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Leonardo Da Vinci

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Leonardo da Vinci

PHL/458

January 6, 2006

Leonardo da Vinci

1452Ð'-1519

Who was Leonardo da Vinci? Leonardo da Vinci was an "Italian painter, a sculptor, an architect, a musician, an engineer, and a scientist" (Encyclopedia, 2006, para. 1). Leonardo was born in a hill village in Tuscany near Vinci, Italy. Although he was born the illegitimate son of a Florentine notary, Ser Piero and a peasant woman, Caterina, Leonardo persevered through his dedication, his leadership, and his ability to be a creative and critical thinker, to make his mark in history (Wikipedia, 2002). This paper discusses the life and times of Leonardo da Vinci including his family life and education, the traits that led him to be a prominent thinker, as well as his contributions to society.

The formative years

It is presumed that Leonardo spent his childhood with his father's family in Vinci, which might have been where he gained his enduring interest in nature (Encyclopedia, 2006). "Early sources describe his beauty, charm of manner, and precocious display of artistic talent" (Encyclopedia, 2006, para. 2). Leonardo had nine years of formal schooling, from age five to age fourteen in Vinci while living with his paternal grandparents (Kausal, 1997). During these nine years Leonardo learned to read, write, perform calculations and geometry, and even learned some Latin (Kausal, 1997).

Quite possibly, the most important thing that Leonardo da Vinci learned during his younger years, maybe even more than the need to read and write, was recognizing his artistic ability and that clearly seemed to be Leonardo's "calling". Even as early as five years old, Leonardo's teachers and family realized that the quality of his art was on a scale all its own. Ser Piero, Leonardo's father continued to watch his son's artwork progress over the next several years. When Leonardo was fourteen, his father showed his son's paintings to the local and well-known painter of the times, Andrea del Verrocchio who immediately recognized the talent as well and took on Leonardo as his apprentice (Wikipedia). This is when, at age fourteen, Leonardo moved to Florence to study art and therefore ended his formal childhood schooling.

As far as Leonardo's relationships, he kept his private life just that, private (Wikipedia). According to Sigmeund Freud who studied Leonardo da Vinci, his life, his writings, and his paintings in detail, concluded that da Vinci was a homosexual (Wikipedia). It is shown throughout much of da Vinci's artwork that he had an appreciation of masculine beauty and it is documented that da Vinci had many close friends and art students, of which the majorities were male. "His (da Vinci's) lasting and loving relationship with young men and lack of close relations with women, together with surviving legal records and contemporary writings have led some modern historians to conclude that he had a strong erotic interest, one focused exclusively on males" (Wikipedia, para. 7).

Social environment of the Renaissance

Ruggiero writes that applying creativity involves taking a novel approach, devising or modifying a process, inventing a new product, and improving things (Ruggiero, 2004). We feel that Leonardo da Vinci's contributions resulted in part from the social climate of the period. Had he lived in another time, say a couple hundred years earlier, he may never have produced those great works. Leonardo made his appearance during a period in history referred to as the Renaissance, meaning a rebirth, or more specifically a renewed interest in the classical arts and literature. Renaissance is known as the transitional movement in Europe that considered man as the center of the universe. It was a period marked by the belief that all things were possible for man. Leonardo da Vinci was in good company with the likes of Christopher Columbus, Copernicus, Vasco de Gama, Gutenberg, Martin Luther, Michel Angelo, Megellan, and others. http://www.hyperhistory.com/online_n2/History_n2/a.html, Retrieved March 7, 2006).

According to an article, Renaissance: What inspired this age of balance and order? (2006), Florence, Italy was not only one of Leonardo's residences, it was the birth place of the humanist movement, inspiring and creating a thriving environment for a collage of writers, painters, architects and philosophers. This was also a time for political changes. Swiss philosopher, Burckhardt wrote that Italy had thrown off its mantle of emperors and was immersed in the rule of the nobility, despotism and tyrannies. Legitimacy, as in succession by birth or by sanction of religion, had no bearing in holding or gaining to power. Nobilities could be purchased and the lowest man could rise to the highest. Intrigue and mystery lay at the foot of the leadership while economically, the post-plague period led to a rise in wealth of the middle class. (Middlemore, translated, 1878.)

The burgeoning middle class with patronage for reviving the classical interests in early Greek and Latin humanistic philosophy would pave the way to Renaissance. Discovery of ancient Greek manuscripts during this time showed that art had relevance to mathematics by way of ratios. This led to the study and recreation of Greek architecture and the utilization of symmetry and perfected proportion in art. Given da Vinci's studies and mastery of these concepts, we can conclude that the pervasive social, political, and economic environment in which he grew contributed to his creativity. Leonardo was in an environment that needed and promoted his skills. It was one in which he would make a both a respected living and a phenomenal reputation.

Personality traits

Fraught by people's curiosity and constant investigation about his private life, "Leonardo kept his private life well hidden shrouded in secrecy" (Wikipedia). Modern critics could only speculate so much about his love life and possible tendency of being homosexual. He was a man not to be ruined by scandals, but he was still respected as a man of integrity, notably sensitive to moral issues with a high regard for the existence of life itself. "His works were not overshadowed by his personal affairs", although widely known as Leonardo da Vinci the artist, he worked as a military architect and engineer, and never being the recluse artist who shies away from worldly affairs (Wikipedia).

In reading accounts of historians, it

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