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Leonardo DeVinci is closely linked to "La Joconde", the most famous work of theFlorentine artist and humanist of the Renaissance. His passion for science, mathematics and geometry is reflected in all of his creations. Besides the paintings in which this great artist wanted to reproduce nature as he felt it and "real" individuals in a harmonious atmosphere, he practiced in fields as diverse as anatomy, mechanics, science, botany, the flight of planes, war machines and paves the way for Copernicus and Galileo for gravitation, star twinkling and the movement of the earth. At the end of his life, he went to France where he was welcomed by King François I, who settled him in Clos-Lucé, near the Château d'Amboise.
Youth of Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci better known under the name of Leonardo DeVinci was born on April 15, 1452 in the small village that bears his name, 30 km from Florence. Son of a notary, his grandfather briefly educated him in the Tuscan countryside. At sixteen, he entered Florence, in theVerrocchio workshop who taught him sculpture, painting, decoration and engraving. Among Sandro Botticelli, the Perugino and Domenico Ghirlandaio, he learned the basics of colors, performed small jobs and only a year later, he painted “drapes” on the characters.
Verrocchio entrusts him with the execution of the face of one of the two angels on the board The Baptism of Christ made between 1470 and 1475. Remaining in Verrocchio's studio until 1476, he joined the Compagnie de Saint-Luc, a brotherhood of painters. The first painting by Leonardo da Vinci is then Our Lady of the Carnation , then the Adoration of the Magi a painting full of movement where ol creates the characters as living beings, as if they existed, with such realism that they are not extras.
Meeting Ucello, he frequents his studio and talks together about geometry and perspective. For his paintings, he improves the technique of sfumato, a chiaroscuro technique, at a very high level of perfection. Unlike the artists of his time, Leonardo refused to show the outlines of the characters in a clear line. On the contrary, he chooses to blur them, to see them "smoke out".
With Ludovic Sforza: the time of inventions
At thirty, da Vinci is called by Ludovic Sforza, Duke of Milan and remained in his service for twenty years. He wants to offer him the equestrian statue of the founder of the François Sforza dynasty… it was not made, so we don't really know what this rider looked like. Working for the Duke, he carried out several functions of decorator, sculptor, organizer of receptions, but also engineer, town planner, he worked in hydraulics with dams and locks and invented automatic devices.
In mechanics, it is at the origin of the operation of machines in the textile field; on his sketches, he analyzes, dismantles and reassembles the watchmaking systems, mills, pumps, transmission devices, planing machines, sawing ... all this in drawings and sketches, of course. Ludovico Sforza was won over by the military engineering talents of the artist. For the Duke of Milan, Leonardo worked in particular on the development of portable bridges, cannons, catapults and other war machines. Taken from one of Leonardo's notebooks, these diagrams represent various war machines allowing deadly offensives. The inventor thus imagined a cavalry weapon making it possible to mow down the opposing infantry ("the Scythian tank"), as well as a rotating cart with a metal shell, equipped with cannons and manipulated from the inside by eight. men (a true prefiguration of the tank).
He paints Ludovic Sforza's mistress The Lady with an Ermine, Lucrezia Crivelli can be La Belle Ferronnière from the Louvre, then the Virgin of the Rocks from 1483 to 1486, in its Florentine style - which many denigrated and considered a bad copy! It starts The Lord's Supper intended for the wall of the refectory of the monastery of Saint Mary of the Graces in Milan, and uses an experimental mixture for the plaster, but which will not be preserved for centuries to come, the fresco will be damaged. In addition to paintings, da Vinci is engaged in architectural drawings and plans.
In the service of César Borgia
When the Sforza fell in December 1499, da Vinci visited Venice and Mantua where he painted the profile portrait of the Duchess of Este and returned to Florence in 1503 in the service of Caesar Borgia, Duke of Romagna. He exercised his talents as an architect, served as "site manager" of ecclesiastical fortresses, took part in the commission deciding on the installation of Michelangelo's David. This is when da Vinci will start the battle of Anghiari for the Palazzo Vecchio but which will not be finished (only copies of the boxes remain), then the portrait of Mona Lisa, the famous Mona Lisabetween 1503 and 1506, which will become the star of the Louvre museum.
Moreover, most of Vinci's great works have been destroyed, only the cartoons, drawings and sketches remain.
The Glory Years of Leonardo da Vinci
In 1506, da Vinci left for Milan and put himself at the service of Charles d´Amboise, Marshal of France, then entered the court of Louis XII as a painter and ordinary engineer. Despite the many trips back and forth to Florence to settle a lawsuit concerning the inheritance of a paternal uncle, he spent a few years in Rome under the protection of Pope Leo X (Giovanni de Medici, son of Laurent the Magnificent) and devoted himself to scientific experiments. During this period, he painted theSaint Jean Baptist, that he will bring to France with most of his masterpieces.
During the victory of the French at the Battle of Marignan, da Vinci meets King François I in Pavia. In 1516, the monarch brought him to France, Clos-Lucé castle, near the Château d'Amboise. He offers him a pension of seven hundred crowns and declares him "the king's first painter, engineer and architect", entrusting him with the project of the Château de Chambord. He died three years later, in early May 1519, at the age of sixty-seven, and contrary to legend, he was not in the king's arms. When Leonardo died, François I was in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. He will have had time to bequeath his notes, notebooks and manuscripts to his pupil Francesco Melzi in charge of publishing them… Publication which will take place four hundred years later. These Leonardo da Vinci notebooks and manuscripts, written from right to left, which must be deciphered with a mirror, give us its "genius" side.
A Renaissance genius
Who better than Leonardo da Vinci to embody the Renaissance? Artist, scientist, architect, town planner and engineer, researcher - in fields as varied as botany, hydrology or anatomy - he pushed to the extreme the versatility specific to the creators of that time. If he was then admired for his thought, his erudition and his moral qualities, it was his immense talent as a painter that the following generations praised before his writings and drawings were rediscovered at the end of the 19th century. Surprising machines, from submarines to helicopters and cars, sprang from oblivion. Some of these “inventions” seem to hold as important a place in the history of techniques as La Joconde in that of painting.
However, Leonardo da Vinci is not outrageous in his singularity. His inventive spirit is part of the continuity of his predecessors and his "discoveries" are often linked to an existing tradition. In the military field, others, such as Francesco di Giorgio, designed war machines before him. In architecture, his plans do not surpass those of Bramante or Leon Battista Alberti, and his sketches of construction machines are inspired by the research, once again, of Francesco di Giorgio, himself marked by the work of Filippo Brunelleschi . The genius of Leonardo da Vinci is elsewhere. He was more attached to his method, which was based primarily on observation.
Then comes the experience which is, according to him, "never faulted". Unlike his contemporaries, he offers a practical approach that tends towards rationalization; he wants his gears to be solid and regular so that he can adapt them to different types of use - looms, hydraulic turbines or theater machinery. His talent also lies in the quality of his sketches. His mastery of perspective, shadows and lights gives the impression of existing objects, ready to work. The drawing becomes an instrument to capture the essence of things. And no one can then doubt, admiring his flying machines that man will one day take himself for a bird ...
- Léonard de Vinci by Sophie Chauveau, biography. Folio, 2008..
- Leonardo da Vinci: Art and science of the universe, by Alessandro Vezzosi. Gallimard, 2010.
- The Machines of Leonardo da Vinci, by Domenico laurenza. Gründe, 2006.