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Leonardo Da Vinci was born in the year 1452 in a town called Vinci. His name -Da vinci- actually means from the town of Vinci. At fifteen Leonardo moved to Florence with his father. His father recognized Leonardo's artistic talents, and showed them to his good friend, Andrea del Verrocchio. Verrocchio was a painter and a sculptor.
Verrocchio was so impressed when he saw Leonardo's work that he took Leonardo to be his apprentice at the young age of only about fifteen. In 1472 Leonardo was appointed Master Craftsman by Florence's painters guild. From 1478 to 1482 he had his own studio where he was commissioned to paint a church alter piece. This painting was known as Adoration of the Three Kings. This painting was more expressive than any painting seen before. Leonardo believed that abundance and variety were necessary to make the image lifelike.
He told artists to avoid repetition in favor of a mixture of men of various appearances, of different ages and costumes, also mixed with women, children, dogs, horses, buildings, fields and hills. The Adoration of the Magi exhibits this kind of variety that Leonardo talks about. This painting only consists of shades of brown which is in keeping with Leonardo's definition of painting as a composition of light and shade. As usual Leonardo painted the shadows first. Had he completed this painting his next step would have been to apply colors over the shadows to give them a three dimensional look.
The painting is not balanced. The virgin was much larger then the surrounding men, and the people in the back were as tall as the arches. Unfortunately Leonardo abandoned the painting when he moved to another city and he never finished it. Leonardo abandoned the work in 1482 when he left Florence to become the court artist for Lodovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan. Leonardo spent the next 17 years living in Milan, where he did many things for the Duke of Milan. He was a military planner and weapons designer, he designed artillery (rudimentary tanks catapults, machine guns and naval weapons) and planned the diversion of rivers.
As a civil engineer and architect he designed revolving pageants (mechanical structures such as bridges and aqueducts), and as a sculptor he built a huge monument of the dukes father on a horse. While in Milan he painted the Virgin of the Rocks. (Slide 2). This is his first major painting that is still around in complete form. The Virgin Mary is kneeling in a cave. The traditional color of her cloak is blue but Leonardo added gold to make it richer, like a garment fit for a queen. John the Baptist is kneeling on the left, protected under the arm of the Virgin.
Opposite him is baby Jesus. The angel next to him is considered Uriel. Leonardo carefully arranged all the hands to focus on the figure of Jesus. Slide 3 Leonardo depicts clusters of rocks and plants in great detail, while the background landscape is misty and muted. He later painted a second version of this picture, which is also commonly referred to as Madonna of the Rocks. Slide 4.
Here we see this painting in black and white. While in Milan Leonardo painted The Last Supper. In his painting of The Last Supper, Leonardo rejected the fresco, (a painting made with water colors on fresh plaster) this technique was used by artists when painting on walls. Fresco colors were pure and clear but lacked depth, which was a problem for Leonardo who liked to work with shadows and depth. He also liked to work slowly, adding layers over his previous work, something that the Fresco method could not allow.
He therefore invented a new technique which involved coating the monastery wall with a compound he had created. This compound was supposed to hold the paint in place and protect it from moisture. However, soon after Leonardo completed The Last Supper the paint began to flake. We still have the painting today but it is in very poor condition. The Last Supper shows a sorrowful Jesus.
His eyes look down. An open door frames his head isolating Jesus from the 12 apostles. Jesus is the physical and spiritual center of this painting. Leonardo wanted him to command not only the painting but the entire room where the mural was placed. To do this he extended the ceiling lines of the monks monastery, into the painted room of the last supper. Slide 7 -His hands summarize the sacred act he is performing.
His right hand reaches for a glass of wine. His left hand gestures toward the unleavened bread that he will bless, break and share with his disciples. He called the bread my body and the wine my blood. Leonardo arranges the 12 apostles in groups of three. Six men on either side of Jesus all reacting to the mysterious words of their master as they question his prophetic words at the start of the dinner One of you shall betray me. (Slides 8, 9, ) The apostles begin to inquire among themselves to see which one of them would betray Jesus. Within each group men lean in and away from Jesus, creating a sense of movement among the characters.
Leonardo wrote the good painter has essentially two things to represent: a person and that persons state of mind. The first is easy, the second is difficult, for one has to achieve it through the gestures and movements of the limbs. Slide 10 Leonardo describes Judas, the disciple who will eventually betray Jesus, by making him the only one who leans forward on the table, and he hides Judas face in a shadow. Leonardo manages to portray both the high point of the supper the blessing over the bread and wine, and the low point the betrayal, while all other artists always focused on one aspect or the other. During his years in Milan, Leonardo also began to produce scientific drawings especially of the human body.
He studied human anatomy by dissecting human corpses and the bodies of animals. His drawings reveal not only the appearance of bones, tendons, and other body parts, but also their functions. His works are considered to be the first accurate portrayal of human anatomy. In 1499 the death of Pope Alexander the sixth changed the fortune of the Duke, causing the French to overthrow the Duke of Milan. This forced Leonardo to flee Milan and return to Florence. On his way he visited Mantua and Venice where he did some paintings.
While in Milan Leonardo had become famous and he was welcomed back to Florence as a returning hero. The work he did there had influenced the next generation of Florentine artists such as Botticelli, Michealangelo and Raphael. It was in Florence that Leonardo had his greatest following. When Leonardo returned to Florence they were building a new hall for the city council.
