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The Life of Leonardo Da Vinci - Essay Example

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[Author’s Name] The Life of Leonardo Da Vinci Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) is one of the most fascinating personalities in the history of Western art (Birx 1). His name and his paintings are instantly recognized at all levels of culture, from billboards and comic strips to galleries and museums…
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The Life of Leonardo Da Vinci
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Download file to see previous pages These characterizations of Leonardo that originated in Vasari's Lives held particular significance for modern art. In the nineteenth-century atmosphere in which artists' training was based on the emulation of masters, Leonardo offered an alternative to the traditions represented by Raphael and Michelangelo particularly because he united art with science. From birth, Vasari's Leonardo is set apart from other artists, divinely endowed with supernatural gifts of beauty, grace, and talent; this last quality is evident in his mastery of all subjects he considered, made possible by his "mind of regal boldness and magnanimous daring" (Vasari 366). His wide-ranging intellect is a mixed blessing, a key to his success and to his undoing. Leonardo "would without doubt have made great progress in learning and knowledge of the sciences, had he not been so versatile and changeful, but the instability of his character caused him to undertake many things which having commenced he afterwards abandoned" (Vasari 366-367). Leonardo made rapid progress in arithmetic, though he confounded his teacher "by the perpetual doubts he started, and by the difficulty of the questions he proposed" (Vasari 367). A gifted musician, he improvised verses and music for the lute. "But, though dividing his attention among pursuits so varied, he never abandoned his drawing, and employed himself much in works of relief, that being the occupation which attracted him more than any other (Vasari 368)." His success in Verrocchio's workshop was based on his intelligence, especially his knowledge of geometry, a necessary skill for a painter. Ultimately, Vasari notes, the artist's abilities as a painter surpassed those of his master (Vasari 371). His talents were never limited to painting, though "as he had resolved to make painting his profession, he gave the larger portion of time to drawing from nature" (Vasari 368). Leonardo sketched architectural plans and designed entire buildings. He designed water-powered mills, machines, and engines, and was the first to suggest that, by transforming the river Arno, a canal could link Pisa with Florence (Vasari 368). Leonardo, "frequently occupied with the construction of models and the preparation of designs for the removal or the perforation of mountains," also showed how to raise or draw great weights through levers, cranes, and screws (Vasari 369). He designed methods to clean and maintain ports and havens, and to obtain water from great depths. "From speculations of this kind he never gave himself rest," recording them on the pages of his notebooks (Vasari 369). Not all of his projects had such immediately recognizable application, however; he "wasted not a little time" intertwining cords like those he assembled to form the emblem of his academy (Vasari 369). Mental powers contributed to Leonardo's social and artistic success. "His memory also was always so ready and so efficient in the service of his intellect, that in discourse he won all men by his reasonings, and confounded every antagonist, however powerful, by the force of his arguments" (Vasari 368). He was so charismatic that, with a model or a drawing, Leonardo could convince a listener of the impossible. With his scheme for raising the Florentine ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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