Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, more commonly known as Leonardo da Vinci or simply Leonardo, was an Italian polymath whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history and cartography. With these 44 interesting facts about Leonardo da Vinci, let’s learn about his life, work, fame and more…

Facts about Da Vinci’s early life

1. Early separation from mother: Da Vinci was closer to his father than his mother. He lived with his mother for the first five years of his life and thereafter settled with his father. He would, however, write letters to his mother from time to time. Leonardo’s mother was able to spend the last few years of her life with her son, though.

2. Uncle’s role: Leonardo’s uncle Francesco played a significant role in his upbringing.

3. Not formally educated: Leonardo was home schooled beyond reading, writing and mathematical skills. He lacked formal education in Latin and Greek.

4. Not his surname: Leonardo had no surname in the modern sense – “da Vinci” simply means “of Vinci”. Vinci is a city and commune of the Metropolitan City of Florence in the Italian region of Tuscany.

5. The illegitimate child: Leonardo’s father married four times (including his marriage to a sixteen year old) during his lifetime and in all, Leonardo had 17 siblings and half-siblings. Two of his father’s wives died without bearing any children. Interestingly, his father never married his biological mother. Thus, he was an illegitimate child of the duo.

6. Leonardo’s father was a wealthy man. After his death, Leonardo faced a tough time with his siblings regarding the inheritance of wealth.

7. Drawn on August 5, 1473, the earliest of Leonardo’s works is a drawing in pen and ink of the Arno valley.

8. Beating the master: Leonardo, while learning painting from his teacher, Andrea del Verrocchio,was asked to draw a painting of an angel. His drawing was so good that Andrea del Verrocchio decided to never paint again.

9. Leonardo had a witty intellect and passion for secrecy. He was fond of puns, which is also quite evident in his paintings.

10. His way of writing: Leonardo da Vinci wrote most of his work from right to left. The result of this writing was a mirror script, which was difficult to read. This may be due to the fact that he wanted to keep his writing secret, which is why he chose to write this way, or it may be simply because he was left handed, and this unusual writing style was easier.

Facts about Da Vinci’s paintings, learning, interests, artwork etc.

11. Leonardo da Vinci was left handed. So were Napoleon, Michelangelo, Einstein, Newton, Bill Gates, Oprah, President Barack Obama and Jimi Hendrix.

12. Unfinished paintings, writing and inventions: the legendary painter was slow to finish his work. He left many unfinished painting, writings and inventions that never materialized during his time. Some of his inventions were built using his designs, but many failed to materialize.

13. A strict vegetarian: Leonardo did not care for keeping animals and birds caged. He would buy caged animals just to set them free. And to top it all, he was a strict vegetarian.

14. He was a procrastinator, but a perfectionist.

15. Da Vinci did not complete his first commissioned painting — The Adoration of the Magi — for Florence’s San Donato, a Scopeto monastery. He left for Milan to serve as an engineer, architect, sculptor and painter for the ruling Sforza dynasty.

16. In 1483, Leonardo set about to create the largest outdoor statue. However, it was never became a reality.

About Da Vinci’s marriage and other interests

17. Charged with sodomy: Leonardo da Vinci, at the age of 24, was arrested on charges of sodomy along with his male companions. Would it not have been for the lack of witnesses, he could have been punished by death.

18. Unmarried genius: Leonardo had no relationships with women, never married and had no children. Indeed, he wrote in his notebooks that male-female intercourse disgusted him.

19. Never liked: Leonardo, as he is almost always called, had little interest in literature, history or religion.

20. Visiting graveyards: Leonardo dug into graveyards at night to steal corpses and study human anatomy.

21. Interestingly, he wore pink to make his complexion look fresh.

Notable inventions by Leonardo Da Vinci

22. In 1485, Da Vinci reasier plans for an armored car!

23. He invented a hydraulic pump and also built a movable bridge for the Duke of Milan.

24. Leonardo was the first person to study the flight of birds scientifically.

25. He invented an inflatable tube for use in water and also designed the first bicycle ever, almost 300 years before it appeared on the road.

26. Leonardo Da Vinci also worked on the forces of friction and associated laws. He developed a theory of friction, which was arguably the first in the world. From his notes, diagrams were revealed, which were supposed to be irrelevant in the 1920s. However, after their re-examination more recently, the diagrams, dating from 1493 and held in the V&A archive, may now prove to be the key to how his thoughts progressed regarding frictional forces.

