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Leonardo Da Vinci

Da Vinci, Leonardo (1452–1519), Florentine artist and scientist, whose creative and intellectual talents made him the supreme genius of the Italian Renaissance. One of the greatest painters of the period, he was also an architect, engineer, astronomer, anatomist, botanist, inventor, poet, and musician. Few completed works survive; scholars attribute this to Leonardo's restless movement from one project to another, his dissatisfaction with many of them, which were then left unfinished or were destroyed, and his habit of experimenting with new materials, some of which eventually decayed.

Leonardo studied art under Andrea del Verrocchio. His mature style is first glimpsed in the unfinished Adoration of the Magi (1481), with its subtle tones of light and shade and its dynamic figures, and comes to full development in The Madonna of the Rocks (c.1482), painted when Leonardo was already in the service of the duke of Milan. He worked for the duke for 16 years, designing statuary and fortifications and sketching plans for new towns and cathedrals. He also completed The Last Supper, in the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan (c.1498), now badly decayed due to his inexperience with fresco techniques. Leonardo's drawings, which constitute most of his surviving work, display fine shading and delicacy. He used various media—colored chalk, pen, and metal points—and his subject range was enormous, reflecting his interest in nature and including comparative studies of youth and old age and a series on the cataclysmic movements of water. Leonardo returned to Florence in 1500 and painted “Mona Lisa,” or La Gioconda, a landmark in portraiture. While still in the service of the duke of Milan, Leonardo designed a canal system with locks that is still in operation. For Cesare Borgia he planned fortifications (1502–3), drew excellent maps, and designed a tanklike armored vehicle and a breech-loading cannon. He may have joined (c.1513) Donato Bramante, Raphael, and Michelangelo in Rome to work on the Vatican and, possibly, plans for the new St. Peter's. Leonardo's notebooks, filled with ideas and sketches on anatomy, hydraulics, aeronautics, and machinery, are the best evidence of his genius; many of his inventions were centuries ahead of their time.

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