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Leonardo Da Vinci turns 555 - Haşim Nur Gürel

Leonardo Da Vinci Painting

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Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Leonardo Da Vinci The Last Supper 1495–1498Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452, in the town of Vinci, not far from Florence.

Being an illegitimate child, Leonardo could not benefit from the educational opportunities that were granted to aristocrats, and was therefore not exposed to classical Greek manuscripts in his early years of education.

Thus, with his sharp mind and endless curiosity, Leonardo began to re-discover his environment with his own observations, and with the method of “tabula rasa”(1) he found the chance to develop his own point of view on every matter…

 

Portrait of Lisa del Giocondo (Mona Lisa), 1503-1506Leonardo’s ease and talent in drawing attracted attention from his early years on and at the same time the perfection of his figures proved that he was a unique talent. According to historian Vasari, Leonardo’s father Piero showed the drawings to his close friend, artist Andrea del Verrocchio. Verrocchio was fascinated by the drawings of the young Leonardo and so at the age of 17 Leonardo began an apprenticeship in the workshop of Verrocchio.

As a general evaluation of the drawings Leonardo made from his early years on until the last years of his life, one can say that with his observations on environment, objects and living things he was in fact exploring the mysteries of life. Some of the drawings and notes in his sketchbooks show that he was the first person to make autopsies with a systematic and scientific approach. He observed the functioning of the “machinery” of humans and of all living creatures, especially birds, as well as the changes that are caused in these organisms by ageing. And so, 500 years ago, he found some cause and effect relations which are still valid today. For example he came to the conclusion that rich and heavy food cause atherosclerosis as one gets older.

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Madonna BenoisSigmund Freud emphasizes the fact that Leonardo never lost his childish and curious vision by saying, “Indeed the great Leonardo remained like a child for the whole of his life in more than one way; it is said that all great men are bound to retain some infantile part. Even as an adult he continued to play, and this was another reason why he often appeared uncanny and incomprehensible to his contemporaries.” The artist has also often used the power of his observation talent on the people around him; his piercing gaze would penetrate through the masks people use to hide behind.



The Annunciation 1452 – 1519 detailThis researching, relentless, curious and passionate perception has also left behind an unforgettable “gallery of types” showing various human types of Renaissance Italy. A major part of these human drawings are sketches of figures necessary for the creation of portrait and composition orders. Another part of the drawings are of citizens of Renaissance Italy, who with their striking and extraordinary physical features attracted da Vinci’s attention and so had the privilege of entering his sketchbooks. These were people from Florence, Rome, Milan, people from the artist’s social environment, employers, their wives, sketches of portraits of members of the church, and various human portraits of beautiful, ugly, old, young, females and males.

Adoration of the Magi - Adoration of the kings 1481-1482

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The Renaissance period in which Leonardo lived was a time of continuous agitation, conflict, wars and riots. When searching for sponsors, Leonardo has therefore emphasized his engineering skills –his expertise in war machinery and methods– in his letters of application.

It is no surprise that the male figures in Leonardo’s portraits stand out with their warrior, gruesome, grotesque features.

It is also remarkable that the majority of the female figures he used in his religious paintings and portrait orders have an idealized beauty.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) and Andrea del Verrocchio - 1472-75 Baptism of Christ (Uffizi)Important exceptions to this conclusion are of course the “Portrait of a Grotesque Old Woman” which is thought to have been copied from Leonardo by Francesko Melzi in 1490/91 and the “Grotesque Portrait Studies” estimated to have been made in 1492. But in general one can say that the women in his paintings such as “Mona Lisa” (Portrait of Lisa del Giocondo), “The Madonna of the Carnation”, “Annunciation”, “Portrait of Ginevra de' Benci”, “Virgin of the Rocks”, “Portrait of an Unknown Woman” dated 1490, “The Virgin and Child with St Anne” and “Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (Lady with an Ermine)” have been idealized with smooth and radiant complexions and fully symmetric and geometric facial proportions. One can also assume that the warrior rulers and other powerful men of Renaissance Italy got married to much younger women than themselves and therefore the majority of Leonardo’s models were young and beautiful women.


