Few men have shone as brightly in their time and in posterity as Leonardo da Vinci. Heir to the Florentine artistic tradition initiated by Giotto in the 14th century, he crowned the new scientific spirit of the Renaissance.
History of Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was born in 1452 in a small village called Anchiano, a few kilometres from Vinci, on the outskirts of Florence. He was the natural son of a Vinci notary, named Ser Piero da Vinci, and a local peasant woman, named Caterina. At birth, his father left him in the care of a nurse. But soon after, he would be educated by his parent’s wife. At the age of 14, Leonardo entered Verrocchio’s prestigious Florentine workshop, the “polytechnic laboratory” that would provide him with a complete artistic and scientific education. Here he learned the rudiments of painting, architecture and sculpture, which would enable him to produce his first masterpieces, such as The Baptism of Christ, in collaboration with his master Verrocchio. He also acquired notions of botany, music and optics, and had already been instructed in subjects as far removed from the fine arts as watchmaking.
Eccentric and rebellious
From then on, Leonardo da Vinci aspired to become a great and wise artist, a painter with an intellectual foundation. He started from the idea outlined by Leon Battista Alberti, the great Renaissance theorist, that it was necessary to know nature in depth in order to be able to imitate it through the arts and sciences. Leonardo was also a rebel who, as a scientist, engineer and artist, was able to show his independence from the intellectual currents of his time. His work, the fruit of encyclopaedic knowledge combined with a powerful intelligence and unlimited imagination, is made up of ingenious anticipations, which would sometimes take centuries to understand and apply.
Leonardo da Vinci and his exceptional qualities
Leonardo stood out early on in the eyes of everyone for his exceptional qualities. Unravelling the character of a genius is extremely complex, and even more so at a distance of time, although some sources allow us to get closer to his personality. He is known to have liked to live in an ostentatious manner, and was seen in elegant clothes. This did not prevent him from living in a kind of marginality, partly due to the many hours he devoted to work and his resulting isolation. Hyperactive and changeable, his temperament made him unable to put a stop to his scientific discoveries. He tended to start again from the beginning and stopped concentrating on subjects already dealt with and moved on to others in which he had a greater interest.