Leonardo da Vinci was born in Italy in 1452. Many people think “da Vinci” it is his last name but it only refers to the home of Leonardo’s father, Piero. Leonardo was born out of wedlock after Piero’s tryst with a peasant girl, and this information is valuable in such cases. Piero was supportive of young Leonardo’s talent, taking only the money from his son’s efforts and none of the credit.
Leonardo began his first unfinished commission in 1478. While he is most famous for his paintings, we only have fifteen of them. This is because he was a Renaissance Man, which means that if you asked him to paint more masterpieces, he would just laugh at you and go back to drawing helicopters that wouldn’t work. His sketch of “The Vitruvian Man” demonstrates that the proportions of a human being follow certain mathematical principles if you squish him out a bit. People wonder why he did odd things like write his notes backwards. It was to avoid real work. The Mona Lisa’s mysterious smile probably had a hydraulic pump somewhere behind it.
Much fuss has been made about Leonardo having no close relationships with women. This is wrong. He had one. And why should he, anyway? He seemed to have all he needed in his pupils Salai and Melzi, and we should keep in mind that the three of them were acquitted of all charges, eventually. (Salai, or “the Little Devil,” would later go on to paint a nude version of the Mona Lisa. Such was Leonardo’s legacy.)
Leonardo was passed around between Medicis, Borgias, and the like, beginning many projects for all of them, before settling down in his old age in the care of François I. The King of France is said to have held Leonardo in his arms as Leonardo died in 1519. This may seem unusual, but anyone who has lost a pet will understand. It never gets easier.
The life of Leonardo ad Vinci shows how far you can get on a little talent and less effort.