… 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.
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
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.
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 Melzi. 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’ scientists 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.
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.
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
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.