By Anne Leader
Leonardo da Vinci was born on 15 April 1452, in Anchiano, near Vinci. The world-renowned polymath excelled as a painter, sculptor, architect, designer, theorist, engineer, and scientist, though he was often more interested in the design and exploratory phases of his work than bringing them to completion. He has left behind almost 2,500 drawings in notebooks and on loose sheets. Though he was of the same generation as Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-94), and Filippino Lippi (1457-1504), rather than Michelangelo (1475-1564) or Raphael (1483-1520), Leonardo is widely recognized as the father of the High Renaissance. While Leonardo famously left a number of major commissions incomplete, those that he did finish are today some of the most recognizable images of the Italian Renaissance, including the Mona Lisa, which was among the paintings he took with him to France and are now among the Louvre’s most prized paintings. Leonardo left Italy for France at some point after August 1516 to become first painter and engineer to King Francis I. Though in poor health, Leonardo continued to invent, imagine, and design through his drawings and notes but left larger-scale work to assistants. He spent his last years at the Château de Cloux (later called Clos-Lucé), near the King’s summer palace at Amboise on the Loire River, where he died on 2 May 1519.
Reference: Martin Kemp. “Leonardo da Vinci.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.
The Virgin and Child with St Anne, c. 1510, oil on wood, Musée du Louvre, Paris
Mona Lisa (La Gioconda), c. 1503-5, oil on panel, Musée du Louvre, Paris
St John the Baptist, 1513-16, oil on panel, Musée du Louvre, Paris
St John in the Wilderness (Bacchus), 1510-15, oil on panel transferred to canvas, Musée du Louvre, Paris
Equestrian monument (for Francis I), 1517-18, black chalk on paper, Royal Library, Windsor
Copies after Leonardo’s Leda, 1510-15, oil on panel, Galleria Borghese, Rome (Leonardo and Salaì) and 1505-10, oil on panel, Wilton House, Salisbury (Cesare da Sesto)
Natural disaster, 1517-18, black chalk, pen and ink on paper, Royal Library, Windsor
Anatomical studies of the shoulder, 1510-11, black chalk, pen and ink on paper, Royal Library, Windsor
Studies of embryos, 1509-14, black and red chalk, pen and ink wash on paper, Royal Library, Windsor