Head of a Bearded Man (so-called Self-portrait), c.1510-1515The inner organs of the human being in Leonardo’s anatomy drawings are more closely interconnected than they are in 0reality; this reflects his concept of the deep complexity of human nature. Leonardo believed that different parts of the body had emotional functions; for instance tears came directly from the heart, the seat of all feeling. In line with the idea that the human face is a direct reflection of an individual’s underlying character and momentary sensations, da Vinci gave expressions to the faces of the people he observed according to his opinion of them and to the role he gave them. This must also be the reason why his gallery of human portraits stands out with grotesque and caricaturized images. In his illustrations of some emotional moments in Christian mythology, the artist tends to illustrate the people he isn’t fond of uglier than they are.

Andrea del VerrochioOn the other hand, he would use all his talent to illustrate the people he is interested in or has special feelings towards -for example the noble women whose portraits he made- mysterious and emotional. His foremost work of this sort was surely the “Mona Lisa”, a painting he always carried by his side, until the day he died. da Vinci is mainly acknowledged and identified with the “Mona Lisa” portrait.

Using ink pens, Leonardo has illustrated the people he chose for his “human types gallery” in various positions -in side view, from the front and half way turned around- and with different facial expressions… We know that some of these drawings have been used for the figures in some of the few oil paintings he made on canvas. These works that complete each other are therefore a good indication of how, by using different painting materials and techniques, the same human face can have various superior and peculiar strengths of expression.

Leonardo daVinci The portrait of unknow woman La Belle Ferroniere, detail 1490Vinci’s human illustrations take us right into the crowded streets of Renaissance Italy. The princes, priests, merchants, warriors, noblemen, women and children are the forerunner of the modern man, the individual, who has emerged in the atmosphere of freedom subsequent to the medieval.

555 years after his birth, we honor the big master Leonardo da Vinci with respect, as he is the one who has granted us this awareness by keeping a visual recollection of that period.


(1) Italian: ‘wiped board’.

Leonardo Da Vinci Painting

INDEX Painters

Leonardo da Vinci Biography

Leonardo's Pictures Name
Madonna with the Carnation, c. 1475
Andrea del Verrocchio and Leonardo, The Baptism of Christ, c. 1472-1475
Andrea del Verrocchio and Leonardo,
Madonna Benois, c. 1475-1478
Portrait of Ginevra de’Benci, c. 1478-1480
St. Hieronymous, c. 1480-1482
Adoration of the Magi, 1481-1482
The Virgin of the Rocks (Mary with Christ, the infant St. John and an angel), 1483-1486
The Virgin of the Rocks (Mary with
Madonna Litta, c. 14
Study for the Head of a Woman, c. 1490
Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (Lady with an Ermine), c. 1490
Portrait of a Young Man (Portrait of the Musician Franchino Gaffurio?), c. 1490
Portrait of an unknown Woman (La Belle Ferroniére), c.1490
Copy after Leonardo’s Last Supper
Study for the Last Supper (St. James the Greater) and Architectural Sketches, c.1495
Study for the Last Supper (Judas), c.1495
Study for the Last Supper (the Disciple Philip), c. 1495
Study for the Last Supper (Peter?), c. 1495
Burlington House Cartoon (Mary, Christ, St. Anne and the Infant St. John), 1499
Virgin and Child with St. Anne, c. 1502-1516
Madonna of the Yarnwinder, 1501
Portrait of Lisa del Giocondo (Mona Lisa), 1503-1506
Studies of Heads in Profile, c. 1478-1480
Study of a Young Woman in Profile, c.1511/12
Bearded Old Man in Profile, c. 1472
Warrior with Helmet and Breastplate in Profile, c.1472
Head of an Old Man in Profile, c.1485-1490
Head of an Old Man in Profile, c.1490
Bald Man in Profile, c.1495 (?)
Bald Man in Profile, c.1495 (?)
Studies of an Old Man and a Youth (Salai?) in Profile, Facing each Other, c.1500-1505
Profile Study of an Old Man with a Laurel Wreath, c.1506-1508
Bust of an Older Man in Profile (Gian Giacomo Trivulzio?) c.1510
Head and Shoulders of a Youth in Profile (Salai?), c. 1510
Profile Study of a Youth (Salai?), c.1510
Head and Shoulders of an Older Man, c.1510-1515
Character Head of an Older Man and Sketch of a Lions Head, c.1505-1510
Profile Study of an Old Man with a Beard and Braided Hair, c.1511-1513
Study of a Bearded Old Man in Profile, c. 1513
Head of a Bearded Man (so-called Self-portrait), c.1510-1515 (?)
Character Head of an Old Man, c.1505
Grotesque Head of an Old Man with a Hat, Seen in Profile, c.1490
Grotesque Head of an Old Man with a Hat, Seen in Profile, c.1485-1490
Grotesque Portrait Studies of Two Men, c.1487-1490
Profile Study of a Grotesque Male Head, c.1485-1490
Five Grotesque Heads, c.1494
Profile Study of a Grotesque Head, c.1500-1505
Grotesque Portrait Study of a Man, c.1500-1505
Grotesque Portrait of an Old Woman, c.1490/91 (?)
Grotesque Portrait Studies with a caricature of Dante (bottom right), c.1492 (?)
Study of the Proportions of the Head and Face, c.1489/90
Torso of a Man in Profile, the Head Squared for Proportion, and Sketches of Two Horseman, c. 1490 and c.150

