Famous figures are usually discussed in terms of perfection and flawlessness. That is how people first view Leonardo da Vinci. He was born in 1452, in the town of Vinci, Italy, and admittedly he was an extraordinary child, always fascinated with the scenery and objects around him. When he was around the age of twelve, his biological father sent da Vinci’s drawings to a famous Florentine painter and sculptor, Andrea del Verrocchio. He thought da Vinci’s drawings were very impressive and soon it was arranged for Leonardo da Vinci to become an apprentice.
Under the care and teachings of Andrea del Verrocchio, da Vinci learned how to prepare wooden panels for painting, how to grind color by hand, how to make varnish for protecting finished paintings, and much more. As the years went by, da Vinci showed increasing mastery in the fields of science, engineering, and art. He thought up some of the greatest ideas that are still used today such as cars, submarines, helicopters, flying machines, which would not even have been invented for many more years.
People wonder why da Vinci was not recognized as a great artist while he was alive. Unfortunately, Leonardo da Vinci had flaws, just like any other human being. He procrastinated on many of his assigned projects and was very disorganized. He died unhappy because he did not think anything was ever accomplished. He was given many opportunities to prove his genius, but he failed to complete most of his projects which kept him from being acknowledged as a mastermind while he was still alive.
Even though Leonardo da Vinci portrayed many characteristics of a modern high school student such as disorganization, procrastination, and incompletion of many projects, the projects that were finished are looked upon as masterpieces of the Renaissance. Leonardo da Vinci was a messy and disorganized child and a secretive young adult. Unfortunately, he did not change this habit as he grew older. When he was young, da Vinci collected things that interested him and kept them in his room.
Consequently, his room was a messy jungle of animals and objects which he never allowed people to see, being afraid that they might disband his collections. As he grew older, da Vinci kept his notebooks close and continuously filled them with incredible and innovative ideas and drawings. Some of his entries were short jottings and improvements of his inventions but others were “lengthy and elaborate” entries that went into detail about his numerous projects (Pannapacker 4). Leonardo da Vinci had so many remarkable ideas and he was so “ahead of his time” it is almost impossible to believe he came up with those inventions (Pannapacker 1).
Leonardo da Vinci returned to his notebooks intermittently, revising his thoughts and “adding drawings and textual elaborations” throughout his life (Pannapacker 4). Most of the additions he made were scribbles on the margins of his notebook. He was paranoid that someone would steal his ideas so da Vinci wrote his notebooks in code. One could only decipher his writings if he held the notebook upside down in front of a mirror. Being left handed, he also wrote from right to left. Even cryptographers have had a hard time trying to decode his notebooks seeing as they are so messy and crammed with information.
Da Vinci kept his notebooks for at least thirty-five years and more than five thousand of his manuscripts have been recovered. Da Vinci’s intelligence and artistic skills were publicized only after his death when historians discovered his notebooks. Historians describe Leonardo da Vinci as an inveterate procrastinator because he never started or finished projects on time. He seemed “endlessly distracted” by his notebooks and experiments because he understood the “fleeting quality of imagination” (Pannapacker 3).
Leonardo da Vinci believed that if one did not get an insight down on paper and later develop it while the “excitement lasts” one is “squandering the rarest” and “most unpredictable” of his human capabilities which feels like the moments are “touched by the hand of God” (Pannapacker 3). One of the biggest examples of da Vinci’s procrastinations were his notebooks. He kept them for a long time, away from people’s eyes and never thought of ever publishing them, stating that they were “never quite finished” (Williams 45).
He left his notebooks a mess and never published “the treatises” that could have modernized science during his lifetime. Furthermore, Leonardo da Vinci was more interested by his inventions and solving the glitches of those inventions rather than actually trying to build them. His procrastination caused him much grief in later years and despite his contributions he felt he could have achieved much more. As a result of his procrastination, da Vinci did not receive very good pay therefore he was never able to live in lavish homes or have any luxurious possessions.
Doodling while the hours passed by, the genius who changed the world wasn’t an expert at getting things done. When Leonardo da Vinci learned about a new topic, he was usually very enthusiastic. Unfortunately, he dropped each subject he was learning after he had “mastered its rudiments” and continued on to study new subjects, which he would eventually get tired of and forget about (Williams 12). Da Vinci was also “afraid of success” and never gave his best effort because there was “no chance of failure that way” (Pannapacker 1-2).
