Happy Birthday Leonardo da Vinci!

Happy Birthday Leonardo da Vinci! Born on April 15, 1452, right outside of Florence, this Italian was a painter, inventor, mathematician, architect, and engineer. Considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time, Leonardo is widely recognized as the epitome of the Renaissance.

Born to a peasant mother and lawyer father, not much is known about da Vinci’s adolescence. At the age of fifteen, he began working under established sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio’s workshop. Through this apprenticeship, he was able to cultivate artistic techniques until he became an independent master in 1478. At the ripe age of twenty, the painters’ guild of Florence offered him membership and from there he began his earliest commissions such as The Adoration of the Magi, for Florence’s San Donato, a Scopeto monastery.

From there he moved to Milan to work for the prominent Sforza clan. Here he was commissioned to paint The Last Supper.

The Last Supper, 1488, Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy
The Last Supper, 1488, Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy

After securing an established household name during his professional career, he traveled and worked in Rome as well. But most of what Leonardo da Vinci is famous for is his intriguing painting techniques. One can see the sfumato technique heavily used in the Mona Lisa or La Giocanda. This technique was innovative in that he would layer on paint and use his own fingers or palms to smoke out the paints on canvas. Mona Lisa is an iconic and arguably one of the most recognizable paintings in the world. Her smile is subtle and mysterious. In fact, this elusiveness quality manifests in his works of invention and ideas that is evident in his sketches. Many works including the Mona Lisa offer emotional connections that are thrilling yet calming.

Mona Lisa (La Giocanda), c. 1503–06, Musée du Louvre, Paris
Mona Lisa (La Giocanda), c. 1503–06, Musée du Louvre, Paris

This Italian genius set the stage for future pupils and future creative thinkers. Leonardo was not just an artist that painted and created art—he himself was art. He was an example that if one did not limit himself or herself to a particular discipline, endless possibilities could happen. The legacy and inspiration that his life and accomplishments convey, proves just this. The icon and face of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci is a household name.

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