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... drawings, especially of the human body. He studied anatomy by dissecting human corpses and the bodies of animals. Leonardo's drawings did not only clarify the appearance of bones, tendons, and other body parts but their function in addition. These drawings are considered to be the first accurate representations of human anatomy. Leonardo is also credited with the first use of the cross section, a popular technique for diagramming the human body.
Leonardo wrote, "The painter who has acquired a knowledge of the nature of the sinews, muscles, and tendons will know exactly in the movement of any limb how many and which of the sinews are the cause of it, and which muscle by its swelling is the cause of this sinew's contracting" (Wallace 131). In December, 1499, the Sforza family was driven out of Milan by French forces and Leonardo was forced to leave Milan and his unfinished statue of Ludovico Sforza's father, which was destroyed by French archers that used it for target practice. Leonardo then returned to Florence in 1500 (Bookshelf). When Leonardo returned to Florence the citizens welcomed him with open arms because of the fame he acquired while in Milan. The work he did there strongly influenced other artists such as Sandro Botticelli and Piero di Cosimo.
The work he was to produce would influence other masters such as Michelangelo and Raphael. In 1502 Leonardo entered the service of Cesare Borgia, Duke of Romagna and son and Chief General of Pope Alexander VI. For this post he supervised work on the fortress of the papal territories in central Italy. In 1503 he was a member of a commission of artists to decide on the proper location for the David by Michelangelo (Encarta). Towards the end of the year Leonardo began to design a decoration for the Great Hall of the Palazzo Vecchio. Leonardo chose the Battle of Anghiari as the subject of the mural, a victory for Florence in a war against Pisa.
He made many drawings and sketches of a cavalry battle, with tense soldiers, leaping horses and clouds of dust. In painting The Battle of Anghiari Leonardo again rejected fresco and tried an experimental technique called encaustic. Once again the experiment was unsuccessful. Leonardo went on a trip and left the painting unfinished. When he returned he found that the paint had run and he never finished the painting. The paintings general appearance is known from Leonardo's sketches and other artists' copies of it (Creighton 45).
During the period of time that Leonardo spent painting the Palazzo Vecchio he also painted several other works, including the most famous portrait ever, the Mona Lisa. The Mona Lisa, also known as La Gioconda, (after the presumed name of the model's husband) became famous because of the unique expression on Lisa del Gioconda's face. She appears to have just started to or finished smiling. This painting was one of Leonardo's favorites and he carried it with him on all of his subsequent travels (Clark 133). In 1506, Leonardo returned to Milan to finished up some of his projects that he had to abandon during his hasty departure.
He stayed there until 1516 when he moved to Cloux, France, where he stayed with his pupil Multi. While in Milan he was named Court Painter to King Louis XII of France, who was then residing in Milan. For the next six years he traveled from Milan to Florence repeatedly to look after his inheritance. In 1514 he traveled to Rome under the patronage of Pope Leo X.
During this time Leonardo's energy was focused mainly on his scientific experiments. He then moved to France to serve King Francis I. It is here in Chateau de Cloux that he died on May 2, 1519 (Wallace 127). Leonardo constantly reworked his drawings, studies and mechanical theories. His observations of the motion of water are amazingly accurate. In Leonardo's Studies of Water Formation, the flow patterns observed are swirling around, then below as it forms a pool.
Using modern slow motion cameras's centrists now study the same effects that Leonardo wrote about and observed with his naked eye (Encarta). Another study of water and wind is his Apocalyptic Visions. This is a collected study of hurricanes and storms. In these highly detailed drawings the pen lines so carefully marked explode into action similar to the storms themselves. Leonardo's mathematical drawings are also highly skilled. In a math formula Leonardo proved the theory of perpetual motion false but it still intrigued him.
Among his vast notes were small ideas for a perpetual motion machine. His ideas for completing this task involved an unbalanced wheel that would revolve forever, conserving its energy. However these machines were never constructed. Another mathematical drawing was the Polyhedron. This three dimensional figure represented proportions to him "not only in numbers and measurements but also in sounds, weights, positions and in whatsoever power there may be" (Wallace 59).
The notebooks of Leonardo contain sketches and plans for inventions that came into existence almost five-hundred years after the Renaissance. Leonardo practiced a technique of writing backwards. It has been postulated that he did this, being left-handed, so that he wouldn't smear the ink by his left hand running across newly-written words. Moreover, the individual words are spelled backwards. In order to read the Notebooks one must hold the pages up to a mirror and it is believed by some that Leonardo did this to keep his writing and theories secret. In any event, contained in the Notebooks are plans and drawings for what we recognize today as the first working propeller, a submarine, a helicopter, a tank, parachutes, the cannon, perpetual motion machines, and the rope ladder.
There are perfectly executed drawings of the human body, from the proportions of the full figure to dissections in the most minute detail. It was observed, however, that Leonardo's interest in the human body and his ability to invent mechanical things were actually not as paramount to him as was his fascination and awe of the natural world (Clark 133). Leonardo lived to be 67 years old. He is not known to have ever married or had children. In fact, it was said of him that he only saw women as "reproductive mechanisms" (Clark 134). If there is one quality that characterizes the life of Leonardo da Vinci it would be his curiosity for life and the world around him.
Curiosity is the force that motivated him to observe, dissect and document every particle of matter that warranted his attention. From babies in the womb to seashells on the beach, nothing escaped his relentless intellect. The mind of Leonardo transcends the period of the Renaissance and every epoch thereafter. It is universally acknowledged that his imagination, his powers of reason, and his sheer energy surpass that of any person in history. The study of Leonardo is limited only by the inadequacy of the student. Bibliography:
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