Da Vinci
Leonardo Da Vinci is one of the greatest and most ingenious men that history has
produced. His contributions in the areas of art, science, and humanity are still
among the most important that a single man has put forth, definitely making his
a life worth knowing. Da Vinci, born on April 15, 1452, is credited with being a
master painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer, and scientist. He was
born an illegitimate child to Catherina, a peasant girl. His father was Ser

Piero da Vinci, a public notary for the city of Florence, Italy. For the first
four years of his life he lived with his mother in the small village of Vinci,
directly outside of the great center of the Renaissance, Florence. Catherina was
a poor woman, with possible artistic talent, the genetic basis of Leonardo’s
talents. Upon the realization of Leonardo’s potential, his father took the boy
to live with him and his wife in Florence (Why did). This was the start of the
boy’s education and his quest for knowledge. Leonardo was recognized by many
to be a "Renaissance child" because of his many talents. As a boy,

Leonardo was described as being handsome, strong, and agile. He had keen powers
of observation, an imagination, and the ability to detach himself from
the world around him. At an early age Leonardo became interested in subjects
such as botany, geology, animals (specifically birds), the motion of water, and
shadows (About Leonardo). At the age of 17, in about 1469, Leonardo was
apprenticed as a garzone (studio boy) to Andrea del Verrocchio, the leading

Florentine painter and sculptor of his day. In Verrocchio’s workshop Leonardo
was introduced to many techniques, from the painting of altarpieces and panel
pictures to the creation of large sculptural projects in marble and bronze. In

1472 he was accepted in the painter’s guild of Florence, and worked there for
about six years. While there, Leonardo often painted portions of Verrocchio’s
paintings for him, such as the background and the kneeling angel on the left in
the Baptism of Christ (Encarta). Leonardo’s sections of the painting have soft
shadings, with shadows concealing the edges. These areas are distinguished
easily against the sharply defined figures and objects of Verrocchio, that
reflect the style called Early Renaissance. Leonardo’s more graceful approach
marked the beginning of the High Renaissance. However, this style did not become
more popular in Italy for another 25 year (Gilbert 46). Leonardo actually
started the popularization of this style. For this reason Leonardo could be
called the "Father of the High Renaissance." Leonardo’s leading
skills emerged through his paintings and his techniques. Leonardo’s talents
soon drew him away from the Guild and in 1472 Leonardo finished his first
complete painting, Annunciation. In 1478 Leonardo reached the title of an

Independent Master. His first large painting, The Adoration of the Magi (begun
in 1481), which was left unfinished, was ordered in 1481 for the Monastery of

San Donato a Scopeto, Florence. Other works ascribed to his youth are the Benois

Madonna (1478), the portrait Ginevra de’ Benci (1474), and the unfinished

Saint Jerome (1481). Leonardo expanded his skills to other branches of interest
and in 1481 Leonardo wrote an astonishing letter to the Duke of Milan, Ludovico

Sforza. In this letter he stated that he knew how to build portable bridges;
that he knew the techniques of constructing bombardments and of making cannons;
that he could build ships as well as armored vehicles, catapults, and other war
machines; and that he could execute sculpture in marble, bronze, and clay. Thus,
he entered the service of the Duke in 1482, working on Ludovico’s castle,
organizing festivals, and he became recognized as an expert in military
engineering and arms. Under the Duke, Leonardo served many positions. He served
as principal engineer in the Duke’s numerous military enterprises and was
active as an architect (Encarta). As a military engineer Leonardo designed
artillery and planned the diversion of rivers. He also improved many inventions
that were already in use such as the rope ladder. Leonardo also drew pictures of
an armored tank hundreds of years ahead of its time. His concept failed because
the tank was too heavy to be mobile and the hand cranks he designed were not
strong enough to support such a vehicle. As a civil engineer, he designed
revolving stages for pageants. As a sculptor he planned a huge monument of the

Duke’s father mounted up on a leaping horse. The Horse, as it was known, was
the culmination of 16 years of work. Leonardo was fascinated by horses and drew
them constantly. In The Horse, Leonardo experimented