On 15 April 1452, Leonardo da Vinci was born in the little town on Vinci, in Tuscany. He was born to the Florentine Notary Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci, and Caterina – a peasant girl. The little bastard boy would go on to become one of the most famous artists that the world had ever seen. At the age of 14, he was apprenticed to Verocchio and by the age of 20 he had qualified as a Master.
Leonardo would go on to produce some of the finest works of art Italy had seen at the time, and indeed would ever be seen. Although it has to be said that Leonardo was awful at getting his commissions finished – he never completed the altarpiece in the Palazzo della Signoria, nor did he complete his commission to pain the Adoration of the Magi for the monks of San Donato a Scopeto. Not only was he an artist, but he was an inventor as well. In 1502 he entered the service of Cesare Borgia as his military architect and produced some of the most accurate maps ever seen, including a map of Imola.
Leonardo spent his last years in France, in the service of King Francis I. Legend states then when Leonardo was dying, King Francis held the dying man’s head in his arms. He died on 2nd May, 1519 at Clos Lucé, and was buried in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert in Château d’Amboise.
Today, Leonardo da Vinci’s legacy lives on through his art work. In a recent trip to the Louvre in Paris, I was struck by just how many people crowded around the tiny Mona Lisa. She is the most famous of his works, people wondering just what on earth she was smiling at. It seemed to me as I stood in front of the Mona Lisa that many of those people didn’t even realise da Vinci had created other, much more beautiful works of art – some of which were on display in the very same room that they were crowded in. In fact, one only has to read his notebooks to understand that Leonardo da Vinci is very much more than the man who painted the Mona Lisa.