Leonardo Da Vinci Short Biography with Techniques and Works


Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance scholar whose areas of interest include invention, painting, sculpture , architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of paleontology, iconology, architecture and is considered one of the greatest painters of all time. He is sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachutes, the helicopter and the tank, being the humanistic ideal of the Renaissance.


Many of the great advances in culture for Western civilization are due to one of the most complete historical processes in history, the Italian Renaissance, an explosion of knowledge in which man became the center of all things and not simply a spectator of the will of the gods without the possibility of modifying the destiny that the fates have designated him. Many were the figures that posterity remembers from those times, but few were so completely universal in terms of the fields of know as Leonardo Da Vinci , whose legacy is respected to this day as the most complete throughout the Renaissance era.


Leonardo da Vinci’s life begins in Vinci, a town of the Republic of Florence, on April 15, 1452. Leonardo Da Vinci’s father was Piero Fruosino di Antonio, and his mother’s name was Caterina, a modest peasant woman, who became pregnant after an extramarital affair with di Antonio. The fact that he is a Natural Son is the reason why Leonardo does not really have a surname, but is related to the area of ​​birth.


Leonardo da Vinci was the illegitimate son of a Florentine lawyer, who did not allow him to meet his mother, a modest peasant girl. He trained as an artist in Florence, in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio; but much of his career was developed in other Italian cities such as Milan (where he remained between 1489 and 1499 under the patronage of Duke Ludovico Sforza, called the Moor  or Rome (where he worked for Julio de Medici). Although he practiced the three plastic arts, no sculpture of him has been preserved and it seems that none of the buildings he designed was ever built, so that of his work as a sculptor and architect there are only indications in his notes and personal sketches.

Who was Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci’s father , however, raised him in the same way as a legitimate son, enjoying all the privileges of a noble family, and despite not having attended university he was educated in writing and arithmetic. Since he was little, he showed  great artistic mastery drawing mythological animals of his invention . While still a child, he made a Medusa shield with dragons that scared his father when he found it by surprise. It would be thanks to the intervention of his grandmother, that  Leonardo Da Vinci  became involved with art from a young age, and being very young, at the age of 14, his father showed Andrea the sketches that his son made and he admitted him as an apprentice in his workshop in 1469. In this workshop Leonardo Da VinciHe would begin to get involved with disciplines other than art but related to it, such as chemistry, metallurgy, carpentry, among others; besides the sculpture in stone and bronze.

In 1472 he joined the San Lucas guild, which brought together artists from the Florence region, and despite the fact that by 1476 he already owned his own workshop thanks to the help of his father Leonardo Da Vinci, he continued to work together with Verrocchio. In 1476 he painted his first completely independent painting The Virgin of the Carnation.

He was a handsome and vigorous young man, he had inherited the physical strength of his father’s line; it is said that it could have been the model for the head of Saint Michael in the painting of Verrocchio  Tobías and the angel , with fine and beautiful features.

Leonardo Da Vinci periods

First Milanese period: from 1482 to 1499.

In 1482 he was as a painter and ducal engineer at the court of the mighty Ludovico Sforza, the strongman of Milan, for seventeen years. Although his main occupation was that of a military engineer, his projects covered hydraulics, mechanics and architecture, as well as painting and sculpture. It was his period of full development, it is at this time, Leonardo Da Vinci, began his notes for the formulation of a science of painting, while practicing in the execution and manufacture of lutes. Seeing the dramatic plague that ravaged Milan and the dirtiness of the city, he made plans for river channels and ingenious defense systems against enemy artillery. By 1490 he decided to open an academy where he shared his knowledge with a select group of young apprentices, while he alternated with the development of his artistic production. Above all, his friendship with the mathematician Luca Pacuili, a Franciscan friar who concluded his treatise On  the  Divine  Proportion , illustrated by Leonardo, was fruitful  .

The ideal of the  saper vedere  guided all his studies, which in the 1490s began to emerge as a series of unfinished treatises that would later be compiled in the  Codex Atlanticus  It includes works on painting, architecture, mechanics, anatomy, geography, botany, hydraulics and aerodynamics, fusing art and science in an individual cosmology that also provides a way out for an aesthetic debate that was anchored in a rather sterile Neoplatonism.

Hired in 1483 by the brotherhood of the Immaculate Conception to make a painting for the church of San Francisco, Leonardo undertook the realization of what would become the famous  Virgin of the Rocks.

In 1498 Leonardo completed a mural painting, initially a modest commission for the refectory of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria dalle Grazie, which would become his definitive pictorial consecration:  The Last Supper. 

