Leonardo da Vinci was the essence of Renaissance Man. The inventor, artist, scientist, polymath, and visionary left his mark on the world, leaving a legacy like no other. Many of his works of art, personal journals, designs, and scientific notes have become prized possessions in museums large in small.
Perhaps his most famous work, the Mona Lisa, now resides in Paris. The celebrated and enigmatic painting is seen by nearly 6 million people every year. The Mona Lisa is one of the treasures of The Louvre, along with Winged Victory and the Venus de Milo.
The Mona Lisa is as mysterious as her creator. Facts about Leonardo da Vinci can be hard to come by, but it helps to begin with the basics. The man, whose full name was Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, was born in Florence on April 15, 1452. The son of a peasant woman and a notary grew up with a large cadre of half siblings. As a youngster living at his father's home in Vinci, Leonardo was exposed to a wide array of scholarly works. By the age of 15, he was apprenticed to a Florentine painter, Andrea del Verrochio.
The early Leonardo da Vinci paintings are evidence of his genius. In 1482, the young man entered the service of the Duke of Milan, where many of talents were evident. Besides painting, the Duke put Leonardo da Vinci to work by creating sculptures, planning court festivals, and more. Many of the inventions by da Vinci were created for the ruler, who commissioned new weapons, machinery, and even buildings. After the Duke was removed from power, Leonardo took commissions in Milan, Rome, and eventually France, all the while painting, observing, and studying the world around him. He died in 1519, reportedly with his final and most generous patron by his side, King Francis.
Even today, people are still admiring his genius. The list of Leonardo inventions sounds decidedly modern. He drew up plans for submarines, tanks, municipal planning, canals, and even proto-helicopters. While some of the plans were deemed too expensive or too impractical for the day, some inventions by da Vinci were put into use. Working in an era before patents, he's largely accredited with designing an automated bobbin winder, a lens grinding machine, and a strut bridge.
Over his life, Leonardo da Vinci kept many of these ideas in journals and codices, which have become treasured possession in museums and personal collections around the world. Many of the notes detailing the inventions by da Vinci were written in mirror-script, more evidence of how brilliant he was.
While the scientific aspect of his work has come the light in recent decades, the artistic side of Leonardo has long been lauded. While he was living, his works were prized by kings and treasured by nobles. In the centuries since, museums and collectors have proudly displayed their Leonardo da Vinci paintings and other works from the hand of the master.
The Louvre in Paris is home to two iconic Leonardo da Vinci paintings, the Mona Lisa and the Virgin of the Rocks, which you can see while touring this amazing museum.
In addition, the collection at the Louvre includes drawings, pen-and-ink sketches, and several other paintings. Portrait of a Woman, known as La Belle Ferronière, is displayed in a gallery adjacent to the Mona Lisa.
In recent years, Leonardo has become quite a man of legend. The best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code, brought many of his works to light. Weaving a mystery around the Louvre Pyramid, the Virgin of the Rocks, the Last Supper, and more, the tale explores the mystery and legacy of one of the greatest geniuses the world has ever seen. Many of these works of art and places in the novel can be explored; several tour companies design itineraries that follow in the footsteps of the true Renaissance Man.