Saturday, November 13, 2010

Leonardo da vinci

Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452, "at the third hour of the night" in the Tuscan hill town of Vinci, in the lower valley of the Arno River in the territory of Florence.

He was the illegitimate son of the wealthy Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci, a Florentine legal notary, and Caterina, a peasant. Leonardo had no surname in the modern sense, "da Vinci" simply meaning "of Vinci": his full birth name was "Lionardo di ser Piero da Vinci", meaning "Leonardo, (son) of (Mes)ser Piero from Vinci".

Little is known about Leonardo's early life. He spent his first five years in the hamlet of Anchiano in the home of his mother, then from 1457 lived in the household of his father, grandparents and uncle, Francesco, in the small town of Vinci.
His father had married a sixteen-year-old girl named Albiera, who loved Leonardo but died young. Leonardo received an informal education in Latin, geometry and mathematics but did not show any particular signs of aptitude

When Leonardo was sixteen his father married again, twenty-year-old Francesca Lanfredini. It was not until his third and fourth marriages that Ser Piero produced legitimate heirs. In later life, Leonardo only recorded two childhood incidents. One, which he regarded as an omen, was when a kite dropped from the sky and hovered over his cradle, its tail feathers brushing his face. The second occurred while exploring in the mountains. He discovered a cave and was both terrified that some great monster might lurk there, and driven by curiosity to find out what was inside.

Leonardo's early life has been the subject of historical conjecture. Vasari, the 16th-century biographer of Renaissance painters tells of how a local peasant made himself a round shield and requested that Ser Piero have it painted for him. Leonardo responded with a painting of monster spitting fire which was so terrifying that Ser Piero sold it to a Florentine art dealer, who sold it to the Duke of Milan. Meanwhile, having made a profit, Ser Piero bought a shield decorated with a heart pierced by an arrow, which he gave to the peasant

In 1482 Leonardo, who according to Vasari was a most talented musician,created a silver lyre in the shape of a horse's head. Lorenzo de’ Medici sent Leonardo, bearing the lyre as a gift, to Milan, to secure peace with Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan.

At this time Leonardo wrote an often-quoted letter to Ludovico, describing the many marvellous and diverse things that he could achieve in the field of engineering and informing the Lord that he could also paint.

Leonardo continued work in Milan between 1482 and 1499. He was commissioned to paint the Virgin of the Rocks for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception, and The Last Supper for the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. While living in Milan between 1493 and 1495 Leonardo listed a woman called Caterina among his dependents in his taxation documents. When she died in 1495, the list of funeral expenditures suggests that she was his mother.

Leonardo worked on many different projects for Ludovico, including the preparation of floats and pageants for special occasions, designs for a dome for Milan Cathedral and a model for a huge equestrian monument to Francesco Sforza, Ludovico's predecessor. Seventy tons of bronze were set aside for casting it. The monument remained unfinished for several years, which was not unusual for Leonardo. In 1492 the clay model of the horse was completed. It surpassed in size the only two large equestrian statues of the Renaissance, Donatello's statue of Gattemelata in Padua and Verrocchio's Bartolomeo Colleoni in Venice, and became known as the "Gran Cavallo"