27. The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper are two of his most famous paintings.

The Last Supper - Da Vinci
Interesting facts about Da Vinci – “The Last Supper”, one of his world famous art. Image source – Wikipedia.

28. Leonardo figured out that the earth is older than the Bible once he studied the erosion of rivers.

29. About the blue sky: Did you ever wonder why the sky is blue? Note that the explanation for this came from Leonardo da Vinci for the first time ever in history (A clear, cloudless daytime sky is blue because molecules in the air scatter blue light from the sun more than they scatter red light.)

30. Maybe he had some plans for canons, portable bridges, smoke machines and armored vehicles. However, he did not build any of these, possibly because of his nature that he liked to do things slowly, and the time did not permit him to complete his work.

31. Leonardo da Vinci is the first person to have designed a parachute. Yes, he had the design ready, but not the prototype. The design was put to work in 2000 when the South African skydiver Adrian Nicholas made use of it.

32. He thought ahead of time, which is proved by the notes in many of his journals that talk about modern inventions, including a helicopter, calculator, solar power and the beginnings of the theory of plate tectonics.

Leonardo Da Vinci and Mona Lisa

33. Da Vinci’s famous painting—the Mona Lisa—sits behind a six-foot bulletproof barrier. You can see the painting on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris, where it has been kept for more than 200 years.

Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. Image credit – Wikipedia

34. Many accounts consider the subject of the painting Mona Lisa as Lisa del Gioconda, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a wealthy silk merchant. However, some consider the painting is not even based on a living model.

35. Bill Gates owns one of his manuscripts. The “software giant” bought the manuscript for a whopping $30 million in 1995 and used in it his Windows 95 edition operating system software.

36. It is said that it took him about ten years just to paint the Mona Lisa’s lips.

37. Mona Lisa’s secret smile: According to some sources, the reason behind the secret smile of Mona Lisa is her secret pregnancy.

38. Da Vinci believed that sight was mankind’s most important sense.

39. The Guinness Book of World Records lists Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa as having the highest insurance value for a painting in history. The painting was assessed at US $100 million on December 14, 1962.

40. In his honor: Historian Helen Gardner said: “… His mind and personality seem to us superhuman, the man himself mysterious and remote.”

41. In spite of his famous work in many fields, Leonardo on his death bed said, “I have offended God and mankind. My work did not reach the quality it should have.”

42. Recently, scientists have been looking to see if they can find Da Vinci’s DNA in work that he touched centuries ago, to make sure that the bones presumed to belong to the famed Renaissance artist are in fact his.

43. Leonardo da Vinci was known as the “Renaissance man” because of his work in so many disciplines of science and arts.

44. Leonardo was, and is, renowned primarily as a painter.

Famous quotes by Leonardo da Vinci

  1. “I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.”
  2. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
  3. “Learning never exhausts the mind.”
  4. “The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.”
  5. “Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.”
  6. “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
  7. “It’s easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.”
  8. “Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation… even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.”
  9. “Experience never errs; it is only your judgments that err by promising themselves effects such as are not caused by your experiments.”
  10. “He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.”
  11. “A beautiful body perishes, but a work of art dies not.”
  12. “Tears come from the heart and not from the brain.”
  13. “Medicine is the restoration of discordant elements; sickness is the discord of the elements infused into the living body.”
  14. “While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.”
  15. “Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.”
  16. “You do ill if you praise, but worse if you censure, what you do not understand.”
  17. “Who sows virtue reaps honor.”
  18. “As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.”
  19. “Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.”
  20. “Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.”
  21. “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
  22. “Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge.”
  23. “Men of lofty genius when they are doing the least work are most active.”

Quick facts about Leonardo Da Vinci

Born15 April 1452
Vinci, Republic of Florence (present-day Italy)
Died2 May 1519 (aged 67)
Amboise, Kingdom of France
NationalityItalian
Languages KnownFlorentine Italian and Latin
Age at the time of death67 years
Notable WorkMona Lisa
The Last Supper
The Vitruvian Man
Lady with an Ermine
ContributionsDiverse fields of the arts and sciences
EducationHome schooled
ParentsPiero da Vinci and Caterina

References:

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