Tuesday, October 6, 2015

"More than an Artist" - Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)

Da Vinci was born in Italy and by the age of twenty was developing art in his own workshop. He is known as one of the greatest and most influential renaissance artists. His more famous and finished works include the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. However, he is also very well known for creating numerous sketch drawings of portraits, machinery and human anatomy.  

When researching Da Vinci I attempted to look mostly for his pencil/ink drawings so that I could learn from them and relate them to the content that we learn about in class. The following images are a small variety of the sketches Da Vinci created in his lifetime. 

Study of Five Characters (c. 1494), pen and ink, Windsor, Royal Library

This image is a good representation of some of the portraits that Da Vinci did. This one in particular seemed very interesting to me because of the haphazard nature of it.  He seemed to use very liberal mark making and was still able to accomplish very precise representations of human figures. It is apparent that he puts his focus on the man in the middle of the image for a few reasons. One reason is that the man in the middle seems to be the most “finished” element of the image, second he seems to be wearing some sort of a crown and third because the man is placed directly in the center of the canvas. As for the other four figures, they seem to be the background of the image and not necessarily the focus. It is possible, according to some scholars, that the middle figure represents a god-like figure and the other four represent the four temperaments. The four temperaments are sanguine (optimistic leader-like), choleric (bad-tempered or irritable), melancholic (analytical and quiet), and phlegmatic (relaxed and peaceful).  Of course there is no way to prove this theory but because a lot of Da Vinci’s works included symbolism and because of his well-read and scholarly nature, there is a good chance that this sketch has a deeper meaning as well.

Designs for a Scythed Chariot, Armoured Vehicle and Partisan (c. 1487), pen and ink and was, London, British Museum

This image shows parts of the sketches that Da Vinci prepared for more science and engineering purposes, this one in particular was a design for a chariot that may have served a purpose towards building modern war technology of the time. Many of his sketches included designs for machinery and revealed much about his ability to invent, as well as his futuristic thinking. His skills and talents went further than art and dipped in a multitude of disciplines and the intricate image above is proof of that. 

Studies of the Heart (of an Ox or Bull?) (1513-14), pen and ink, Windsor, Royal Library
This image shows many complex sketches of the heart with detailed descriptions noted next to them. Many of Da Vinci’s drawings related to science and biology included those of animal anatomy. These drawings revealed his desire to understand the body of an animal and how he used art to study the inner workings of these bodies. It is clear that in his sketches he broke down every part of the body and fully researched every aspect of every part in order to fully comprehend. Of course there were restrictions but nevertheless, he was lights-years ahead of his time.

From just three drawings it is obvious that Leonardo da Vinci was much more than just an artist. He was an artist, scientist, mathematician, writer, inventor and a visionary, which is why he was such a famous figure in the renaissance and still in our lives today. His versatility is the main reason that led me to select him as my subject of research. Alongside art, I am passionate about science, math and technology and I think Leonardo da Vinci’s breadth of work perfectly embodies all these areas of study. 


Leonardo Da Vinci, The Marvelous Works of Nature and Man by Martin Kemp

Leonardo Da Vinci, The Rhythm of the World by Daniel Arasse

Leonardo by Patricia Emison



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