Born in 1452 in a village near Florence, the illegitimate son of a man of high society with a peasant woman, Leonardo di ser Piero Da Vinci, Leonardo Da Vinci, or simply Leonardo, is considered "The Man of the Renaissance", one of the greatest painters of humanity and a multidisciplinary genius.
Today, five centuries after his death, Leonardo continues to inspire new generations, who seek to learn more about this multifaceted character.
Painter, engineer, anatomist, architect, botanist, writer, philosopher, urban planner, and inventor are some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s professions. So, how to define him? According to Ughette De Girolamo Del Mauro, PhD in Art History at the Università degli Studi di Firenze, that is one of the most interesting questions about this person. "He was a man of the arts and sciences, who devoted his life to exploring various spheres of knowledge," she says.
He was considered an extraordinary polymath, that is, a person who can perform different disciplines in depth. And like no other, especially for the period he lived, where you had to go beyond the common. For Davide Bigoni, civil engineer at the Universitá di Bologna, Italy, "Leonardo was a great visionary genius, who through the study of nature, projected various machines that were carried out in modern times."
One of his famous phrases is "there are three kinds of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, and those who do not see". He always considered sight as the most important sense, so he could learn from the world around him. By observing, he always sought to go further. Machines such as the helicopter, war tank, and the automobile are some of his inventions, which he projected "in a time when conditions to do so did not yet exist. He imagined a series of things that we have today in everyday life. That inventiveness that he had, focused on many disciplines, draws attention", Del Mauro emphasizes.
Leonardo, “The divine”
Although Da Vinci worked in different activities, he has historically been related to painting, not because of the quantity of works, but because of the technical quality that makes them unique. La Gioconda -popularly known as "Mona Lisa"-, which is exhibited at the Louvre in Paris, and The Last Supper, which is in the Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, are his two most important paintings, which make him as one of the most acclaimed painters in history.
However, his high level of personal exigency meant that he abandoned many of his paintings. "The reason is not well known, but it is said that he did not finish them, because he did not achieve the perfection he expected. He aspired to divine perfection. In the Renaissance, a great Italian artist, Benvenuto Cellini, called him "the divine Leonardo", explains Bigoni.
For Del Mauro, The Last Supper is his masterpiece, where, despite having problems with the technique he experienced when mixing the pigment with oil, he achieves the best version of the perspective. "He created the illusion of three dimensions on a flat surface. That is, he used linear perspective masterfully. In addition, he did a pictorial, philosophical, and anatomical study of the characters based on human emotions, to create faces with moods. From the point of view of the great composition and the emotion it evokes, it is better than any other work," he declares.
Da Vinci had a curiosity for the human body. He drew the Vitruvian Man, which is considered the canon of human proportions and symbol of the symmetry of the human body. He also made drawings based on his dissections of corpses, which was something very revolutionary in the field. Until today, his drawings are considered very accurate. "He was in the Santa Maria Nuova hospital in Florence and there was an old man who was dying. He waited for him to die so that he could study his body. There he discovered arteriosclerosis. People must have understood that Da Vinci was a contribution for humanity and they allowed him to do so" affirms Del Mauro.
His legacy 500 years later
Since his death, there have been many inventions that have been carried out based on his sketches and ideas, which he did while seeking to provide solutions to various issues, using nothing more than his imagination, and which do not cease to amaze after five centuries.
Da Vinci took his interests to paper, going beyond just an idea. His love for flying led him to perform various tests, without success, but leaving an important legacy. His fondness for the human body cost him public trials linked to necrophilia, but it made it possible to discover arteriosclerosis. His achievements in art mean that large numbers of people stand in long lines every day to see his paintings or that some collectors pay stratospheric amounts to purchase his work. That is synonymous with the fact that his greatness is still alive in people 500 years after his death.
Del Mauro comments that "his genius to never stop experimenting to improve our knowledge and quality of life as a species is invaluable. That variety of subjects that he studied, was not done by any other genius, neither Albert Einstein nor Stephen Hawkins; until now it has only been him."
For Bigoni, "Da Vinci is one of the greatest painters and the greatest engineers that has ever existed, being considered the most famous person in the world, only after Jesus."