Ji Young Chun
February 27, 2012
Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo Da Vinci was a renaissance polymath who was a painter, a sculptor, an architect, a mathematician, a scientist, and an engineer at the same time, and his talents typified an ideal renaissance man. He was born in April 15, 1452 in Vinci, Italy, and raised under his father with the typical elementary education, which tells that Leonardo taught himself with his own natural talents. While his mathematic studies appeared later in his 30s, his artistic aptitude and investigation showed early in his age. In 1467 at the age of 15, he earned a position to be an apprentice to an artist named, Andrea del Verrocchio. During his workshops as an apprentice, he received an education that encompassed painting, sculpting and technical- mechanical arts. In 1472, Leonardo was finally accepted into the painters’ guild of Florence, however, he continued to work as an apprentice in his teacher’s workshop for five more years. From then on, he worked as a painter in Florence until 1481, when he produced most of his masterpieces of pen and pencil drawing work, which includes pumps, military weapons and other machines. The next stage was when Leonardo reached new highest of artistic and scientific achievements during his 17 years in Milan where he went to serve duke of Milan in 1482. Under the duke, he had to be busy painting, sculpting, designing weapons, buildings and machinery, and this period led him to produce a lot of advanced works of wide range of studies including natures and machines. He started to produce his superb recordings of studies in his notebooks in 1490 until 1495, and the subjects ranged from painting, architecture, and mechanics to human anatomy, which he drew so meticulously, and professionally. After this period, he traveled to search for a new patron and during his retinue for each patron he did his best to produce his best works, and in this period a number of well-known masterpieces were produced including the most famous piece, Mona Lisa. Leonardo died on May 2, 1519 in Cloux, France, leaving a huge achievement in renaissance world.
My first choice of Leonardo’s drawing is Vitruvian Man, drawn with pen and ink with wash over metal point on paper in c.1487. Leonardo first became to be sparked to have an interest in anatomical studies when he was an apprentice in Verrocchio’s workshop in response to his master’s interest. After practices of dissection in Milan, he first started with studying skeletons and muscles. After several studies, he began to work with the mathematician Luca Pacioli, and Leonardo considered the proportional theories of Vitruvius, the 1st-century BC Roman architect. This drawing is how he imposes the principles of geometry on the configuration of human body. The man that looks so ideal is drawn so realistically, with great proportions of his body. It seems that Leonardo tried to examine the science of ideal human body, comparing it to the basis of mathematical geometry, a square and a circle. He wrote down some notes around the sketch, and they show that it was a part of his sketchbook that he used in order to study human body and nature. The note may say, “when a man places his feet firmly on the ground and stretches out his arms, he can be contained within the four lines of a square, but when in a spread-eagle position, he can be inscribed in a circle.” I chose this drawing because it is so interesting that he thought of the relation between human body and simple geometric shapes. I am really interested in studying human body by drawing sketches of it, because human body is just the most beautiful creature on earth! By looking at Leonardo’s approach to decipher human body, I was so inspired to study more of it trying to relate to anatomical studies.
[Drawing of Woman’s Torso]
After studying skeleton and muscles, Leonardo’s next step was to study internal organs “inside the body”. This overwhelming sketch of inside of human body is Drawing of Woman’s Torso that was drawn in c.1507, high Italian renaissance period. Leonardo created this drawing with pencil and ink on paper to study internal human body, and I believe that this drawing helped a lot to form the basis in the field of anatomy in renaissance era, as Leonardo himself proudly said that his drawings were superior to descriptive words. I can see so meticulously drawn organs of a woman and so many little notes besides the body, which probably explains what the organs are. To me, this drawing is amazing. The organs and the body are perfectly realistically drawn, at the same time the organs are so artistically striking, which tells me that the nature is always beautiful. It is so surprising that he drew all the actual organs, back at the renaissance era when the anatomical studies were not that developed because of lack of technological advance. However, that during his lifetime, Leonardo’s anatomical drawings remained private because he did not consider himself as a professional in the anatomical science field, and did not publish his findings. Even if I see this drawing in the era when the anatomical technology has been greatly developed than back then, I love how accurate the organs are drawn. I also love how he keeps questioning himself and earning the answers from his everyday studies in his little notebook.
[Study for the composition of the last supper]
This piece may be familiar to most people because it is a study drawing for a so-well-known masterpiece, The Last Supper. Leonardo sketched this piece in high renaissance in c.1494 with chalk on paper. The size is 26x39.2 cm, which is way smaller than the real piece, but I can see Leonardo’s deep thinking of how he wants to set the composition of 13 people, and how he wants to express each person’s characteristics. The composition of this piece is masterful because Leonardo indeed succeeded to contrast in the attitudes of 12 disciples and Christ in the middle. Jesus says calmly, “one of you will betray me”, and the 12 disciples are agitated. It is interesting for me because I often do gesture drawings of people around me and try to capture the essence of each person. This sketch looks really nice because even though it was a study drawing, he profoundly thought how the drawing is going to work in the real piece, person by person, character by character by focusing on facial expressions, gestures, and poses in the drama. Composition of this piece impacted numerous great artists such as Rubens and Rembrandt in succeeding generations, and this piece of painting itself also influenced them a lot. Moreover, this work inspired Goethe’s finest pages of descriptive prose. I want to learn his professionalism even in this mere study drawing and develop my skills as his.
[Study of Horses]
I chose this work since I know that Leonardo studied so hard with animals especially horses, not only human beings. This sketch was created in high renaissance in c.1504-06 with red chalk on paper to study the body of horse in depth. I truly like this drawing because it is interesting to see. Not so many people would have seen horse like this attentively. I like how Leonardo studied the muscles and following shapes of horses that normal people would not think of ever drawing. I also like this drawing because the shapes of horses’ legs and muscles are even more interesting than those of humans. I believe that his effort to a new trial of horse studies deserved compliments not only from decades of artists but also from scientists and anatomists.
[Reason to choose Leonardo Da Vinci]
I chose Leonardo Da Vinci because I sincerely aspire to resemble him in my career, not because Leonardo Da Vinci is just a simple, easy example of someone’s favorite artist. I love science and fine art at the same time like he did, and wish to become an expert for both fields. My ultimate goal is to be an architect, who should be equipped with great sense and skills in science and fine art, and I believe that no one could ever surpass Da Vinci in these fields of scholars. He was not only the top in the field of fine arts, but also the top for science and engineering, which is not easy to do for a normal person. I know it is greed to catch two rabbits, but my idol, Leonardo Da Vinci, inspires and supports me not to give up my huge dream. I acknowledge that he became successful not only because he was naturally so talented but also because he was hardworking throughout his life, so I believe that I also can achieve my dream if I work as hard as he did!
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