The Florentine government asked Leonardo and Michealangelo to decorate the hall walls with scenes of Florence's military victories. Leonardo chose the Battle of Anghiari in which Florence had beaten Milan in 1440. His painting showed a cavalry battle, with tense soldiers, leaping horses and clouds of dust. In the Battle of Anghiari Leonardo once again rejected the traditional Fresco technique and he used his own creation called encaustic, this did not work either. Leonardo left the work unfinished before leaving for a trip. The paint began to run and he never finished the project.
This painting no longer exists but we see what it looked like by cartoons of it that Leonardo had made. It has also been copied by many renaissance artists who had seen it. While working on the Battle of Anghiari, Leonardo painted The Mona Lisa. Slide 11. The Mona Lisa is Leonardo's most famous work and arguably the most famous painting in the world. It is a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, the young wife of a Florentine merchant.
In Italy it is called La Gioconda, taking its name from the womans married name. The Mona Lisa became famous because of the mysterious smile of the woman. In fact, Leonardo showed her face moving into or out of a smile. She is dressed simply. She wears a few softly colored layers of clothing. She is wearing no jewelry.
Leonardo said that a persons soul shows in the eyes, and Mona Lisa's eyes are kind and playful. The meaning of her smile is unknown. It has puzzled people for centuries. You can always tell a Leonardo by the way he painted the hair.
It is almost angel like in its fineness. One strand glides gradually into the next, a marvel of glazes creating the most subtle transitions between tones and shapes. Through all his studies of anatomy Leonardo understood that people dont have outlines. Until then painters had always used outlines to separate the objects from the backgrounds.
Leonardo did not use outlines, he created the Mona Lisa through light and shadow. Rather then lines drawn between her fingers Mona Lisa has shadows separating them. Leonardo's technique is called sfumato from the word fumo which is Italian for smoke. Leonardo said his method is without lines or borders, in the matter of smoke.
With this technique he made the Mona Lisa seem 3 dimensional as if she was coming out of the painting. The background of the painting shows winding rivers and rocks. Leonardo makes the background so fantastic that it suggests that it is not of this world. It is a place brought about by Leonardo's imagination. Her arms are folded forming a pyramid design. Leonardo's technique with the Mona Lisa solved a problem for early portrait painters.
Until then in portraits they would only show the head and the upper body cutting off at around the chest. Leonardo's painting was much more full, and the placing of the hands gave the woman a much more complete and natural look. Little is known about this woman. Vasari says that in order to keep her from becoming gloomy Leonardo had ordered musicians and jesters to amuse her.
This portrait took years for Leonardo to complete adding thin layers of paint to achieve the subtle effects of light and shadow, which have by now darkened. After Leonardo's death the king of France purchased the Mona Lisa and it is now in the Louvre. the Mona Lisa has the disadvantage of being too famous. It can only be seen behind a thick glass, in a crowd of tourists In 1506 Leonardo obtained temporary leave from Florence in order to return to Milan to complete his unfinished works which had been left incomplete due to his hasty departure. He stayed in Milan until 1512 only returning to Florence once to settle his fathers estate in 1508.
Leonardo did not do much painting in his later years, however he produced many drawings of machines and of experimental inventions. These sketches rank among Leonardo's greatest masterpieces especially in their delicate use of shadow and their sense of motion. In Milan he then devoted most of his time to scientific study and to the engineering of such studies as channeling the course of the Adda river. In 1513 Leonardo went to Rome to the Palaazo Belvedere under the protection of Giuliano dei Medici, the brother of Pope Leo the tenth. Here Leonardo came into contact with Michelangelo and Raphael, both younger and both rivals. After the death of Giuliano dei Medici in 1517, two years prior to Leonardo's own death, he was invited to live in France by King Francis the first.
The king wanted to surround himself with famous representatives of renaissance culture. Leonardo spent the next two years in a large house in Tours, provided by the king, before his death in 1519. His note books reveal interests in botany, anatomy, geology, hydraulics and mechanics. Many of his works were left unfinished and many failed to survive.
Leonardo died on May 2, 1519 and was buried in the Cloister of San Fiorentino in Amboise. Due to his inquiring mind, Leonardo has become a symbol of the renaissance spirit and intellectual curiosity. The Renaissance was a time of cultural rebirth, after the middle ages where there was little literacy and few scholars. People were very uneducated and the main thing in most peoples life was the church. The only literate people were the clergy, all the art was religious and everything revolved around the church.
There were no portraits of anyone accept for kings and members of the clergy. In the Renaissance people tried to recapture the spirit of the early Greek and Roman cultures. The people expanded their learning from the study of god to the study of humanity. Leonardo was a scholar and his art was a description of reality as seen through the eyes of a scientist. Leonardo once said this about the human soul The soul cannot decay in the decomposing body, the soul activates the body like a flow of air that makes the body resound. Leonardo wrote backwards in his note books so no one could read his writings without a mirror.
The first book written about Leonardo was in 1550, shortly after Leonardo's death. It was written by Giorgio Vasari. Vasari knew Leonardo and owned some of his paintings. He stated If Leonardo took a fancy for an interesting head with an unusual beard, he followed the man all day long and made so vivid a mental picture of him that, coming home, he drew him as if he stood before his eyes One could say that Leonardo had too many gifts. He was extremely good looking, had a beautiful singing voice, possessed mathematical excellence, scientific insight and artistic genius. The list is endless.
Some of his scientific insights included suggesting that the earth rotates around the sun, and that the moons light is reflected sun light. These two facts have only been fully proven in recent times. His vast amount of talents caused him to treat his art lightly, rarely finishing a picture, and sometimes making rash technical experiments. There has never been an artist who was more fittingly described as a genius. 329
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