Archive for the ‘Leonardo da vinci’ Category

Invention of the Bicycle – Leonardo da Vinci

September 27, 2007

1. Between 1966 and 1969, the monks of the “Laboratorio di Restauro” of the Abbey of Grottaferrata, near Rome, were entrusted with the restoration of the Codex Atlanticus of Leonardo da Vinci. A binding contract was drawn up between the then Prefect of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana of Milan, Monsignor Paredi, and the Director of the “Laboratorio di Restauro” of Grottaferrata, Padre Daniele Barbiellini, which contract is still preserved in the archives. The fundamental clause of this contract was that absolutely no person was to be admitted to see the folios of the Codex during the years of the restoration, and this strict clause was always rigorously observed.

2. During the process of the restoration, the monks separated two sheets that a sixteenth-century conservator, Pompeo Leoni, had folded in half and glued together when he joined about 1300 of Leonardo’s sheets and fragments to form the single codex now referred to as the Codex Atlanticus. The separation of these two sheets revealed some scurrilous scribbles and the rough sketch of a vehicle resembling a bicycle. It is certain that these drawings were not made by Leonardo, but probably by pupils of Leonardo’s “bottega,” the bicycle sketch apparently a bad reproduction made in brown crayon of an original by Leonardo himself, since lost.

3. Professor Marinoni, who was entrusted by the Commissione Vinciana of Rome with the transcription of the Codex Atlanticus for the National Edition of Leonardo’s Manuscripts and Drawings, received from the publisher, the Casa Editrice Giunti of Florence, a photograph of each sheet of the restored Codex, taken after the codex had been returned to the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, and it was on these photographs that he based his diplomatic and critical transcriptions. The Codex has always been guarded in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana with exceptional safety measures. The scurrilous scribbles and the sketch of the “bicycle,” which had remained invisible for about four hundred years, were in the photograph numbered folio 133v.

4. Professor Marinoni dated the sketch circa 1493, the same date as that written by Leonardo on the front page of Codex Madrid I. On folio 10r of that codex there is a sketch drawn by Leonardo showing a chain with cubic teeth, the same cubic teeth that can be seen in the rough sketch of folio 133v of the Codex Atlanticus. Marinoni’s opinion was shared by other scholars (e.g., Professor Baud of the University of Strasbourg and Professor James McGurn of York), and although many others remained skeptical, “the vigorous skepticism of the critics has failed to undermine any of the evidence for authenticity set out by Prof. Augusto Marinoni, the leading Da Vinci scholar.”

Marinoni’s scientific fame is certainly not based on this minor study of the “bicycle,” but rather on his immensely important activity and his fundamental works produced throughout more than fifty years as a Leonardo scholar, especially his transcriptions of several Leonardo da Vinci manuscripts. Other works contributing to Marinoni’s international stature include his many critical studies and volumes on Leonardo da Vinci, as well as important studies in medieval lexicography, historiography, and dialectology.

The importance given here to the “bicycle question” derives only from the groundless attacks of Professor Hans Erhard Lessing, a retired curator for the museum of Technology and Labor of Mannheim, who declares that the 19th century bicycle was invented by his compatriot, the Baron Drais von Sonnerbronn, in 1897 (a fact that no one questions). Lessing makes further declarations as follow.

1. That the “ink” of the sketch came into use only during the 19th century (although the sketch in question is a brown charcoal drawing, and Lessing, himself, speaks of a “brown crayon” drawing).

2. That during the 1960’s, a group of monks “from the Catholic University of Milan” restored the Codex Atlanticus under the guidance of Professor Marinoni (although we know that the Codex Atlanticus left the Ambrosiana only to be restored at Grottaferrata).

3. That the sketch was a forgery produced by the monks.

4. That in 1974 Marinoni announced the discovery while delivering the fourteenth “Lettura Vinciana”, saying that “his” monks had discovered it.

5. That Marinoni himself produced the “forgery” during the restoration at Grottaferrata.

6. That Marinoni himself (as Lessing realized that the former version was clearly impossible) produced the “forgery” after the return of the Codex to the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, that is to say, during the time when Marinoni could work only from the photographs (!).

Dut regarding this last version, Prof. Lessing himself gives unquestionable proof against what he said before, in a note of October 17, 1997, take up by the magazine “New Scientist” on an article, “On yer byke, Leonardo” of October 18, 1997, signed by Jonathan Knight ( He says that “chemical analysis of the brown crayon marks (in the article no mention is made of ‘ink’) that make up the sketch could provide conclusive proof”. But unfortunately the restored pages have been sealed away in plastic to preserve them.

He does not realize that this thin layer of “plastic preservation” makes it impossible for anybody to make additions of any kind to the sketch of Folio 133v, or to any folio whatsoever of the manuscript.

This “proof” backfires on Prof. Lessing and demolishes hi s version of a “forgery after the restoration of Grottaferrata.

These absurd fantasies need no comment; a serious scholar bases his assertions on real evidence and tries, at least, to be coherent and consistent with himself.

