artist, one of the great masters of the High Renaissance, celebrated
as a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, and scientist. His profound
love of knowledge and research was the keynote of both his artistic
and scientific endeavors. His innovations in the field of painting influenced
the course of Italian art for more than a century after his death, and
his scientific studies-particularly in the fields of anatomy, optics,
and hydraulics-anticipated many of the developments of modern science.
In 1478 Leonardo became an independent master. His first commission, to paint an altarpiece for the chapel of the Palazzo Vecchio, the Florentine town hall, was never executed. His first large painting, The Adoration of the Magi (begun 1481, Uffizi), left unfinished, was ordered in 1481 for the Monastery of San Donato a Scopeto, Florence. Other works ascribed to his youth are the so-called Benois Madonna (1478?, Hermitage, Saint Petersburg), the portrait Ginevra de' Benci (1474?, National Gallery, Washington, D.C.), and the unfinished Saint Jerome (1481?, Pinacoteca, Vatican).
About 1482 Leonardo entered the service of the duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, having written the duke an astonishing letter in which he stated that he could build portable bridges; that he knew the techniques of constructing bombardments and of making cannons; that he could build ships as well as armored vehicles, catapults, and other war machines; and that he could execute sculpture in marble, bronze, and clay. He served as principal engineer in the duke's numerous military enterprises and was active also as an architect. In addition, he assisted the Italian mathematician Luca Pacioli in the celebrated work Divina Proportione (1509).
"Leonardo da Vinci," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2001
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