Leonardo da Vinci as the Renaissance Man

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When you think about the Renaissance Era, the first person that comes to mind for most people, at least for myself, is Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo da Vinci is notoriously known for producing some of the greatest works of art of all time. In addition to being one of the most famous artists of all history, he was also a scientist, engineer and renowned inventor. He is one of the most talked about historical figures from the Renaissance Era.

Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452, in the Tuscan town of Vinci, in Florence, Italy. He was the illegitimate son of Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci, a notary from Florence, and Caterina, a laborer who may have even been a slave from the Middle East. Leonardo’s full birth name was ‘Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci’, which means Leonardo, son of (Mes)ser Piero from Vinci.

Leonardo was a fount of knowledge, someone whose level of genius incorporated many fields. Some of what his encompassed were: invention, painting, sculpture, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He was definitely known as a “jack of all trades”. Despite all of his knowledge, he is primarily celebrated as a painter, and inventor. Some of his most prominent works include The Mona Lisa, his most reproduced religious work of all time, The Last Supper, and his the Vitruvian Man, an early instructive drawing of precise spatial and anatomical symmetry. Da Vinci is known to have said, ‘Learning never exhausts the mind.’

The Last Supper was painted while Da Vinci was in Milan, from about 1495 to 1498. The medium for this painting was tempera and oil painting on plaster. The Last Supper was created for the dining hall of the city’s Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The Last Supper was a rather large piece of work. It measures approximately 15 by 29 feet and is the artist’s only surviving mural. It portrays the Passover dinner during in which Jesus Christ is addressing the Apostles. One of the painting’s astronomical features is that each of the Apostles portray a distinct contentious expression. Its structure, in which Jesus is centered among yet isolated from the Apostles, has influenced generations of painters. Many people today still buy replicas of his work and cherish this infamous painting.

Then, probably his second most notable works of art was The Mona Lisa. This was da Vinci’s greatest achievement of combining art, science, optics, and illusion- the smile of the Mona Lisa. The medium of this work of art was oil on wood. Leonardo started working on the Mona Lisa in 1503 and continued working on it until his death nearly 16 years later. Even today, people still discuss the smile of the Mona Lisa and the virtuosity this painting depicts.

Leonardo was not just a master artist. He wanted to learn everything possible about everything he could. He looked at life from plentiful perspectives and recorded everything he saw. He kept a journal, that when he died, had over 6,000 entries. Da Vinci was able to capture a time in history like no other person could or ever had.

Leonardo also applied his skills and expertise to technical and scientific topics. One side of Leonardo was the scientist, who bases his knowledge on experience. The other side of Leonardo, of which he calls the ‘adversary’, who based his knowledge on book learning. This is ultimately how people become successful today as well- combining experience with book knowledge. This brings us to the great scientific discoveries of Leonardo da Vinci.

Leonardo’s view of science in his day is much like the way we view science today, in a step by step method. First- experience the world around you with your senses, and use this as a starting point. Second- reason and observation. Third- these must be demonstrated in logical sequence, much like mathematics. Lastly- these must be tested and verified through experiments. According to da Vinci’s notebooks: “all true sciences are the result of experience which has passed through our senses, thus silencing the tongues of litigants”.

It is often disregarded that Leonardo da Vinci invented so many things that are still in use today. This could be because he was so famous for his art and philosophy; Or possibly because there were countless inventions he did not actually have the initial idea for, although he developed them into what we know and use today. When we look at some of the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci, it helps us to understand him more as a whole when relating to his art and philosophy. Many of his mechanical drawings included explanations along with pictures that explained how the countless combination of items would work together. He was aware that his inventions would have potential impacts on the world, however, I don’t believe he knew quite to what extent they would impact the modern world.

Leonardo’s favorite area of study was aviation. He was infatuated with flying. He spent a lot of time studying birds, and the ways they flew, the patterns they flew in, and the way they soared. He was enthusiastic by the prospect of humans being able to soar above the skies like birds, so it is no question that the flying machine was one of his most treasured inventions. Although his flying machine never got made in the form he invented it (and sketched it in his notebooks) – his idea was the basis of modern aviation. The Wright Brothers are credited today for being the first to fly a plane. I disagree with this. The simple idea of humans being able to use a mechanism to fly surely would not have come to be if da Vinci had not initially thought of it. I believe that da Vinci should be the one credited for the first flying machine- after all, he did come up with the idea, and the sketch to put it into action.