The return to Florence

At the end of 1499 the French entered Milan and Leonardo left the city accompanied by Pacioli and went to Venice, where the  Signoria of Venice hired Leonardo as a military engineer.

In a few weeks he projected a number of artifacts whose concrete realization would not be done until, in many cases, until the 19th or 20th centuries, but many of the great ideas did not go beyond sketches. In April 1500, after almost twenty years of absence, Leonardo da Vinci returned to Florence, where he conceived his brilliant project of diverting the Arno river behind the enemy city to surround it, also contemplating the construction of a canal as a waterway that communicated Florence with the sea, although the project only materialized in the extraordinary maps of its author. At the peak of this Florentine stage was the portrait of Mona Lisa,that became a famous work from the moment of its creation, becoming a portrait model and has inspired countless books and legends, and even an opera.

Back in Milan: period from 1506 to 1513.

Leonardo Da Vinci became interested in scientific studies, attending corpse dissections, on which he made drawings to describe the structure and functioning of the human body; at the same time he made systematic observations of the flight of birds, and at this time he also became interested in how man could fly if he came to know the laws of air resistance. He left Florence and in 1506 Charles d’Amboise, the French governor of Milan, offered him the position of architect and court painter, where Leonardo da Vinci projected a castle for him and executed sketches for the oratory of Santa Maria dalla Fontana. At fifty years old, his face, somewhat aged for his age, was taken by Rafael as a model for his work  The School of Athens.

Leonardo wanted to finish his treatise on anatomy by 1510 and put him to work together with Marcantonio della Torre, the most famous anatomist of his time, in the description of organs and the study of human physiology. In 1513 a new situation of political instability pushed him to leave Milan, leaving, together with Melzi and Salai, to Rome, where he stayed in the belvedere of Giuliano de Medici, brother of the new Pope Leo X.

Last years: Rome and France

In the Vatican he lived a period of tranquility, with a decent salary, drawing maps, studying ancient Roman monuments, and planned a large residence for the Medicis in Florence. In 1516, with the death of his protector Giuliano de Medici, Leonardo left Italy for good to spend the last three years of his life at the Palace of Cloux as “the king’s first painter, architect and mechanic.” He concentrated on the writing of its last pages for the never concluded Treatise on Painting  executed extraordinary drawings on biblical and apocalyptic themes, and managed to complete the ambiguous  Saint John the Baptist, an androgynous goblin that overflows with grace, sensuality and mystery.

From 1517 Leonardo Da Vinci’s health  began to deteriorate, leaving his right arm paralyzed, but this did not stop him and with his left hand Leonardo still made sketches of urban projects, river drains and even decorations for palatial festivals.

On May 2, 1519, he died in Cloux, bequeathing to Melzi all his books, manuscripts and drawings, which the disciple took charge of returning to Italy.

Characteristics of Leonardo Da Vinci

  • Great creative imagination and great early skill in his brush.
  • He was the best exponent of the Renaissance man.
  • His genius in such varied disciplines as  drawing, painting, sculpture, engineering or anatomy , and others not so well known to the author such as  cooking, music or literature .
  • He used  specular writing , which consists of writing from left to right in such a way that sentences only acquire their usual appearance when they are seen in a mirror.
  • He had an   obsessive interest in the human body , embracing philosophical reflection. The artist does not limit himself to describing what he observes, but also questions himself about the role of man in the universe.
  •  Dozens of inventions are attributed to him , many of which are unrealizable, because they are too heavy, too large and impossible to maneuver, but still surprising for their modernity.
  • In his pictorial work, all his works are highly studied compositions, based on the perfection of drawing and with a certain aura of mystery, in which the gradation of color contributes to complete the effect of perspective, introducing the sfumato technique   which it consisted of dispelling the sharp contours of the “Quattrocento” painting and blurring the outlines by enveloping the figures in a kind of characteristic mist.
  • According to his criteria, there should be no separation between art and science.
  • The topics of his research were human anatomy , where he advanced in the knowledge of muscles, the eye or blood circulation, zoology,  with special attention to the flight mechanisms of birds and insects, geology, where he stood out for his accurate observations on the origin of fossils, astronomy, a  field in which he anticipated Galileo by arguing that the Earth was just a planet in the Solar System, physics and engineering.

How did the life and work of Leonardo Da Vinci develop?

