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Da Vinci Trivia
Leonardo di ser Piero Da Vinci was born on the 15 April 1452 in Vinci, Tuscany. His mother was called Caterina and her surname is unknown. Leonardo was born illegitimately and his father was Ser Piero da Vinci. His mother worked in the household. The family surname Da Vinci means from the town of Vinci.
Because he was born out of wedlock he was not permitted a university education nor to follow in his father's footsteps by becoming a lawyer. Instead he trained in the workshop system in Florence serving his apprenticeship under the artist Andrea del Verrocchio as well as Lorenzo di Credi and Pietro Perugino. Leonardo Da Vinci learnt to create metalwork, sculpture, decorative woodcarving, church and military banners, medals, shields, embroidery designs.
His mentor, Verrocchio, knew that his apprentice had become greater than him when Leonardo Da Vinci contributed to Verrocchio's painting for the friars of Vallombrosa, The Baptism Of Christ, by painting a figure of an angel and the landscape. This can be seen at the front of the painting and his finer brushwork and blending is more noticeable. Verrocchio vowed never to paint again because his apprentice's artwork was much better.
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Leonardo Da Vinci became a Renaissance Man - skilled in several disciplines which included painting, sculpting, engineering, anatomy, geometry, music, the future and inventing.
In his art Leonardo Da Vinci was a perfectionist - the man (silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo) who commissioned the painting of the Mona Lisa never received this painting of his wife (Lisa de Gherardini del Giocondo) because Leonardo Da Vinci took it with him wherever he went. The painting of the Mona Lisa eventually went to the king of France and never to her husband. It can now be found in Le Louvre, Paris, France. Good bit of trivia here for pub quiz questions - Its other name is La Gioconda.
Though at times he could also be easily distracted and often left work unfinished and would have to reminded by clients to finish commissioned work. He was a much in demand artist and amongst his clients were the King of France who commissioned him to paint for his court. Princes would commission him as a military engineer and in contrast he would also work for the Church.
The Last Supper Painting
The book The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown in 2003 which was made into a film starring Tom Hanks, Paul Bettany and Audrey Tautou in 2006 fictitiously set a conspiracy theory that Leonardo Da Vinci was a member of a sect called the Priory of Sion. This sect was supposed to have left clues in relics such as The Last Supper Painting to help cover up the true story of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. It was directed by Ron Howard and made The Last Supper Painting more famous than The Mona Lisa. The Last Supper painting was commissioned by the Duke of Milan who wanted to make his town grander. Leonardo Da Vinci experimented with this painting by painting it on dry plaster with a mixture of mastic, pitch and gesso instead of the usual method of using water based paint on wet plaster. Unfortunately this technique hasn't lasted the test of time and it has deteriorated over the centuries. It can now be found at the Convent of Sta Maria delle Grazie, Milan in Italy.
Other paintings by Leonardo Da Vinci included The Benois Madonna, The Adoration of the Magi (unfinished), Virgin of the Rocks, The Leda and the Swan and St John the Baptist. This would make another great trivia question for a quiz.
Leonardo Da Vinci would fill in notebooks with many designs, which included ideas for a tank, machine gun, parachute, a submarine, the use of solar energy, the calculator, the first robot, helicopter, hang glider, and a bicycle. His notebooks would be crammed full of drawings and sketches - probably because paper was so expensive and could not be wasted.
He had a unique style of writing. He was left handed so wrote his note backwards in mirror writing. This way he did not smudge his writings and could pull the quill pen, rather than push it. He could work on a painting with both hands, working on different parts.
Many margins and even the middle of the pages of his notes had the phrase "Tell me if anything was ever done?" scribbled by him. (Another trivia question - ideal for harder quizzes).
Medieval paintings were known for their stiff narrow figures of people but the Renaissance painters changed this and people would be painted with real skin tone colour and moving, actioned muscles. Leonardo Da Vinci wanted to understand the actions of muscles better and was the first artist to dissect human bodies so that he could understand anatomy. Unfortunately he became so engrossed in his study and took so long working on them that the bodies would decompose and smell in the heat of the Italian sun.
Two new styles of painting were credited to being invented by Leonardo Da Vinci. The first was called sfumato which creates a smoky atmospheric haze effect. The second was Chiaroscuro which is a colour shading technique which uses a series of glazes to create subtle transitions of dark and light between coloured areas.
Leonardo Da Vinci was never married and he had no children. When he was a young man he was tried for the crime of sodomy with 17 year old model Jacopo Saltarelli, but due to lack of evidence and no witnesses his case was dismissed. He had close friendships with young men. Two younger males were the beneficiaries of his will and were the heirs of his property and fortune. These were Count Francesco Melzi and Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno who was nicknamed Salai or il Salaino.
Unusually for that time period Leonardo Da Vinci was a vegetarian.
Leonardo Da Vinci died on 2 May in 1519 whilst working for the King of France. It is thought that he died in the arms of the King of France. He was buried in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert in the Castle of Amboise.
His biography was written in 1550 by Giorgio Vasari in the collective work of Vite de' piu eccelenti architettori, pittori e scultori italiani. This translates to The lives of the most excellent Italian architects, painters and sculptors. The work was collected by Vasari through first hand accounts of Leonardo Da Vinci's friends and contemporaries.
In 2006, to celebrate the 80th birthday of Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth, there will be public exhibitions of Leonardo da Vinci drawings throughout the UK. These are from her private collection. The first exhibition was be in Aberdeen, when the Queen was residing at nearby Balmoral Castle.
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