Monday, May 5, 2014

Leonardo da Vinci: The Original Renaissance Man

Leonardo da Vinci is considered the first "Renaissance man" or "Universal man" because he excelled in a multitude of subjects, including science, mathematics, engineering, inventing, anatomy, painting, sculpting, architecture, botany, music and writing ( In the present day, scholars are so specialized that it is rare to find a thinker who can excel in both "left-brain" logical and "right-brain" creative disciplines. Da Vinci realized that proportions and mathematical symmetry were necessary to produce aesthetically pleasing works of art like his "Last Supper" and "Mona Lisa" paintings, just like creative, out-of-the-box thinking was required to create his designs for flying machines, which were centuries ahead of his time.

Leonardo's paintings increasingly employed painterly characteristics: "[i]ncreasingly line was replaced by the modulation of colour, and the transitions between figures and landscapes became fluid. Space came to be conveyed not primarily by the use of mathematical perspective, but by lightening the colour and gradually softening the outlines" (Renaissance, Grove Art Online; provided through eCampus). Leonardo lived and worked during the epitome of the high Italian Renaissance at the beginning of the 1500s. His first major sphere of influence was in Northern Italy: he "did not receive the recognition and understanding that were his due in either Florence or Rome. [After] his move to North Italy...close to Venice, he was able both to develop and to spread his influence. The Venetian approach to colour, created by Giorgione and the young Titian, is inconceivable without knowledge of Leonardo" (Renaissance, Grove Art Online; provided through eCampus).

When I studied abroad in Italy, I was able to travel to Vinci, Leonardo's birthplace (Leonardo da Vinci means Leonardo of/from Vinci). I visited the house in which he was born and the museum associated with it. The house contained a virtual, interactive "Last Supper" in which the painting was projected on a large wall and the viewer could zoom in to different parts of the painting by moving his/her hands. It was amazing to see the detailed brush strokes of the painter up close and marvel at Leonardo's precision and skill in painting this important Biblical scene. Below is a picture I took of an exhibit explanation at the museum:

Below you will find photos that I took of the house itself and the surrounding landscape. Leonardo had ample inspiration for his artworks with the beautiful surroundings and close proximity of Vinci to Florence, the center of the cultural world during the Italian Renaissance.

The online resource is a helpful site with a biography on Leonardo, pictures of his works, and other information on the great Renaissance thinker.

The article posted at et-cetera/leonardo-da-vincis-mona-lisa-part-of-first-3d-artwork/articleshow/34639954.cms discusses a fascinating new insight into the Mona Lisa: a supposed "knock-off" of the Mona Lisa may in fact have been painted by Leonardo himself or one of his students. The two paintings, when viewed side-by-side, may compose a "stereoscopic pair", an intentional impression of depth (this would effectively mean that the paintings would have been the first 3D image ever depicted in painting). It seems that Leonardo's genius was even more revolutionary than modern scholars may have thought, and the works of Leonardo may continue to surprise and amaze us as scholars continue to study them in the future.

Summary of Helpful Links: et-cetera/leonardo-da-vincis-mona-lisa-part-of-first-3d-artwork/articleshow/34639954.cms

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