Many scientists, historians, and artists could consider Leonardo da Vinci foolish because he “could never really finish” the projects that he started and he “never realized most of his inventions in real terms”. He didn’t even begin to think about building these “marvelous inventions” (Hines 1). Da Vinci’s notebooks were full of illustrations and descriptions about things that were not even going to be invented for many years later. Throughout his lifetime, Renaissance leaders such as Lorenzo the Magnificent and the de Predis family gave Leonardo da Vinci many painting and sculptures to complete.
In January of 1478, da Vinci received his first commission as an independent artist. It was an altarpiece for the Chapel of San Bernardo, but he never finished and no one knows what the reason was behind leaving it incomplete, but many people believe he could have been lost in his research and notebooks that he forgot what the original purpose of his research was. Leonardo da Vinci never thought small, it was always the bigger the better. At one point in his life, da Vinci wanted to make sculpture of a horse out of 160,000 pounds of metal.
He started the project with great enthusiasm, but soon ran into a problem. He had no idea how to bring the horse to life. In order to continue his project, da Vinci drew sketches and studied horses that could have been used as models. He became so lost in his studies of horses that he forgot what his original plan was. Along with these two projects, Leonardo da Vinci left many more unfinished, such as another altarpiece for Monk’s high altar and a painting for the Predis family. Leonardo da Vinci died unhappy, thinking that he hadn’t accomplished in his lifetime.
Leonardo da Vinci was the best representation of the idea of a Renaissance man, one who mastered everything from human and animal anatomy to sculptures and paintings. He accomplished wonders such as opening up a new world of beauty, devoted himself to science, and went from a humble village to palaces of princes, popes, and kings. It is debated whether he was a greater engineer, anatomist, or naturalist. Da Vinci’s contributions to art are shown not only in his early works and masterpieces, but also in his many writings. His first major work was “The Baptism of Christ” in which he co-worked with his mentor, Verrocchio.
After seeing what da Vinci had painted, Verrocchio “threw down his brush” and never painted again (Williams 22). His style of art closely paralleled that of Verrocchio, but he gradually moved away from his teacher’s “stiff, tight, and somewhat rigid treatment of figures” to develop a more “evocative and atmospheric handling of composition” which led him to complete some of the world’s most famous and astounding painting of all time (Hooker 5). His first individual work was “The Annunciation” which shows when the angel Gabriel informed Mary she would bare the child of God. This painting showed his increased mastery in the field of art.
Da Vinci created many works of art that are considered masterpieces. The most famous of these are his portraits of “Lisa del Giocondo,” also known as “Mona Lisa,” and “The Last Supper. ” The “Mona Lisa” is one of the most famous works of art in the world today. Many people wonder who she is and why she is smiling. “The Last Supper” is famous for two main reasons, Judas, the traitor of Jesus Christ, is positioned behind the table, unlike any other portrayal of this painting. The other reason is how much John, one of the twelve disciples, who is sitting next to Jesus Christ “looks like a woman” (Hooker 3).
This painting has been considered “one of the most profound works of man” by artist of all generations (Williams 59). The painting is not entirely visible because the wall on which it is painted on was damp and da Vinci used oil and tempera paints. Soon after it was finished it started to peel off the walls. It has been repainted and restored many times. These paintings are not just important because of the aspects of them but also how da Vinci makes them look so life like. Their facial expressions show his deep knowledge of human anatomy and his artistic skills.
Leonardo da Vinci also decorated the courtyard and palace where Lodavico’s nephew was getting married. The sight was breathtaking. It looked more like a painting rather than the real thing. The guests were amazed by it. Da Vinci’s reputation grew along with his confidence. Soon, he left Verrocchio and set up his own studio. Leonardo da Vinci is considered one of our world’s most significant and influential people in the world. His notebooks are full of drawings and notes of ideas and inventions that no one of that time had ever thought of. Living in the Renaissance time period, da Vinci came up with some of the most astounding masterpieces.
He portrayed many characteristics of a high school student such as disorganization, procrastination, and incompletion of many projects. When Leonardo da Vinci died, he appealed to God, “Tell me if anything ever was done. Tell me if anything ever was done” (Pannapacker 1). But one must look past the superficial things that a person might have in order to realize their true genius. It is arguable whether da Vinci’s working habits are dire or not but one thing is for sure, Leonardo da Vinci was truly a genius that is looked upon with great admiration by many scientists and artists.