Monday, February 20, 2017

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519): Oralee Hespenheide

Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most well-known artists of all time. He emphasized authenticity, dimension, and curiosity in all of his works. He is primarily known for the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and the Vitruvian Man. However, that doesn’t even start to describe his vast and differential pieces of artwork. He was a man of many talents and had the ambition to match, a genuine Renaissance man. He was born on April 15, 1452 as an illegitimate son of Piero da Vinci, a notary, and Caterina, a peasant girl, at Vinci. Verrocchio, a renowned Florentine painter, mentored Leonardo in the early years of his life. He moved around Europe throughout his life working and perfecting his crafts. Although Leonardo is primarily known for being a painter, he excelled in what seemed to be everything his got his hands into. By the time he died on May 2, 1519 he was a painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician, mathematician, scientist, writer, ad an engineer.

            As stated above, this is one of Leonardo’s most famous paintings. It draws a lot of interest from people due to the sheer beauty and mystery behind the painting. There is a lot of speculation to who the woman is and what kind of factious expression she is making. The longer you stare at it the most it shifts and changes. The deep, rich hues he used help emphasize a romantic aura around Mona Lisa and the lighter blues and greens in the background help put emphasis on her pale face. By making the clothes and hair so dramatically dark and the skin so pale, your eyes can’t help but be drawn to her face and wonder where she he looking. Most of his paintings containing people shared this same theme of very pale skin surrounded by extremely dark colors, either in clothing or shadows.  

            The Last Supper is an example of a rare style of his paintings. He typically did not use bright colors in his paintings. Instead he would use more of a monochromatic color scheme and use shading and shadows to create depth. This painting is one the most famous religious paintings ever done, showcasing Jesus and his twelve disciples eating the last meal before Judas betrayed Jesus. Again, Leonardo did an excellent job instilling mystery into his painting. Why are they placed the way they are? What are they discussing? It can be interpreted in many different ways and has been throughout history. Leonardo used the lighting to emphasize Jesus, in the center of the paining, and then shadowing behind and stronger to the left side. Depth through light exposure was also, a common theme in his paintings.

            Leonardo was not solely interested in paintings, as I wrote previously. He was an insanely curious man and was always trying to find answers to his own questions. Back during this era, not a lot was known about science and math. Leonardo decided to venture out on his own to draw up a mathematically and physiologically accurate sketch of the human body. This is where the drawing of the Vitruvian Man came into play. By using the circle and square he was able to show how the body changes height and width as limbs move further away from the core. What seems like such a simple and obvious finding was a huge step forward in the medical field during his time. Leonardo did a lot of medical drawings including diagrams of organs, muscles, and bones.

            Human bodies were not the only diagrams that he sketched during his life. As stated above, he was also an engineer. He was interested in machinery and what made it work. He often sketched weapons and other contraptions. Leonardo even attempted to invent wings to help humans fly. He truly had a mind years wiser than his generation. When drawing his inventions, he would make sure there were proper measurements so it could be used as an instruction type manual. He was all for creating and trying new and crazy things. When painting and drawing he would often used different types of media to test what would work and what wouldn’t. This often led to unfinished or ruined pieces but he never really focused on having a perfect final project. He was all about creating something new and original.

            The reason I am drawn to Leonardo da Vinci is solely because of his story and the incredible masterpieces he was able to create solely off of passion. He had a rough childhood and used that to fuel his imagination instead of letting it tear him down. His attention to detail, even in his sketches, has inspired me. My favorite things to draw and sketch are animals and people. The human body is a mystery and the way it is portrayed through drawings can help shed light on certain questions had.


Leonardo Da Vinci Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2017, from,_by_Leonardo_da_Vinci,_from_C2RMF_retouched.jpg/687px-Mona_Lisa,_by_Leonardo_da_Vinci,_from_C2RMF_retouched.jpg

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