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Leonardo da Vinci: “All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions”

Self-portrait, circa 1512

Leonardo da Vinci was a Florentine artist, one of the great masters of
the High Renaissance, who was also celebrated as a painter, sculptor,
architect, engineer, and scientist. His profound love of knowledge and
research was the keynote of both his artistic and scientific endeavors.
His innovations in the field of painting influenced the course of
Italian art for more than a century after his death, and his scientific
studies—particularly in the fields of anatomy, optics, and hydraulics—
anticipated many of the developments of modern science.Early Life in Florence
Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452, in the small Tuscan town
of Vinci, near Florence. He was the son of a wealthy Florentine
notary and a peasant woman. In the mid-1460s the family settled in
Florence, where Leonardo was given the best education that Florence,
the intellectual and artistic center of Italy, could offer. He rapidly
advanced socially and intellectually. He was handsome, persuasive
in conversation, and a fine musician and improviser. About 1466 he
was apprenticed as a garzone (studio boy) to Andrea del Verrocchio,
the leading Florentine painter and sculptor of his day. In Verrocchio’s
workshop Leonardo was introduced to many activities, from the
painting of altarpieces and panel pictures to the creation of large
sculptural projects in marble and bronze. In 1472 he was entered in
the painter’s guild of Florence, and in 1476 he is still mentioned as
Verrocchio’s assistant. In Verrocchio’s Baptism of Christ (circa 1470,
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence), the kneeling angel at the left of the
painting is by Leonardo.
In 1478 Leonardo became an independent master. His first
commission, to paint an altarpiece for the chapel of the Palazzo
Vecchio, the Florentine town hall, was never executed. His first large
painting, The Adoration of the Magi (begun 1481, Galleria degli
Uffizi), left unfinished, was ordered in 1481 for the Monastery of San
Donato a Scopeto, Florence. Other works ascribed to his youth are the
so-called Benois Madonna (c. 1478, Hermitage, Saint Petersburg), the
portrait Ginerva de’ Benci (c. 1474, National Gallery, Washington,
D.C.), and the unfinished Saint Jerome (c. 1481, Pinacoteca, Vatican).


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