A remarkable and skilled man, Leonardo da Vinci excelled in a variety of fields. He was a scientist, inventor, artist, and musician with a fine singing voice. He also had unordinary habits in comparison to his fellow 15th century Italians. He was an animal lover, who followed a strict vegetarian diet, and bought caged animals in the market place just to set them free.
Leonardo da Vinci was born in Vinci, Italy on April 15, 1452. He was the illegitimate son of Ser Pierro and a peasant girl named Caterina. The two never married, and Ser Pierro took custody of his son while Caterina moved to a neighboring town and married another man. Between his father and mother, da Vinci was the eldest child of 17 half brothers and sisters.
From a young age, da Vinci showed an interest in scholarly texts and art. When he was about 15, he became an apprentice in Andrea del Verrochio’s workshop in Florence. It is said that after having the honor of painting an angel in Verrocchio’s Baptism of Christ, da Vinci exhibited so much more talent than his master that Verrocchio resolved never to paint again.
Leonardo da Vinci entered the service of the Duke of Milan in 1482. It was during the next seventeen years that he gained great achievements in science and art. The Duke preoccupied da Vinci with tasks in painting, sculpting, and designing weapons, buildings, and machinery.
During the time, da Vinci produced scientific writings in his notebook that were centuries ahead of his time. He produced and sketched ideas of flying machines, geometry, mechanics, canals, and architecture. He also designed such advanced weapons as tanks and other war vehicles.
One of the works of art completed during this period was his infamous The Last Suppe (1497), and it was in 1503 that da Vinci reportedly began to work on the Mona Lisa.
From 1513-16, he worked in his own workshop in Rome, completing projects for the Pope, and studying human anatomy and physiology.
In March of 1516, King Francis I granted da Vinci the title of “Premier Painter and Engineer and Architect of the King.” Along with the title, he was also given a generous stipend and a manor near the royal castle.
In France, da Vinci no longer painted. Instead he focused on hydrological studies.
His state of health was on a steady decline since he suffered a paralysis on the right side of his body in 1517. At the age of 67, Leonardo da Vinci died on May 2, 1519 in Ambroise, France. Surviving him, however, was a legacy of influential paintings and scientific designs.