Leonardo da Vinci: Science can Elevate Art

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I have always been interested in the life of Leonardo da Vinci and his tendencies to perfect everything that he does, especially artistically. I am interested in researching how Leonardo da Vinci has used his studies and discoveries in the scientific field to improve upon his own art and to make it a great reference and fierce competitor when compared to other artists. He had created anatomical drawings that achieved such a high level of accuracy and perfection that modern doctors today still reference them. As someone who is an Art major (I am concentrating in Animation and Interactive Design) I am intrigued by the correlation between art and science. I intend to go to pharmaceutical school after I graduate; I am taking my pre-requisites for graduate school in addition to my fine arts classes. I feel as if this topic will be very beneficial for me to research and learn from as I intend to go a scientific route eventually after I finish my artistic studies.

About Leonardo da Vinci

One of the most talented individuals who excelled in everything that he did, Leonardo Da Vinci scientifically improved everything we now know about anatomy, proportions, and light and perspective. Interested in cartography, history, science, music, botany, astronomy, anatomy, geology, engineering, mathematics, art, ect the list goes on; he was incredibly intuitive and constantly asked himself why things worked the way they did and sought the answers out for himself. In fact, his mind was constantly processing so much information that he started so many projects that he never finished. He considered studying nature to be an important aspect of correctly analyzing and recording information artistically. He is widely considered the father of ichnology, architecture, and paleontology, and not to mention considered one of the greatest painters of all time.

He considered art to be the highest form of knowledge that can be obtained visually and had a core set of rules based on statics and dynamics that dictated how to create nature accurately in modern technology, science, and of course art. He was an invested vegetarian; he had a special place in his heart for animals and would frequently purchase caged birds just to give them their freedom. Da Vinci had a weird complexity of being someone who worked as a military engineer yet hated war. In addition to being an amazing artist, he was known for being able to paint with one hand and write with another even though he was technically left handed; he was ambidextrous. In addition to the dexterity of his hands, he wrote many of his work from right to left in an attempt to keep his work secret; this was called a mirror script. He also happened to be arrested with a few of his friends for sodomy in Florence, as homosexuality was punishable by death, but then they were later released as no witnesses came forward.

Bio of Leonardo da Vinci

He was born in Vinci near Florence in 1452, and his father was an important lawyer. He was never properly schooled and so he taught himself with experiments and observations. “Learning never exhausts the mind” (Leonardo da Vinci)” He was actually to be trained as a musician, but homeschooled himself. In his younger working life, Da Vinci was in Milan working for Ludovico il Moro. Later, Leonardo was a designing, painting, and sculpting when apprenticed to Andrea Verrocchio. He was known primarily for his painting abilities, but his scientific discoveries are still referenced in medical professions today and are highly accurate. He was born out of wedlock by his wealthy father Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci who was a wealthy notary, and his mother Caterina who was a poor local woman. Leonardo’s full birth name is Lionardo di ser Piero da Vinci which means “Leonardo, son of Piero from Vinci.

In all, Leonardo had tweleve half-siblings, the youngest of which was born when he was forty years old. When he was forteen he was apprenticed to Verocchio. When he was twenty years old he qualified as the master of the guild of artists and doctors of medicine, formally called the Guild of Saint Luke. At the beginning of the Second Italian War in 1499, Leonardo fled Milan for Venice where he was a military engineer and architect who’s job it was to devise plans to defend the city from a French naval attack. Later in 1502, he became a military architect and engineer for the Son of Pope Alexander VI in Cesena, whom he created a stronghold defense map of the city which was one of the first of its kind; maps were a new concept at this time. He later rejoined his guild in 1503 and spent a couple of years creating the Battle of Anghiari for the Signoria mural.

From September 1513 to about 1516 he spent many of his older years in Belvedere living in the Vatican in Rome under Pope Leo X. He was later commissioned to make for Francis a mechanical lion that could walk forward, opening its chest to show a boquet of lilllies. In 1516 he was given use of the manor house Clos Luce as he entered King Francis’ I service. Leonardo daVinci spent the last three years of his life at Clos Luce, dying at the age of 67 on May second, 1519, thought to be caused by a reoccurring stroke. According to Vasari, in Leonardo’s last days he sent for a priest so that he could receive the Holy Sacrament and make his confession. He was laid to rest in Chateau d’Amboise in France, in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert.

