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Everyone knows of the man who painted the Mona Lisa: Leonardo da Vinci.

He was born in 1452. He’s the illegitimate child of Ser Piero da Vinci, a lawyer who lived in Florence, and a woman named Caterina, who may have been a servant in Leonardo’s paternal grandparent’s house. Those who watch Game of Thrones may think that illegitimate children are worse off and therefore unfortunate things happen to them. This is true in some real-life cases, but not with Leonardo.

From 1466 to 1472, Leonardo trained to become an artist under the teachings of one of the foremost artists in Florence, Andrea del Verrocchio. Giorgio Vasari, an Italian writer who wrote one of the earliest biographies of Leonardo, holds Leonardo in high regard as an artist because he had great knowledge of art and practised all branches of it. Leonardo frequently started many artworks but never finished them. According to Vasari, ‘it seemed to [Leonardo] that he was not able to attain to the perfection of art in carrying out the things which he imagined’. Leonardo didn’t sell the majority of his work, and his most well-known paintings were never given to those who commissioned them. How did he get by without delivering? Well, he delivered in other areas.

Apart from painting, Leonardo displayed immense knowledge for and talent in various other areas, including history, writing, invention, architecture, engineering, science, maths – you get the idea. The man was a polymath. The 6,000-odd sheets of his notes prove this. He even boasted of his intellect by in a letter to Ludovico Sforza, the duke of Milan, asking for employment as an architect and engineer. In the letter, Leonardo listed ideas for various devices, instruments, and plans. It’s interesting that only one of these ideas is a peace-time idea; all the others were devices that could only be used in war. Sforza employed Leonardo until the French invaded Milan in 1499. Leonardo was then found a job as a military architect and engineer in Venice. He eventually found himself working under the son of Pope Alexander VI in a similar job. He also held other jobs that aligned with his intellect and talents.

        Leonardo lived during the Renaissance period, which took place in Europe from the 14th to the 17th century. Starting off as a cultural movement in Italy, the Renaissance is the period between the Middle Ages and Modern History. Because of his vast amount of interests and talents, as well as his large intellect, Leonardo is an archetypal Renaissance man.

        Leonardo passed away in 1519 from ill health. He was 67-years-old.

        Despite living centuries ago, Leonardo’s legacy remains intact today. Many people are able to identify his paintings, and he is still well-known for his talents and knowledge. It seems that he will never be forgotten.

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