A name that needs no introduction, Leonardo was the archetypal Renaissance man; a painter, sculptor, scientist, mathematician, inventor, musician and writer. He is known foremost as a painter, with world famous works such as his, Mona Lisa, Virgin of the Rocks, and, The Last Supper. His art was innovative, taking knowledge of the sciences and applying them masterfully to painting; unequaled for some in technique and expression.
Throughout history and still today in modern culture, he continues to fascinate and inspire. He shares with Raphael (1483 – 1520) and Michelangelo (1475 – 1564), a triumvirate of brilliance during the High Renaissance. He was simply know as Leonardo, and took his surname from the small town of Vinci in Tuscany. With such a large scope of skills and works, this biography is limited to his work housed in the Uffizi Gallery. This includes, his Annunciation, from around 1472, executed while still in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio (1435 – 1488). The other is an early independent work, Adoration of the Magi, which he left unfinished for the Monks of San Donato at Scopeto in 1481.
As with much of the Italian Renaissance, the source of Leonardo’s life comes from the biographer and artist, Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574). Leonardo’s, Annunciation, was produced around the same time that he contributed to Verrocchio’s, Baptism of Christ, also housed in the Uffizi. Verrocchio was already an influential painter, but according to Vasari, Leonardo’s Angel and landscapes next to Saint John, was the reason Verrocchio resorted to a dedication of sculpting; “never to touch colours again, angered that a young boy understood them better than he did.” (Vasari, The Lives of the Artists.) It is noted that Leonardo’s, Annunciation, one of two pieces by the same title, is composed in the style of the early Renaissance painter, Fra Angelico (1395 – 1455).
In Leonardo’s, Adoration of the Magi, comes forth his emerging chiaroscuro technique. Commissioned by the Monks of San Donato a Scopeto of Florence, Leonardo drew the work’s composition, but the actual painted surface was possibly completed by Filippo Lippi (1457 – 1504). This knowledge comes from Professor Maurizio Seracini’s intensive research commissioned by the Uffizi Gallery. Additional to several technical attributes revealed by Seracini’s diagnostic tests, it showed the development of Leonardo’s complex representations of religious significance. This includes a tree at the center of the work to which the baby Jesus points to as a symbolic reference to the Book of Isaiah of the Old Testament. There is also the architectural structure being constructed by workers in the background, supposed to be the Temple of Jerusalem. It is mentioned that the structure is visually linked to the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte in Florence. The rebuilding of the temple is said to represent peace, in contrast to the battle scene depicted on the opposing right side. The work has been noted as Leonardo’s largest moveable work. (www.florence.tv.eng.esperia.com)
These early works from Leonardo da Vinci show an emerging Renaissance master; one Vasari described as, “endowed by Heaven with beauty, grace and talent in such abundance that he leaves other men far behind.”