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Renaissance: The Man

By Liz Anderson

A man of many talents, Leonardo
Da Vinci is the embodiment of the
Renaissance period. The era of the
Renaissance was a time of innovation in
both sciences and art. Known best for his
paintings of The Last Supper and the
Mona Lisa, Da Vinci was also famous
for his scientific study of the human
body, botanical dissection, creative war
machines, flying contraptions, and his
incredible talents in sculpture.
Leonardo Da Vinci was born in
1452 in the town of Vinci, Italy to
unwed parents. His birth was considered
highly unacceptable in society because
he was born out of wedlock. This
resulted in a lifelong identity struggle for
Da Vinci.
As a youth, Da Vinci also
struggled with left-handedness, which
was looked upon as being both sinister
and of the devil. Choosing to embrace
his differences, Da Vinci refused to learn
how to write with his right hand and
even invented a style of writing that
could only be read with a mirror.
felt strongly that his individuality and
unique characteristics were more
important than conforming to common
Living in poverty with his unwed
mother, Da Vinci was taken away at an
early age to live with his father, Piero
and his wife. At age 14, Da Vinci left his
fathers house to train and work for the
artist Verrocchio where he learned to
work with metal, leather, carpentry,
sculpting, and drawing.
The experiences
that Da Vinci had while working for
Verrocchio helped him to hone his
artistic talents, and inspired him to create
for himself.
Always the inventive and
creative artist, Da Vinci experimented
with many different mediums that an
artist could use to paint with, as well as
what an artist can paint on. When
painting the fresco of The Last Supper,
Da Vinci unfortunately experimented
with painting on a dry outdoor surface,
which has had devastating effects on its
ability to last throughout the ages.
Da Vinci also tended to recycle
old pieces and studies, favoring painting
over them instead of starting anew. His
choice to paint over old pieces also
reveals some of Da Vincis interesting
techniques for painting.
Although Da Vinci was not a
religious man himself, he has been
credited with creating some of the most
moving and beautiful religious art of all
time. Pieces like Madonna of the Rocks,
The Last Supper, and Madonna and St.
Anne depict Jesus and his apostles, as
well as Jesus as a child with his mother
Mary and St. Anne. Despite his beautiful
renditions of famous
religious people, Da
Vinci struggled to
understand God and
religion, often asking
questions like, Why
are we supposed to
worship the Son when
all the churches are
dedicated to the
frustrations with
religion and mankind led Da Vinci
towards a strong love for nature and
scientific study.
In the exploration of science and
nature, Da Vinci was fascinated with
how the human body worked and spent
years dissecting bodies and drawing his
findings. He studied plants, learned how
to make maps, studied water patterns,
and invented many things we can
recognize today. The first flying
machines discovered in Da Vincis
writings, were done almost 400 years
before the Wright Brothers famous
drawings still exist in
countless volumes of
notes and sketches
that were written by
Da Vincis own hand.
He was fascinated by
life and sought to
figure out its inner
workings, and create
new and inventive
ways to improve it.
Leonardo Da Vinci was a
talented artist, a gifted scientist, and a
man who was driven to fulfill his
passions. In an era that embraced
creativity, innovation, and exploration,
Da Vinci flourished in his artistic talents
as well as in his interests in nature. He
was an inventor of many things and an
innovator in style and beauty: the
ultimate Renaissance man.

Hartt, Frederick. History of Italian Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. Second Edition,
1979. Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, New York. Pages 437-441.
"Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci." Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2014. Web. 18 June 2014.