Nature and Science as a Team

A large amount of Renaissance artists like Filippo Brunelleschi actually worked as engineers paired with their art, and Leonardo da Vinci was no exception. Leonardo heavily studied the mechanical anatomy of the body which aided in his technological designs and his understanding of the natural form. He considered painting to be “the ultimate form of visual knowledge” (http://serious-science.org/leonardo_da_vinci-8183) and intended for art to be treated as an invention, not just something meant to induce feelings in the eye of the beholder. A very important ideal of his was that when creating technological devices, the mathematical laws of nature must be kept in mind. It is imperative that a scientist or artist must closely observe the world around them and their intended subjects.

“What Leonardo began as four distinct elements ended up woven together in a way that illustrates a fundamental theme in his art and science: the interconnectedness of nature, the unity of its patterns, and the analogy between the workings of the human body and those of the earth” (Isaacson) (https://www.vox.com/2017/12/23/16805814/leonardo-da-vinci-artist-science-scientist). Paying close attention to why something may look the way that it does and how it moves or operates contributes to creating any successful breakthroughs in art or science. Leonardo comprehended that if he came to an understanding of the way that something works or moves, logic rules that he should be able to accurately construct a model that displays those findings. For example, if one were to come to an understanding of the motion and flow of the blood valves in the heart, it would be possible to construct a model demonstrating just that.

Therefore, Naturalism “is not the taking of a kind of photograph of nature but reconstructing and demonstrating how nature works” (http://serious-science.org/leonardo_da_vinci-8183) . Just as he was able to interpret and recreate exemplary representations of the human form, he also had impressive geological background and insight. To him earth and her body were scattered with large veins of water, not unlike those inside of the human body. He was one of the first to theorize that the earth was actually older than the bible because of his studies and cartography of earth’s rivers and riverbeds. His impressive understanding of the world around him allowed his success in architecture to flourish on mother earth.

Scientific da Vinci

Da Vinci was always interested in the way that the world worked, but he did not exercise his more scientific tendencies till he was in Milan around 1505. He felt very limited by the teachings of the Bible so he turned to the simplicity of observing nature, questioning things like how birds are able to fly. He was one of the first to record flight patterns and movements of birds in his sketches. Leonardo was intrigued by the human form and its mechanical functions, so interested in fact, that it could be said maybe to a fault. He was so determined to get a close up of the inner workings of the body that he studied in a medical facility that was in terrible conditions but he had access to cadaver criminal parts so that he was able to really examine miniscule parts of even the smallest organs and how it would appear they operate from inside the human form.

Da Vinci the Artist

Even as a young boy, Leonardo was honing his ability to observe a form, process the necessary information, and translate it into his art, creating perfect copies of what he was viewing. He took great care to study an object in different forms of light, for example an object under a light versus a shadow, and close up compared to far away. “Perspective is nothing else than seeing a place or objects behind a plane of glass, quite transparent, on the surface of which the objects behind the glass are to be drawn.” (Leonardo da Vinci). Leonardo utilized the open window perspective in his works, where artists would incorporate this technique to draw a three-dimensional object on a flattened surface like a table.

The idea is that the artist is to see model of whatever they happen to be drawing and its surrounded environment and imagine it as a window or picture frame, painting exactly what one sees. The book De Divina Prportione, or On the Divine Proportion is a work written by Luca Pacioli. Leonardo da Vinci drew the illustrations that can be seen in this book that teach about correct proportions. Specifically talking about mathematical proportions and how necessary math and science is for the creation of an accurate drawing. The Divine Proportion was the former name for what we now know to be called The Golden Ratio. (https://www.livescience.com/37704-phi-golden-ratio.html)

The Golden Ratio is “a special number found by dividing a line into two parts so that the longer part divided by the smaller is also equal to the whole length divided by the longer part”. As an equation, a/b = (a+b)/a = Phi, the Greek letter of the alphabet often used to represent the number that is approximately 1.618. The golden ratio is considered the secret to creating a harmonious piece with good a composition. Da Vinci can be seem incorporating the golden ratio in several of his works; one example is The Annunciation 1472-1473. Another example is The Last Supper, one of da Vinci’s most famous paintings, from 1494-1498. Many aspects of this piece exemplify the golden ratio, such as the center of the table, and the small shield in relation to its enclosure. Also, because of the position of the disciples gathered around the table near Jesus, it is said that even that formation is an example of the golden ratio.

Cite this paper

Leonardo da Vinci: Science can Elevate Art. (2021, Oct 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/leonardo-da-vinci-science-can-elevate-art/

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