Madonna of the Yarnwinder, 15011452 Born on April 15 as the illegitimate son of the notary Ser Piero di Antonio da Vinci and peasant woman Caterine, in Anchiano near Florence. The same year his father marries another woman, Albiera di Giovanni Amadori, from a “better” background.

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Leonardo lives with his father.
1469 They move to Flornce where Leonardo starts to work in the workshop of painter and sculptor Andrea del Varrocchio.
1472 Enters the San Luca guild of painters in Florence, which shows that he had attained a degree of professional independence.
1473 Leonardo makes his earliest known drawing; ‘Landscape Drawing of the Arno Valley’.
1476 Leonardo is accused of homosexual practices with his 17 year old assistant Jacopo Saltarelli.
1472-1480 Continues to work in Verrocchio’s workshop. Works on paintings ‘Baptism of Christ’ and paintings of his own such as ‘Madonna with the Carnation’, ‘Madonna Benois’ and perhaps the ‘Annunciation’.
Study for the Last Supper (Peter?), c. 14951478 Receives his first significant commission most probably with the help of his father; to make an altar painting for the Bernhard Chapel in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, but he did not complete it.

Famous painters paintings art painter arts

1482 Moves to Milan and works as a military engineer, sculptor and painter for the the ruler, Ludovico Sforza.
1483-1486 He is commissioned to make an altar painting ‘Virgin of the Rocks’ together with the two brothers Ambrogio and Evangelista de Predis.
1487-1488 Works as consultant architect in the Milan Cathedral Workshop.
1489-1494 Leonardo who becomes a court artist to the Sforza Family, works on an equestrian statue of Francesco Sforza in Milan, commissioned by Ludovico Sforza.

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The Virgin and Child with St. AnneHe also is recognized for designing court festivities.
1499 Leonardo starts the ‘Burlington House Cartoon’ for King Louis XII of France, but later leaves Milan and goes to Venice.
1500 Makes a cartoon of the ‘Virgin and Child with St. Anne for the Church of SS.’
1501 Works on a small painting of the ‘Virgin and Child (Madonna of the Yarnwinder)’ for Florimond Robertet, Secretary to the King of France.
1502 Travels Central and Upper Italy with mercenary leader Cesare Borgia as his architect and military engineer.
1503 Returns to Florence and starts on a portrait of his wife Lisa del Giocondo (The Mona Lisa). Later he starts on one of his most monumental commissions, which is the wall-painting of the ‘Battle of Anghiari’ in the Grand Council Chamber of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.

