Biography about the famous Leonardo da Vinci

Birthplace in Anchiano

It was the period of the renaissance when Leonardo da Vinci was born on the 15th of April 1452. Leonardo was born probably in this farmhouse in Anchiano, which is 3 km away from Vinci. The family of Leonardo lived in this area since the 13th century.
The father of Leonardo da Vinci, Ser Piero, was 25 years old and a public notary when Leonardo was born in 1452. In the same year Ser Piero married his first wife Albiera. He didn’t marry the mother of Leonardo, because she was the daughter of a farmer and not from a wealthy family. The mother of Leonardo was called Catarina. Her first name is all what we know today.
This is the Baptismal chapel and font in Vinci where Leonardo was christened. Leonardo was christened from the parson Piero da Bartolomeo to the name Lionardo and not Leonardo. The chapel is inside the lovely church of Vinci. The church and beside the castle of Vinci are forming the skyline of this lovely town.
Leonardo lived probably in Anchiano for five years until he settled to Vinci.

 Childhood in Vinci

Vinci is a small town, placed at the foot of “Monte Albano”, in the most wonderful place on earth the Tuscany in Italy.

1457 Leonardo moved to his grandfather from Anchiano to Vinci. From this time he was member of his fathers family, but he was never legitimated.

Ser Piero and his first wife didn’t have children. Maybe this is the reason why Leonardo was integrated in the family of his father.

Here you can see the family coat of arms.

In Vinci Leonardo went to school. Vasari told that teachers of Leonardo da Vinci were despaired about all the questions and doubts of Leonardo. Leonardo learned at school to write, to read and to calculate. Also he was taught in geometry and Latin. Later Leonardo tried to improve his knowledge in Latin, because he thought that he didn’t learn enough at school in Latin. Perhaps this is the reason why Leonardo did his notes in Italian.

Leonardo lived in Vinci until 1466. With the age of 14 Leonardo moved to Florence where he began an apprenticeship in the workshop of Verrocchio.

Apprenticeship Florence

Leonardo started an apprenticeship in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio 1466. Verrocchio was at this time the most gifted and manifoldest artist in Florence. He was a sculptor, painter, goldsmith, bronze caster and more. There is no doubt that Verrocchio had much influence on Leonardo. Verrocchio was fascinated by the drawings of the young Leonardo and so he gave him a place in his workshop. Leonardo worked at the workshop of Verrocchio with some other famous artists like Botticelli, Perugino and Lorenzo di Credi.

This picture from Lorenzo di Credi shows Andrea del Verrocchio.

Leonardo started his apprenticeship with the mixing of colors and then he painted simple parts of paintings. There are no works of Leonardo known between 1466 and 1472, but Leonardo taught himself to paint in oils at this time. This art practice was developed by dutch artists.

The picture shows Florence at the time of Leonardo.

In June 1472 Leonardo was listed in the red book of painters from Florence (Campagnia de Pittori). With the membership in the painters guild of Florence ended the apprenticeship of Leonardo. The picture shows a cut of this book where Leonardo is listed with his native name Lionardo.

Leonardo didn’t leave the workshop of Verrocchio at the end of his apprenticeship.

First Artworks

The first known and dated work of Leonardo da Vinci is a pen and ink drawing of a valley shaped by the river Arno. This drawing dated 5th of August 1473 reflects the ingenious mind of Leonardo. The Arno valley is drawn with aerial perspective by allowing the color of the paper to dominate and less details as the depth increases. This effect will be called later “the perspective of disappearance”.

The Uffizi, Florence 1472-1475 Leonardo da Vinci assisted his master Andrea del Verrocchio on the painting “Baptism of Christ”, which was commissioned by the monks of San Salvi near Florence. The angel kneeling at the far left, parts of the landscape and the body of Christ are considered to be from Leonardo.