Another famous invention by da Vinci was the aerial screw. The screw is still being used in modern times. The support of the aerial screw is a flat screw, and when turned it would generate lift. We all have used screws for something today, and this is all thanks to the work of da Vinci. Some of Leonardo’s inventions were not tested in his time, because he would move on the other ventures. The aerial screw was one of his developments that was left untested.

One of the most intriguing scientific discoveries to me, was that of the clock. Leonardo did not invent the first clock, however he made changes to the clock to make it as accurate as they are today. Leonardo da Vinci added distinct devices for the hours and the minutes. These mechanisms were made up of weights, harnesses and gears sumptuously connected together. Many clocks, as well as watches today are still designed using da Vinci’s mechanisms (particularly collector’s analogue timepieces). He also added in springs instead of weights. This is also something that is still practiced today when it comes to designing watches and clocks.

As many people know from research, Leonardo was a man who treasured art, but loathed war. Though, the concept of war was among many of thoughts, along with the armored car. Many of Leonardo’s machineries had something to do with war. For instance a circular armored car. The vehicle had a number of light cannons that were attached to a circular platform that could rotate a full 360 degrees. The armored car also had a shell, much like a turtle’s shell that covered and protected this area. This is one part of the design that is said to influence how modern tanks are designed. I don’t think that we would be as advanced with our military equipment as we are today if it had not have been for the incredible works of da Vinci.

Many people don’t know that da Vinci also heavily studied and was intrigued by human anatomy, more specifically, the heart. He actually taught us quite a bit about the human heart. Leonardo’s inquiries of the human form were a constant interest. Modern separations of the heart show he was correct on many aspects of the way in which the heart functions. For instance, he presented that the heart is a muscle and that it does not warm the blood. Da Vinci produced the first known description of coronary artery disease. This really captivated me because my father suffers from heart disease, and to think that we can pay tribute to da Vinci for his work concerning the heart and arteries was especially interesting to me.

Perhaps another one of da Vinci’s biggest influences on the modern world was that of robotics. During the late 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci designed what is reflected as the first human robot. It was made to look like a knight that included a complex series of pulleys and spring mechanisms which allowed it to raise its hands and move its joints when activated. There are many jobs today that involve robotics. For instance, one of the biggest professions I can think of is the medical profession. Most surgeons and hospitals use some form of robotics every day- whether it’s a surgical procedure, or something as simple as carrying medicine from the pharmacy up to the patient’s floor in the hospital- both of which require robotics. Without the help of da Vinci, I don’t think we would be as advanced as we are today when it comes to robotics.

Many years after his death, his drawings and philosophies were discovered by people who did not realize that he had already designed many machines of the present and for the future. Leonardo’s thoughts and theories have had a major impact on our world today in terms of art, science, and technology. Without Leonardo’s concepts we might not be where we are today. Leonardo da Vinci has proven that he is not only a true historical figure from the Renaissance Era, but also justifies the name he was given as the “Renaissance Man”.

Works Cited

  1. “Biography of Leonardo Da Vinci.” Leonardo Da Vinci – The Complete Works, www.leonardoda-vinci.org/biography.html.
  2. “Leonardo Da Vinci Overview and Analysis.” The Art Story, www.theartstory.org/artist-da-vinci- leonardo.htm.
  3. Leonardo, et al. Notebooks (Oxford Worlds Classics). Oxford University Press, 2008.
  4. History.com, www.history.com/topics/renaissance/leonardo-da-vinci.
  5. Isaacson, Walter. “The Science Behind Mona Lisa’s Smile.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 10 Oct. 2017, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/11/leonardo-da-vinci-mona-lisa-smile/540636/.
  6. Rox, Philippa. “What Leonardo Taught Us about the Heart.” BBC News, BBC, 28 June 2014, www.bbc.com/news/health-28054468.
  7. Pioneer Profile.” Journals : The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, www.aiaa.org/secondarytwocolumn.aspx?id=15129.
  8. Leonardo Da Vinci: A Life From Beginning to End. Hourly History, 2016.

Cite this paper

Leonardo da Vinci as the Renaissance Man. (2021, Oct 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/leonardo-da-vinci-as-the-renaissance-man/

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