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Leonardo da Vinci – 6 Interesting Facts

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Known as one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci remains as one of the most popular historical figures of today. Beyond his famous persona as both an artist and a scientist, here are 6 facts you probably didn’t know:

1. Da Vinci was an illegitimate child.

    • Leonardo was the love child of a lawyer by the name of Ser Piero and a peasant named Caterina.
    • He was brought up in rural Tuscany and sent to Florence in his teens to become an apprentice.
saint-john-the-baptist
Saint John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci, 1513

2. He did not receive any formal education.

    • Da Vinci was first trained as a musician, a lyre player to be exact, and was simply homeschooled.
    • He trained under the Florentine painter Andrea del Verrocchio and spent days observing nature, which prominently featured in his works.
leonardo-da-vinci-portrait
Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci

3. Da Vinci was ambidextrous.

    • Leonardo was known to have been able to write with one hand and draw with another at the same time.
    • He developed a system of writing backwards to note down his important findings and to hide secret messages, decipherable only through a mirror.
vitruvian-man
The Vitruvian Man drawing by Leonardo da Vinci, circa 1490

4. The Mona Lisa is in fact, smiling.

    • Using face recognition software, researchers from the University of Illinois and the University of Amsterdam determined that she is 83% happy.
    • A theory suggests that Mona Lisa was being entertained by clowns and musicians while Leonardo was painting her.
mona-lisa-da-vinci
The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, 1503

5. Da Vinci was a military engineer.

    • Apart from his amazing paintings, Leonardo also made extensive detailed drawings of helicopters, aeroplanes, parachutes, armored tanks, automatic rifles, and other lethal siege weapons.
    • There exists no proof if these drawings were ever built, but the painstaking amount of detail only shows how much Da Vinci thought about these inventions.

6. Leonardo was almost executed.

    • He was arrested along with several of his male companions on the allegations of sodomy, a crime punishable by death in 15th century Florence.
    • His case was dismissed when no witnesses came forward during the court hearings.

Regardless of the controversies, Leonardo remains as one of the most important artists and thinkers of all time. His contributions in both art and science are truly remarkable!

What do you think of Leonardo’s life story? Who is your favorite Renaissance artist? Let us know in the comments section!

References

Discover Magazine
Live Science
Mid-Day

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