Leonardo da Vinci describes himself as a homo sanza lettere (“an illiterate man”). Born the illegitimate son of an ambitious and later well-connected notary Piero da Vinci and a peasant woman, Caterina, Leonardo spent his early days in Vinci in the company of his uncle Francesco. Francesco, only sixteen years old, instilled in Da Vinci an understanding and respect for the surrounding nature. Although Da Vinci attended one of the customary d’abasco sculo which taught children how to read, write, and math enough to survive as a merchant, as an illegitimate child he was denied entry to a scuola di lettere, a prerequisite to the College.

Leonardo realizes this lack of formal education by constantly trying to educate himself in later life. He learned Latin to access manuscripts in libraries of the time, builds a considerable personal library, and consults scholars. After the death of his uncle Francesco, Leonardo moved to Florence to be with his father, who introduced him to his friend, artist and craftsman, Verrocchio. Near Verrocchio’s workshop was the bottega de la Polliaiolo brothers, whose paintings were known for their vivid depictions of muscular bodies.

He derives his knowledge of human musculature and anatomy with frequent dissections that Leonardo speculated must have looked at. At the age of twenty, by then a master painter, he was admitted to the painters’ guild known as Compañía di San Luca in 1472. By chance this guild was included in the guild of doctors and apothecaries, which was based in the hospital of Santa María Nuova and that allowed him to carry out his dissections.

One of the definitive legacies of Leonardo was the synthesis of art and science, which not only brought this knowledge, but also the perspective of refinement, adding mathematics and drawing, but also brought his great powers of observation and his skill in the arts to the fields of natural history, anatomy, engineering and architecture.

On the other hand, Leonardo was one of the first scholars to express a relatively modern view of fossils. This fossil record remains the first among the databases to be documented about the changes of life on earth.

Da Vinci was well acquainted with the rocks and fossils (especially Cenozoic mollusks) found in his native northern Italy, having at least observed during his service as an engineer and artist at the court of Lodovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, from 1482 to 1499 His biographer Vasari wrote that Leonardo was frequently busy preparing plans to remove mountains or drill tunnels from plain to plain.

What is the importance of the life and Art of Leonardo Da Vinci?

Da Vinci made two seminal contributions to the understanding of evolution. The first was an exact description of the fossil formation and the second his recognition of the anatomical similarities between animals and humans, being the early precursor to the field of Comparative Anatomy. Both findings were important in presenting evidence for evolution many hundreds of years later. However, his findings remained hidden with little impact on scientific success long after his death.

What were the main techniques used by Leonardo Da Vinci in his Art?

Leonardo da Vinci began his observations on the anatomy of the human body at the time that he was apprenticed to Andrea del Verrocchio, who insisted that all his students learn anatomy. As Leonardo da Vinci became a success as an artist, he was given permission to dissect human corpses at the Santa Maria Nuova hospital in Florence. Later da Vinci dissected in Milan at the Maggiore hospital and in Rome at the Santo Spirito hospital. From 1510 to 1511 Leonardo da Vinci collaborated with the physician Marcantonio della Torre (1481 to 1511). So, in his 30 years, Leonardo da Vinci dissected 30 corpses, men and women of different ages. Together with Marcantonio, da Vinci was willing to publish a theoretical work on anatomy and made more than 200 drawings.

In addition to his great work as an artist, da Vinci explores his inspiration in the natural world, trying to create works of engineering and science. His methods involved an emphasis on observation and detail, as opposed to theory, which was the traditional approach to science during this period. He produced a large number of studies and representations of plants and animals. Similarly, Da Vinci attempted to portray the complexities of horses, the movement of water, and the complexities of the human body. Likewise, when Da Vinci ventured into the examination of human anatomy, he sometimes obtained corpses from local hospitals and participated in dissection towards the deepening of art and science. Because of this, the church declared Da Vinci anti-Christian and denounced his work.

In the same way, da Vinci drew up rudimentary sketches and designs for a wide range of machines, from helicopters to tanks. Nevertheless, Leonardo da Vinci was a very talented sculptor although this art is the least known of his total career due to the lack of outlets.

Leonardo worked as a sculptor from his youth, as shown in his own statements and those of other sources. A small group of heads of the generals in marble and plaster, works by followers of Verrocchio, are sometimes linked to Da Vinci, because a precious drawing attributed to him on the same subject suggests such a connection. But the poor quality of this group of sculptures rules out an attribution to the master. No trace remains of the heads of the women and children who, according to Vasari, were modeled in clay by Da Vinci in his youth.

What are the main works of Leonardo Da Vinci?

