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Leonardo da Vinci was known as a ‘renaissance man’ in the truest sense. He was most famous for his paintings, but also produced very detailed notes about the natural world around him and created inventions, showing he looked far into the future.

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Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci was born in Vinci, Italy on April 15, 1452. He was a prolific artist, scientist, mathematician and inventor.

Da Vinci received a basic education, covering only reading, writing and math. At age 15, da Vinci started an apprenticeship with a sculptor and a painter. This is where Leonardo really started to perfect his artistic skills. In 1478 he became an independent master. Leonardo moved to Milan in 1483 to work for the ruling Sforza family as an artist and engineer. He remained in Milan until the city was invaded by the French in 1499 and he returned to Florence. In 1506 he returned to Milan and remained there until 1513. He then moved to Rome for three years. In 1517 he moved to France by the invitation of King Francis I.

Leonardo was most famous for his artwork. He created two of the most famous paintings ever produced, the Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. The Last Supper was painted between 1495 and 1498. It was painted in the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. It is famous for its composition which has influenced many modern painters. The Mona Lisa was painted later in 1503. The subject of the painting is believed to be Lisa Gherardini, the wife of cloth merchant Francesco del Giocondo. The painting is called the most expensive painting in the world, although it has never sold. It is kept at the Louvre in Paris behind bulletproof glass.

Da Vinci kept detailed notes and observations about the world around him. He was granted access to the morgues of hospitals. As well as looking at anatomy, he also made notes about the physiology of the human body. He also made sketches of inventions that were centuries before their time, including flying machines based on bats and an aerial screw that looks like early model for a helicopter.

Leonardo died on May 2, 1519 in Cloux, France.

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Da Vinci’s Significant Accomplishments

  • Two of the most famous paintings in the world: the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper
  • Designing and inventing a range of things, conceiving things that are far ahead of his time
  • Detailed studies into human anatomy and physiology

Leonardo da Vinci Quotes

  • “Learning never exhausts the mind.”
  • “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
  • “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
  • “There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see.”
Learn more about people who have influenced history in our Picture Encyclopedia!
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