Vasari reported about this painting:

Verrocchio had already done the main work: “Leonardo painted an angel who was holding some garments; and despite his youth, he executed it in such a manner that his angel was far better than the figures painted by Verrocchio. This was the reason why Andrea would never touch colours again, he was so ashamed that a boy understood their use better than he did.”

It’s also true that this was Verrocchio’s last known painting.

An x-ray of this painting showed that the original sketching Verrocchio did for Leonardo’s angel was entirely different from the final result. Leonardo was freeing himself of his master’s coaching to follow his own path. It’s interesting to compare the two angels, Leonardo’s playing close attention to the action, the figure looking quite natural and part of the activities and scene. In contrast, Verrocchio’s angel stares off into space with no interest in what is going on and he looks a little bit bored.

Of the four figures in the painting the angle painted by Leonardo is significantly better than the others, the rest being by Verrocchio (John the Baptist), Botticelli, Credi and various other students.

It is supposed that Leonardo had his own workshop between 1476 and 1478. During this time he received at least two orders. The sketch from 1478 shows an angel simlar to the one of the painting “Baptism of Christ”. In addition some mechanical elements and a portrait are part of this sketch. It’s remarkable that t this time Leonardo da Vinci already started his mechanical studies.

The Impeachment

A remarkable event happened on 8. April 1476. At this time it was usual to put anonymous accusations in a wooden box (called tamburo), which was put up in front of the Palazzo Vecchio (Picture).

On 8. April Leonardo and four others were accused. The anonymous person accused Leonardo to have a homosexual affair with Jacopo Saltarelli, who was a model. The procedure ended for all participants with an acquittal of the charge.

This story is an indication of the supposed homosexuality of Leonardo da Vinci.

First period in Florence 

Leonardo da Vinci created the left/left painting 1478. Remarkable is the beauty of the virgin and the attentive facial expression of the child, who looks at the flower.

This madonna painting is one of two, which Leonardo painted at this time. The second one, a madonna with a cat, doesn’t exist, but a sketch from Leonardo exists in the British Museum (left/right).

Around 1480/1481 Leonardo created the small Annunciation, which is now in the Louvre. It’s a lovely small painting with a deep and misty landscape and also the flowers in the foreground are a typically work of Leonardo da Vinci. Beside this Annunciation there exists another one, which is now in Florence. The annunciation from Florence is usually ascribed to Leonardo, but the most scientifically facts indicate, that it is from Lorenzo di Credi, who worked with Leonardo in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio.

Invitation to France 

King Francis I. invited Leonardo da Vinci to spend the last span of life in Amboise at the court of France. In autumn 1516 Leonardo arrived in Amboise. In his baggage was the famous painting Mona Lisa.

Leonardo lived in Amboise in the small castle Cloux which is now called Le Clos Luce. This castle is situated between the town and the king castle.

In France Leonardo didn’t paint, but he made hydrological studies.

Death in Amboise 

This picture shows the Leonardo plaque in Amboise.

Leonardo died on 2 May 1519 in Amboise. At this time Leonardo da Vinci was 67 year old. His state of health was not the best, because Leonardo had a paralysis on the right side of his body since 1517 and Vasari told about an illness some weeks before Leonardo died.

On 23 April 1519 Leonardo wrote his last will.

Vasari told the legend that King Francis I. immediatly came to Amboise when he heard about the near end of Leonardo da Vincis life. This painting from Cesare Mussini (1929), which you can admire in the Galleria dell´Academia in Florence, shows this last meeting. It is only a legend, because King Francis I. was on 1 May 1519 in St. Germain en Laye and so he couldn’t be in Amboise one day later.

This picture shows the Chapel of St. Hubert which is situated inside the area of the king castle in Amboise. In the chapel is the last resting place of Leonardo da Vinci.

Originally Leonardo was buried in the heart of the king castle in the cloister of San Fiorentino. After destruction of the church and parts of the castle the mortal remains of Leonardo da Vinci were transferred to the Chapel of St. Hubert.


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