Although these assertions are pure nonsense, they seriously offend the Laboratorio di Restauro of Grottaferrata, the Biblioteca Ambrosiana of Milan, the Catholic University of Milan, and, in particular, the memory of Professor Augusto Marinoni, an extremely upright scholar and the most highly qualified expert in the field of Leonardo’s manuscripts.


prof. Augusto Marinoni

(15-6-1911 / 31-12-1997)


Family tree – Leonardo da Vinci

September 27, 2007

Ser Guido di Ser Michele da Vinci was the great great-grandfather of Leonardo da Vinci. He lived in Vinci and first mention of him is dated by 1339. He was a florentine notary. To take up the profession of notary was a family-tradition. His father and also his sons, Giovanni and Piero ,took up this profession. Piero was the great-grandfather of Leonardo da Vinci.

Antonio and Lucia were the grandparents of Leonardo. Lucia was born in 1393. She was the daughter of Piero Zosi da Bacchereto a florentine notary.
Antonio did not continue the family-tradition to take up the profession of notary. He was a farmer and land-owner. Antonio and Lucia lived with their two sons Piero and Francesco (born in 1435) and their daughter Violante in Vinci. Leonardo and his father lived in the same house until they moved to Florence. Francesco and Lucia spent their whole life in this house in Vinci.

Leonardo da Vinci was the first child of Ser Piero who was born in 1427. He continued the tradition of his family to work as a notary. Ser Piero didn’t marry the mother of Leonardo. He married his first wife Albiera in the same year as Leonardo was born. He died on 9th of July 1504.

Catarina was the mother of Leonardo. She did not marry Ser Piero the father of Leonardo. It is supposed that Leonardo spent his first years of childhood with Catarina in Anchiano. Catarina married some years after the birth of Leonardo a man from Vinci called Acattabriga di Piero di Luca.

Albiera di Giovanni Amadai was born in 1436 and died between 1460 and 1465. At the age of sixteen she married Ser Piero. This happened in the same year as Leonardo was born. Ser Piero and Albiera didn’t get any child.

Francesca di Ser Giovanni Lanfredini was the second very young wife of Ser Piero. Unfortunately she died early.

Margherita daughter of Francesco di Gacopo di Guglielmo was the third very young wife of Ser Piero. She was born in 1458. Ser Piero and Margherita got two sons. Antonio was born in 1476 and he was the first legitimated son of Ser Piero. The second son was Giulian who was born in 1479. Margherita died soon after 1480.

Lucrezia di Guglielmo Cortigiani was the fourth wife of Ser Piero. This marriage was blessed with a large offspring. Ser Piero and Lucrezia had seven sons and two daughters.

The Smile of Mona Lisa – Leonardo da Vinci

September 27, 2007

The portrait full of mystery and secrets is painted on a 77×53 cm large poplar-wood. It is the most famous work of Leonardo da Vinci.

Originally the painting was larger than today, because two columns, one on the left the other one on the right side of Mona Lisa, have been cut. That is the reason why it is not easy to recognize that Mona Lisa is sitting on a terrace.

It is also mentionable that many details are not visible today, because they are partially damaged and some parts of Mona Lisa are painted over.

However the characteristic of the famous painting is still existing. The characteristic consists in the detailed background which disappears in the misty atmosphere (this is called “sfumato” technique), the perfect portrayed Mona Lisa and of course her hypnotically smile.

Biography about the famous Leonardo da Vinci

September 27, 2007

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.

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci

September 27, 2007

245px-mona_lisa.jpegLeonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was a prominent Italian polymath: scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, musician and writer.

The illegitimate son of a notary, Messer Piero, and a peasant girl, Caterina, Leonardo had no surname in the modern sense, “da Vinci” simply meaning “of Vinci”: his full birth name was “Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci”, meaning “Leonardo, son of (Mes)ser Piero from Vinci.”

Born near Vinci in the region of Florence, Leonardo was educated in the studio of the renowned Florentine painter, Verrocchio. Much of his earlier working life was spent in the service of Ludovico il Moro in Milan where several of his major works were created. He also worked in Rome, Bologna and Venice, spending his final years in France at the home given him by King François I.

Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the “Renaissance man” or universal genius, a man whose seemingly infinite curiosity was equalled only by his powers of invention. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.

It is primarily as a painter that Leonardo was and is renowned. Two of his works, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper occupy unique positions as the most famous, most reproduced and most parodied portrait and religious painting of all time, their fame approached only by Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. Leonardo’s drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also iconic. Perhaps fifteen paintings survive, the small number due to his constant, and frequently disastrous, experimentation with new techniques, and his chronic procrastination. Nevertheless these few works, together with his notebooks, which contain drawings, scientific diagrams, and his thoughts on the nature of painting, comprise an unmatched contribution to later generations of artists.

As an engineer, Leonardo conceived ideas vastly ahead of his own time, conceptualising a helicopter, a tank, concentrated solar power, a calculator, and the double hull, and outlining a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics. Relatively few of his designs were constructed or even feasible during his lifetime, but some of his smaller inventions such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire entered the world of manufacturing unheralded. As a scientist, he greatly advanced the state of knowledge in the fields of anatomy, civil engineering, optics, and hydrodynamics.