One of the great Renaissance painters, a man well known even in modern times for his beautiful artworks, great inventions and scientific curiosity. Leonardo Da Vinci (15 April 1492 – 2 May 1519) was an Italian polymath of the High Renaissance period and is often credited as a founder for this specific art period. Being a polymath, Leonardo’s knowledge was vast in a variety of subjects including anatomy, astrology, botany, cartography, painting and palaeontology. His early career began in the city of Florence before then joining the service of Ludovico Sforza (also known as Ludovico il Moro), a patron for not only Leonardo but various other artists. Leonardo would later go on to work in Milan, Florence and briefly Rome before spending his last three years in France by invitation of then King Francis I.
Despite not having as many finished works as other artists (less than 25 with many others having been lost), Leonardo is among the greatest painters in the history of art, with many works remaining influential to Western art to this very day. His painting of the “Mona Lisa” (also known as La Gioconda, the laughing one) is presumably his best-known work and astonishingly still the most famous painting in the world, currently hanging in The Louvre in Paris, France. This seemingly ordinary portrait of a young women truly showcases Leonardo’s talent for realism showcased through the smile of the subject being deemed so wonderous and an exact copy of the then living original. There’s a beautiful, mysterious quality to the painting thanks to Leonardo’s use of subtle shadows around the eyes and mouth of the subject, a technique not used in paintings before this period. In turn this shadowy quality/technique; for which the Mona Lisa has become renowned for, came to be called sfumato or Leonardo’s smoke after the painter himself. This technique is used to soften the transition between colours, mimicking an area beyond what the human eye is focusing on, or the out-of-focus plane. Described by Leonardo himself as “without lines or borders, in the manner of smoke or beyond the focus plane”. Thanks to his experiments with the camera obscura and research in optics and the human vision, Leonardo’s use of this technique was far beyond other artists. There are other firsts within this famous painting, for example Leonardo was the first to paint his subject before an imaginary landscape as well as the first to use aerial perspective. The vast landscape with icy mountain, winding pathways and a far-off bridge also showcase the use of sfumato giving the illusion as through the subject was sat in front of a real landscape.
To finish this blog, I discovered some interesting little facts about the Mona Lisa including how many historians believe she is a self-portrait of Leonardo himself with this image being used to show just how much she resembles the painter herself. Also, it is well known that the Mona Lisa was stolen in the summer of 1911 before finally being recovered two years later, however, did you know that both Pablo Picasso and poet Guillaume Apollinaire were both accused of having stolen the priceless work of art before later being proven innocent. Even after over 500 years Leonardo’s work both within the arts and his various other studies remains highly influential to many individuals spanning the world over and is sure to remain influential for many more years to come.