Leonardo da Vinci paintings drawing

1504 His father dies.
1506 Leonardo is given the permission by the Florentine civic authorities to go to Milan for three months, upon the wish of of the French governor, Charles d’Amboise, but stays longer leaving the ‘Battle of Anghiari’ unfinished.
1507 He returns to Florence for a short time to continue the wall-painting, but again is called upon by the King of France to Milan, where he paints a new version of the ‘Virgin of the Rocks’.
1508-1512 With exception of a few short visits to Florence, Leonardo stays in Milan generally serving Charles d’Amboise.
1513 After the death of Charles d’Amboise, Leonardo goes to Rome wtih his new patron Guiliano de’ Medici.

1516 After the death of Guiliano de’ Medici, he becomes the court painter of the French King Francis I. He lives in Cloux, where he does scientific experiments, architectural designs and irrigation projects.
Bust of an Older Man in Profile (Gian Giacomo Trivulzio?) c.15101519 Leonardo dies on May 2nd in Cloux. Upon his request Leonardo was buried in the Church of St. Florentine in Amboise, but unfortunately his grave was destroyed during war.
1520-1530 Francesco Melzi, the pupil of Leonardo, organizes the manuscripts he has inherited and compiles the ‘Treatise on Painting’, which are instructions on painting. As for his paintings, they are left to another pupil, Giacomo Salia, but after his death they are acquired by the King of France during the 1530s and can still be visited at the Louvre.
Leonardo da Vinci biography life
Reference:
Frank Zöllner, ‘Leonardo’, Germany: Taschen, 2000

Leonardo Da Vinci index
Leonardo Da Vinci Portrait of a Young Man Portrait of the Musician Franchino Gaffurio detail 1, c. 1490Adoration of the Magi, Anatomical Drawing of Hearts, Anatomical Studies, Anatomical Study, Annunciation, Archimedes Screws, Caricature Head Study, Caricature Of The Head Of An Old Man, Codex Hammer, Codex Madrid Design, Design for Two-Wheeled Hoist, Female Head in Profile, Fin Spindle, Flying Machine, Giant Catapult, Head of a Child, Head of a Warrior, Head of a Woman, Head of a Young Woman, Head of the Saviour, Hydraulic Water Pump, La Belle Ferronniere, Lady with the Ermine, Last Supper, Madonna of the Rocks, Mona Lisa, Page From Quaderni D'Anatomia, Portrait of a Bearded Man, Portrait of Isabella d'Este, Six Figures, Sketch of a Horse, St. John the Baptist, Study for 'Adoration of the Magi', Study for Adoration, Study for an Apostle, Study for Horse Sculpture, Study for the Battle of Anghiari, Study for the Virgin and Child, Study of a Child's Head, Study of a Hand, Study of Arms, Study of Drapery, Study of Flowers, Two Heads, Unicorn Dipping its Horn, Virgin and Child, Virgin and Child with St Anne ink oil, Virgin of the Rocks, Vitruvian Man

About Mona Lisa and The last supper
People just can't stop talking about that Mona Lisa. Why is she smiling? What's her story? Some people think her mysterious grin meant she was secretly pregnant, but that would be unlikely in conjunction with another theory: that Mona Lisa is actually a self-portrait of Leonardo! X-rays of the painting and close comparison with drawings of Leonardo suggest that this may actually be true.

The Last Supper is one of Leonardo's best-known and worst-preserved pieces. Doomed from the start by Leonardo's experimental technique, the mural began to deteriorate even before the artist's death. Within 50 years it was almost indecipherable, and it was repainted twice during the 18th century. Its suffering continued through the 19th century, first at the hands of Napoleon's soldiers, then from the monks who actually cut a door through the bottom. After miraculously surviving the Allied bombs of World War II, the beleaguered mural's luck began to change. Restorers discovered that much of the original work remained, and it is once again a joy to behold.


Who is Leonardo da Vinci

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