady with an Ermine.

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His work in the capacity for a while before heading back to Florence in 1500.  He was offered workspace in the Santissima Annunziata where he designed The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist. This painting was a spectacle that became one of the most admired Leonardo da Vinci artworks.  Owing to his military experience and extensive insight, Leonardo soon began working for Cesare Borgia in the same capacity with which he served in the Venice, as a military architect and engineer. His service under Ceaser Borgia was ended when he rejoined the guilds in 1503. During this period, Leonardo da Vinci began handling a project in conjunction with the legendary Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. The project was a gigantic wall painting of The Battle of Anghiari for the Signoria.  This magnificent painting is one of Leonardo da Vinci artworks that has not been found to date. Popularly referred to as "The Lost Leonardo," it remains the subject of many speculations by experts who largely agree that the painting is concealed in the hall of five hundred. 

Subsequently, Leonardo went back to Milan where he jointly worked with many of his students. Some of the big names he partnered with encompass Bernardino Luini, Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, and Marco D'Oggione. Nonetheless, he sojourned in Milan briefly owing to the demise of his father. A year later, he had returned to Florence to face a family feud over his father's properties and lands. Which he attempted to resolve. The following year, he went back to Milan again and by 1508 he was residing in his personal home in Porta Orientale which is located in the neighborhood of Santa Babila.

After spending most of his golden years in the Vatican, Leonardo died at Clos Lucé, France of a stroke. He was believed to have breathed his last in the arms of the King. His romantic involvement with the French as reported in the accounts of Vasari remains largely unverified and possibly imaginary.


Last supper by Leonard da Vinci

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While Leonardo was a renaissance man with a high level of intellect and mastery in many fields, it must be emphasized that he is best remembered for his artworks and painting. In light of the aforesaid, it should be noted that Leonardo was actively involved in many artworks throughout his lifetime. While it is almost impossible to give an accurate estimate of all Leonardo da Vinci artworks, we can definitively affirm that he had 15 spectacular artworks that were either handled chiefly by him or had his involvement.

One of the first known painting of Leonardo was the profile of an ancient captain in 1472. The Landscape drawing for Santa Maria Della Nave which showed pastoral life was created by Leonardo in 1472. This was followed by the landscape drawing known as the Arno Valley Landscape in 1473. Subsequently, Leonardo created the study of hands in 1474. The Wreath of Laurel, Palm, and Juniper with a Scroll inscribed Virtutem Forum is a spectacle that was created around 1474.

The drawings of the siege defenses and drawings of water lifting were created in 1481 and they could be best described as more of engineering artworks than they were artistic or intended for visual appeal. The visionary drawing of the flying machine which continues to be a marvel to the contemporary world was created in 1488. This was equally not intended for visual appeal but it was a demonstration of Leonardo’s engineering capabilities. Modeled after the wings of a bat, this is one of the earliest proof of man trying to fly. Study of an apostle's head and architectural study is a painting that was created in 1496 and shows the head of St James who appears to be reclining in surprise.

This magnificent painting is said to be executed with red chalk, and ink. Augustinian was a monk that commissioned this painting to be done in 1481. The Adoration of a monk shows the monks bowing down to the veneration of the Virgin Mary. The Annunciation was also painted at about 1472 and it shows the archangel Gabriel revealing the plan of God to the Virgin Mary. The lady with Ermine was created in 1490 and the last supper in 1498. Benois Madona was created in 1478 and la Bella Principessa in 1495. In 1495 the baptism of Christ was created and shows John the Baptist baptizing Jesus Christ in the fulfillment of scripture.

Leonardo most famous paintings

The Baptism of Christ.

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Leonardo’s most famous paintings will begin with Salvator Mundi which was originally owned by King Charles 1 of England is regarded as one the greatest artworks of Leonardo. Ginevra de’ Benci was last sold for 5million dollars to the national art gallery and remains one of the most beautiful portraits of Leonardo da Vinci. The Adoration of the Magi in 1481 and The Annunciation were also very popular in the Renaissance period and has since remained one of the most sought-after works of the great artist. Known for his religious paintings, Leonardo was often hired by monks and the aristocrats who often loves religious works, the painting of St. John the Baptists which captures an inimitable and mysterious smile remains a spectacle. Virgin of the Rocks is also one of such religious artworks that makes it to this list. It has survived the centuries and currently resides in the national museum in London and an identical version in Louvre Paris. Lady with an Ermine and the man with the red chalk also makes it on the list of most celebrated paintings of Leonardo. The lady with an Ermine is none of the four female portraits of Leonardo. The Last Supper is indeed a remarkable work of art and could be regarded as one of the most powerful religious painting when looking at all of Leonardo da Vinci artworks. In 1517 the creation of Mona Lisa became the greatest of Leonardo da Vinci famous drawings and may very well be one of Leonardo da Vinci's greatest achievement. The greatness of this painting has inspired many songs, writings and other forms of literature. It is the most talked about painting in the world and will remain so for generations to come.

Inventions of Leonardo

Vitruvian Man.

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It should be noted the Leonardo’s greatest achievement in the field of painting and art is the Mona Lisa painting. However, he was not only an artist but a polymath with profound mastery in many other fields. Leonardo invented the Anemometer, Flying Machine, Helicopter (Aerial Screw), Parachute, 33-Barreled Organ, Giant Crossbow, Triple Barrel Canon and more. He was an engineer, architect, scientist, chemist, anatomist, cartographer, and more. 

However, Leonardo da Vinci's most famous invention remains his detailed sketch and design of the flying machine which offered a pathway to the creation of modern-day helicopters. While helicopters were not created until the mid-19th century, it is worth mentioning that his works on the flying machine were relevant in the physics of the modern helicopter.

Da Vinci's Influence on Life and Art

Leonardo da Vinci life history is one that has had a profound influence on art and life in general. It is almost impossible to look at the advancement of humanity without mentioning Leonardo da Vinci. The works of the inventor, artists, engineer, and architect showed that a man can be much more. More than anything else, Leonardo was an inspiration in the area of learning and self-development. He was a man who developed mastery in many fields. A man with a genuine love for learning and the upliftment of society through creativity and intelligence. In contemporary times, Leonardo is regarded as a renaissance man and one of the earliest sparks that ignited the sophistication of modern civilization. Leonardo da Vinci's Influence on Life and Art cannot be overemphasized. As an artist, he remains the mentor for millions of artists throughout the generations and as an inventor, he is a constant reminder that man can aspire to any heights conceivable.