Da Vinci, made works both in painting, drawing, as in sculpture and architecture. Some of his most outstanding and named works were:

The Vitruvian man (ca.1487)

It reflects the interests of the artist that intersect in art and science. The impact of humanism on his work is also shown. Therefore, “The Vitruvian Man” represents the image of a man that is superimposed in two positions. In addition to the visual representation, Da Vinci included detailed notes based on the writings of the ancient classical architect Vitruvius. Thus, Da Vinci paid tribute to Vitruvius in his illustration of the relationship between geometry and ideal human proportions. Similarly, “The Vitruvian Man” combines Leonardo’s study of art, science, anatomy, and geometry with his veneration for ancient writings.

The Mona Lisa

This painting is a legendary work of art by Da Vinci, which continues to this day, being regarded as one of the most iconic pieces of art in Western history. This Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, better known as La Gioconda, also known as The Mona Lisa, is a Renaissance pictorial work.

The Last Supper (1495-1497)

Da Vinci painted this painting for the refectory of the Milanese convent of Santa María delle Grazie, commissioned by Duke Ludovico Sforza. The work is framed in an area of ​​4.6 by 8.8 meters, made in tempera on a wall, and it is believed that this technique contributed to the deterioration of the work. However, the latest studies carried out on the painting indicate that the deterioration was not due to the technique used by Da Vinci, but to the physical conditions of the wall, excessively humid, which contributed to its almost immediate deterioration. For this reason, several restorations have been made until the final one in 1982.

The Horse and the Rider

The bronze “Horse and Rider” piece was promoted in a limited edition, inspired by a rare wax model created by Da Vinci. This work was donated to Leonardo’s favorite student, Francesco Metzi, but it was hidden in a Swiss vault until 1985, when it was inspected by the greatest expert on Leonardo Da Vinci in the world, Professor Carlo Pedretti. ” It is about 22 centimeters long, 25 centimeters high, and 8.9 centimeters wide.

Inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci

The bicycle:  Leonardo already thought of a chain transmission like the ones used today. His drawings were scattered over time and were collected haphazardly in the Ambrosiana library in Milan.

Diving Bell:  His fascination for the sea spurred many designs aimed at aquatic exploration. His diving suit was made of leather and was connected to an air hose made of reeds and a bell that floated on the surface.

The aerial screw: it was known as the first helicopter prototype, put into practice through the study that affirmed if in a solid body, there is an object being screwed inside, it must be raised upwards, it consists of a screw of about 10m in diameter, made with a structure of reeds covered with starched linen fabric, and reinforced with a metallic edge.

Flying machines:  Da Vinci’s imagination was impressive in ideas related to flying machines, including various gliders equipped with flap wings. This open-shell model, equipped with pilot seats and controls, established the foundation for aerial technology. cranks, pulleys, ropes and sprockets formed a faithful replica of the wings and the joints of the bats, although they do not fly due to the disproportion between the weight and the power of the pilot, they are used to glide, they precede the hang glider.

Swing bridge: thought it could be used in wartime facilitating strategic play. With light, but robust materials, attached to a winding system based on ropes and pulleys, they allowed an army to easily pick it up.

The barrel:   I envision designs for very efficient barrels, with three portholes and liftable by a jack, which could have been a fearsome weapon on the battlefield, fast and light and with extra firepower.

Vitruvian Man: He modeled his perfect human form based on the proportions postulated by Vitruvius, an ancient Roman architect. Today he is one of the most recognized human figures in the world.

The odometer: it was the predecessor of the speedometer. An odometer is a device that indicates the distance traveled on a trip by a car or other vehicle. The odometer is ideal for measuring trips and distances on uneven terrain.

The Automobile: His designs for a self-propelled vehicle were revolutionary for their time. His wooden “car” was powered by the interaction of springs with sprockets. The vehicle is made up of a wooden cart with several leaf springs to regulate the movement, while the propulsion comes from two spiral springs placed in the lower part of the prototype and which allow it to travel several meters autonomously. The machine is equipped with a rudimentary differential, which allows to control the direction.

The ratchet hammer: it  is a machine consisting of a mechanically moved hammer or mallet. Leonardo invented this ratchet hammer that transforms the coming and going of the lever into the rotary movement of a drum, over which a rope attached to a weight can be wrapped to raise it.

The parachute: it  is a pyramidal structure with a square base with one side and a height of about 7 meters.

The sheet anemometer: it  is crowned by a vane, capable of indicating the direction of the wind. The instrument is used to study the climate. When the sheet was moved, the wind moved and went up the gauge in the shape of a wooden arch, thus knowing the force of the wind.

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